Setting the Tone of the Letter

Nearly all correspondence sent by horticulturists goes to suppliers, cus­tomers, potential customers, or members of the profession and requires the same courtesy and concern that would be extended in a face-to-face meeting. Since there is no opportunity for facial expression or voice inflexion to support or explain the words, the letter must be phrased especially carefully.

Courtesy is a quality of every good letter and can be incorporated even when firmness is required, as with a collection letter for an overdue account.

Conversational phrasing will allow the letter to be read easily and with understanding. Business letters need not sound like insurance policies or tax forms, even when