TATA CONSULTANCY SERVICES DESCRIPTIVE PAPER --LETTER WRITING.
The following few pages along with my blog dated 12th September 2013 will be of use for candidates appearing for TCS test. The content may suitably modified to suit email-writing.
The Basics of Successful
· Knowing the Audience
· You - Before - I Approach
· Customer Is the King
· The Seven C’s
Knowing the Audience: In the present context audience means the potential recipients of your letters and readers of your business communication. A good knowledge of your potential clients, readers and customers and knowing their needs, attitudes, aptitudes, interests and background is of vital importance. An objective analysis of the target audience and adaptation accordingly are two significant factors of effective business correspondence. You should identify your audience clearly and know precisely in terms of their sex, age group, education, preferences, financial status, types of their residence, habits etc.
If you deal in such consumer goods as mixer-grinders and such other kitchen devices and gadgets, then certainly your prospective buyers and readers would be housewives and householders. If your business were of law books you would target the law students, lawyers, judges and law college teachers and libraries. A businessman dealing in fashion-wears world chooses young men and women of city and big towns as his potential target. An audience may be a mixed one, of highly literate people, of experts, laymen and women, young school students, elderly people, farmers, a particular community and so on.
One of the many ways to have reliable information about your target audience is to have a sample survey. Contact on phone and by electronic mail (email) with suppliers, customers, and fellow businessmen can be very useful. A door-to-door survey and research in a particular colony or area may yield desired results. For this purpose, professionals, young boys and girls, interested in earning some extra money, can be gainfully employed. They are easily available and in plenty. During vacations their employment for this purpose becomes all the more convenient.
You-Before-I Approach: "You-before-l" is a positive and healthy business approach. You should visualize your reader and keep him/her before the eye of your mind while putting your ideas to paper. To make the audience interested in your communication, keep him constantly in sight. Tell him in clear and definite terms what the letter has to do with him and how it is going to benefit him. Address him directly and in active voice. Use such personal pronouns as "you", "your", "I', "we', "me", "mine" "our" etc. Use the name of the recipient of your letter occasionally, specially when he is known to you. Make frequent use of "you" and "your" to personalize the letter and let the audience feel that you care for him and share your ideas with him. The sense of caring and sharing would help you develop lasting and interesting business relations with him.
This approach will make you appear and sound as if you are talking with him in confidence. Avoid indirect form of narration as far as possible. The key to your success lies in your sincere thinking about the target audience and talking to him, as you would indulge in conversation with a personal friend. This is one of the tried and tested techniques used to put your personality in your business letters. You should use the pen and the paper the way you talk and chat. Be professional but personal at the same time. Your business letters are successful in proportion to the amount of your sensitivity to the feelings and sentiments of their readers. Success in business correspondence pre-supposes professionalism combined with sensitivity and good awareness of others' feelings, views and aptitudes. Sensitivity is the positive aspect of business letter writing and should always be adhered to.
Customer Is the King: All successful businessmen, shopkeepers and traders firmly believe in the dictum—"Customer is the king". They not only believe it but also practise it. They leave no stone unturned to keep their customers, clients, buyers and patrons satisfied. A satisfied customer is a big asset. He will tell others of his satisfaction and your so-gratifying products and services. It would create a ripple effect, which in its turn increases your business and profits considerably. A good businessman never gives a customer a cause to complain but sometimes it cannot be avoided because of some unavoidable circumstances and things beyond your control. In such a situation the complaint is immediately settled to the customer's satisfaction and he is assured of no further occasion of complaint and grievance.
Your writing a letter to its reader is to make him your customer and thus he is really a king. The more kings and queens you have the better. More is always merrier in such cases. You have to win their hearts and confidence in order to have access to their purses, pockets and wallets. Only such an approach and understanding can move your business forward and with a speed.
In the present context the name of Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Tata group companies, comes to my mind. It is worth quoting and your serious attention what he has to say about customer satisfaction. Emphasizing the desirability of healthy customer relations and loyalty he says, "In today's world, what customers are looking for, I believe, are products that suit their purpose best — in terms of price, features, quality and appearance. They expect' to be treated as "kings" and to receive sales and service support for products like vehicles and air-conditioners. They expect to receive timely and competent attention along with a definite solution to their problems from our service people, dealers or channel partners."
Brainstorming: Having made a sample survey and simple research in regard to your target audience, you should engage in brainstorming. It is a fruitful exercise which helps you to generate ideas, concepts and strategies. It means going a bit more deep in order to make your communication result-oriented, creative, suggestive and customer-friendly. Developing new business strategies, revising old ones and competing with fellow businessmen require a lot of thinking, analysis, retrospection, consultation and brainstorming. To generate fresh and vital ideas, to make your communication and written message work, you have to be on your toes and ever alert and receptive to modern ideas and strategies.
Brainstorming is a tried and tested technique to generate new, fresh, vigorous, inspiring and confidence-building ideas, measures and planning. It is generally a group exercise in which you and your senior employees, agents and vendors can take part. It is an exercise in success involving a few chosen personnel and not much time. It may last for half an hour to an hour. The theme of live, energetic and electrifying discussion should be on the lines indicated below:
1. How to compete with the peers?
2. What can be the new products?
3. How to implement cost-cutting measures?
4. When to introduce new products and revive interest in old ones?
5. How to take advantage of a festive season and such other occasions?
6. How to accelerate production and supply?
Such a session should be free and unbiased and every participant should come with new ideas and no one should be allowed to criticize other persons. The attitude should be positive and receptive and without any prejudice and preformed 'opinions. You can also take recourse to individual brainstorming when writing memos and letters. Be relaxed and let thoughts come freely and spontaneously for a session lasting about 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
It is a technique and a tool that provides you a competitive advantage in your business and a way to success in your personal career development. It is used to seek new and advanced ideas, which would never have happened in normal circumstances. You can use it to develop new products, services, process etc. in your business or to develop your own personality. It offers a good opportunity to think of a problem from different angles by stimulating your mind and thought process. It is so flexible that it would suit each and every business and organization. Thus, out of many ideas emerge some, which are really valuable and worthy of incorporation in your letters to your audience.
The Seven C's
You should strive to incorporate the above seven elements to make your business letters effective and result-oriented.
Lack of clarity and consequent confusion is likely to defeat the very purpose of your writing. Your muddled thinking would result in a muddled writing. Keeping the picture of the reader in the frame of your mind, you should know what you want the recipient to think, react and take action and then say that clearly, directly, briefly and persuasively. All other good elements of successful business writing are directly and closely related with the element of clarity. Without incorporating this vital, element you cannot incorporate other elements.
Clarity means short, simple and direct sentences and avoidance of verbosity. It stands for easy and simple words, short and meaningful paragraphs and good punctuation. You must state your facts, figures and message coherently in a sequence that is befitting to your purpose of communication. Clarity combined with other elements of good writing would give it an organic wholeness and desired compactness.
In order to advance your business interests, all your correspondence should always be brief and concise. Time is money and often more precious than money. People in business have no time to spare for lengthy, irrelevant, routine and drab written letters and other such material. If your letter is not brief and to the point it would remain unread and un-attended. And so the question of follow up action does not arise at all.
Time-sensitive letters and other written documents are likely to have quick responses as they help in taking immediate decision and action. In this so fast-moving world you have to be smart, economical, precise and brief in everything.
Only a succinct language can be persuasive and able to achieve the desired results. Brief writing suggests your good understanding of your subject in hand and also your business skills, discipline and confidence in yourself and the recipient of the communication. A communication is useless if the recipient does not understand it. And so never try to cry in wilderness. Whatever your letter contains whether order, request, suggestion, advice, request, complaint, information or views should command immediate attention and follow-up action. Your exercise to compress your three-page material into one is worth the exercise and efforts. Brevity helps you to identify your aim and objective clearly, precisely and it sharpens your thinking and writing process. Focus your attention on whom? what? why? where? and how?
Correctness is another vital element of successful business correspondence. Without this element, your writing would be reduced to a futile exercise and a sheer non-sense. You have to be very careful to be correct in all the matters including facts, figures, amount, quantity, names and their addresses, dates, spellings, punctuation marks, use of words in regard to their meanings and suitability. Correctness is a very comprehensive term and it also means elimination of irrelevant facts, details and sticking strictly to the core of you message. Remove wordiness and vagueness as these lead to incorrectness and lack of authenticity. What you say in your communication must be authentic, correct and relevant in all respects.
Correctness is both a challenge and opportunity and so cannot be neglected even in the slightest degree. If you want to be believed and trusted you have to be correct and authentic. False statements, promises, incorrect production facts, cost, price and such other material facts are a sure source of ruin and fall. In other words correctness reflects your honesty, sincerity and truthfulness. 'Honesty is the best policy' is a very old and famous saying and it also
means correctness in your statements, letters and other writings on paper in business space.
means correctness in your statements, letters and other writings on paper in business space.
Courtesy costs nothing but rewards manifolds. Courtesy begets courtesy and discourtesy creates a vicious circle. It reflects good manners and good breeding both in business and personal life. Courteous people are always welcome anywhere and everywhere. They are truly the life and essence of a society and business. Only such people can be successful and useful. A businessman cannot afford to be devoid of due courtesy in his correspondence and other activities. He has to be enough courteous in his addresses, salutations and complimentary close. In the text or the body of the letter courtesy means much. He has to see that courtesy titles are correct and so are salutations. They should match the status, dignity and occasion of the communication. It is courtesy that lends civility, grace and good manners to your business correspondence.
Most courteous letters are most successful and the least ones, a failure. In a recent survey and research, the city of New York was found and adjudged the most courteous city in the world. And it is natural because New York is the business and financial capital of the world. Business community cannot afford to be discourteous and impolite either in business, personal or social life. You cannot be courteous in one field of life and discourteous in another.
A good piece of business writing is required to be professional and yet personal. Any personal writing cannot but be conversational. If you want that your readers pay attention to what you are trying to convey and communicate, be conversational, say conversationally what you have to offer. You must write the way you talk with your friends and near and dear ones. It makes the writing more informal, powerful and intimate, which in their turn generate much confidence and trust. So let not your letter be ever dry, boring and simply factual. Let your text in the letter be a bit more personalized, conversational and informal. Write in the first person using "I" and "we" but more frequently such personal pronouns as "you" and "your". The use of occasional contractions also makes a letter more conversational, enjoyable and personalized. Addressing the audience directly is more effective than a formal and conventional writing. Researches have shown and proved beyond any doubt that a reader's brain wakes up and becomes alert when it is being talked. The frequent use of the second person pronoun "you"-allows you to hook the audience as is in a friendly chat.
The above points and factors of good business writing lead us to the next logical step and factor of being convincing. To carry the reader with you and convince him of your sincerity, integrity and worthiness of your products or services you have to be convincing. It is a matter of faith and trust. It is the rails of faith and trust on which the wheels of life and business move. It is said that faith can move mountains. And the aim of your communication as a businessman is to move and persuade the recipient to buy your products and services, which cannot be accomplished without conviction. The more this element in your writing, the merrier. Business is not a short-term affair. It is a long-lasting affair and enterprise. Its firm foundation can be laid on faith, trust, and the element of convincing. You cannot fare forward without convincing your customers.
It is this factor that can build and sustain the brand image of any company and business. This vital element is potent enough to promote customer loyalty, increase profits and multiply market share and satisfy customers. Therefore, never lose sight of this aspect of letter writing. Long and solid market and customer researches have shown the desirability of convincing so remarkably. This factor can focus so well on revealing every point of the business you are i and your contacts with customers and in creating your image in a fashion, which is so gratifying and impressive.
A letter is like a human body with its distinct head (letterhead), limbs (inside address, salutation etc) and a trunk (text). It has an organic wholeness of its own which should be maintained at all costs and never violated. Its body or text has a distinct beginning, middle and end. These', should be in harmony with each other and sequential in every respect. In respect of its content; it should be complete in every respect and purposeful. The information, facts, figures and other details should be accurate, full and complete. No thread of the fabric should be left dangling or loose. Brevity is the soul of wit but it can never be at the cost of completeness. You have to be brief, concise and exact but at the same time full and complete in respect of its contents.
TIPS REGARDING CHOICE OF WORDS
H.W. Fowler in his book "The King's English" has laid down golden rules:
· Prefer the familiar word to the far-fetched;
· Prefer the concrete word to be abstract;
· Prefer the single word to the circumlocation;
· Prefer the short word to the long;
· Prefer the saxon word to the Romance.
Fowler's advice was given long back but it is as useful today as it has always been.
STEPS TO PLAN THE LETTER
As in all other kinds of writing, so in business letters there is logical sequence of steps to be taken before we arrive at the final draft. There are certain questions for satisfactory answers to make us more to the next stage in the sequence as follows:
i. What is our aim in writing this letter? Have we given through what we really want to convey? Do we clear about it?
ii Is there any secondary aim that we can or should accomplish through this letter?
If, for example, there is an enquiry about our products, should we not try securing an order? Or in case we have to reply a complaint letter, should we not assure the sender that in future he will get the best we can offer?
iii. Have we collected all the documents and information, copies of previous correspondence, reports etc?
iv. Do we know the person to whom the letter is going? How is he likely to react to the information sent by us?
THE THREE APPROACHES
After the spade work to the steps given above we come to the question of the most desirable approach to be adopted for the letter we propose to send. We should either have Direct Approach, Indirect Approach or Middle ground or persuasive approach.
These approaches are based primarily on our assumptions about the readers' reaction to our letter. It is generally seen that a reader immediately welcomes a "good news" letter and thus good news be conveyed without any delay. We can come directly to the point without wasting time in introductory remarks or lengthy explanations. The "direct approach" is also suitable for making enquiries, asking for quotations, placing orders etc.
1. Here is a good news for you!
2. We are pleased to offer you the position of.......................................
The Indirect approach, on the other hand, has something in it that we should not like to convey without some explanation, introduction or buffer statement. Such a letter is quite often called the "bad news" or "unpleasant news" letter. Such an approach is generally thought to be suitable for letters or rejection inability to meet a demand etc.
Example: "Thank you for your interest in our company. We really wish we could………” The middle ground or persuasive approach letters are those that carry neither good news nor bad news but lie somewhere in between. Such approach is generally found in sales letters in which the writer persuade the reader to act.
Example: Would you be interested in buying "Dynamic Memory Letter Drafting Course" for your office?
ESSENTIAL PARTS OF BUSINESS LETTER
There are many parts of a business letter of which some are essential and basic and the rest are optional as they are occasionally used. The latter ones can be named as optional. The following items form the essential part of a business letter:
· LETTERHEAD OR HEADING
· REFERENCE NUMBER
· INSIDE ADDRESS
· TEXT OR BODY OF THE LETTER
· COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE
· ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOPE
File number, attention line, subject line, enclosure line, and postscript are optional items and are not used regularly and essentially.
LETTERHEAD OR HEADING
Most business letters originating from a company or firm are written or typed on the letterhead. If a company or business does not have its letterhead, then you need to write it. A letterhead contains a company's logo, name, address, telephone number, email address, and even the URL (universal resource locator or address), the company's website on the World Wide Web (www).
PADAM PAPER INDUSTRIES
211, Park Street, Kolkatta (West Bengal) - 700016
Plot Nos. 10 to 12, Tambaram, Chennai - 600 045.
The date is written 2-3,spaces below the heading and on the left-hand side of the page. It includes the date on which the letter is written, the month and the year for adequate further and future reference. If you are using a return address, type the date directly below the return address, leaving no spaces. The month and the year are written in full.
It can be written in any of the following manners:
WHITE ROSE LIMITED
123, Washington Street, Dumont
15th September, 2006
The inside address should include the name of the person you are writing to, the person's title if known, the name of the company/firm and its address.
The Authorized Signatory
Sunlit Valley Registery Ltd.
A-11, Ramlal Industries Compound,
Chetna Road, Bhandup West,
Vimal Fabrics Ltd.
41, Church Road
Every business letter usually carries a reference number to which the receiver may refer in all future correspondence. It serves the useful purpose of quick reference and linking up the chain of letters going out of the organisation or identifying the memos issued by a department within the organisation.
The reference number may look like this: DPB/Mktg/2006-07/1062
In this letter DPB stands for company name, Mktg for Marketing Department, 2006-07 for financial year and 1062 is the number allotted to the person addressed.
The salutation is an essential part of a business letter. It is a complimentary term and used a space .below the inside address. Dear plus the surname or the last name is a common form of salutation if you are writing to someone you know. The following are the common salutations used in business correspondence:
· Dear Sir
· Dear Madam (may be followed by the title such as Dear Madam Chairperson)
· Dear Mr. Shankar
· Dear Ms. Gautam
· Ladies and Gentlemen
· Dear Director Personnel
· To Whom It May Concern
The choice of a kind of address depends on its recipient and the situation. If you do not know the gender of the reader do not assume it and use the last type of salutation, that is : Sir/ Madam. When you know the reader, use his/her name. A letter is most likely to be read and liked when there is the name of the reader with the salutation.
TEXT OR BODY OF THE LETTER
It is the main part Of a letter in which you put your message, advice, suggestion, information, order, complaint etc. or reply a person or persons. Thus, it shows the purpose of the letter and begins two spaces below the salutation. It should invariably be divided into paragraphs and there should be minimum three paragraphs. It is usually in single space with two spaces between the paragraphs. If the letter is very short, double space may be used between the sentences to give it a balanced and harmonious look.
The first paragraph should be brief and state the purpose of the letter—to make an enquiry, request for a price list and catalogue, inform something, to give a piece of advice, ask refund/ favour or payment or donation. The paragraph or paragraphs in the middle should explain the idea behind the purpose of writing a letter; however, keep to the essentials and eliminate unnecessary details. Be logical, persuasive and convincing in explaining your point of view. The last paragraph of a business letter should state what action or remedy you expect from the reader. It may also give a suggestion or a constructive solution.
HOW LONG IS TOO LONG?
It is always advisable to have short paragraphs not exceeding the limit of one page in total. Readers prefer going through short and meaningful letters. One-page letter or memo is an ideal format. But it never means that you use narrow margins, lengthy paragraphs and small font types. If need arises your letter can be extended to two pages, but, it should be an exception and not a rule. Your common sense and experience is the best judge in this matter. In very exceptional cases, a letter may run into more than 2 pages. You should always opt for reader-friendly, easy-to-read and inviting letters and should avoid it turning into a business report or anything else than a letter.
The complimentary close is a courtesy signal at the end of each letter and should be consistent with the salutation. It should be written two spaces below the body of the letter. Keep your complimentary close professional. Never close a business letter with
Love, Your Friend, Blessings or any other personal notation. Some good professional choices are:
· Very truly yours
· Sincerely yours
· Yours faithfully
The writer’s name should be written four spaces below the complimentary close. The writer’s title should be on the line directly below the name. The space in between the complimentary close and the typed name is to be used for the writer’s signature.
Sometimes a letter is sent on behalf of a senior officer. In such a situation “for” is used before the signature. Example:
for Hemang Kothari
ADDRESS ON THE ENVELOPE
It is identical to the inside address and is written four spaces below the top edge. It consists of the recipient’s name, his/her designation, company’s name, street address or Post box and then the names of the city, state and the country. The name of the city should be followed by its Pin Code. for example:
Mr. Dilip Desai
Chairmanand Managing Director
Modern Wears Ltd.
New Industrial Estate
J.B. Nagar, Andheri (East)
Mumbai – 400059, (Maharashtra)
Classic Fashion Designers
112, Prasad Chambers Opera House
Mumbai – 400004
WHAT TYPE OF FONTS TO USE
Fonts are a term that refers to a style and size of type. Normally and as a general rule we should stick to 12-point type font size. In business correspondence it is the standard size and universally acceptable. Sometimes people are seen using 11-point type, but then it becomes a bit hard for many people to read.
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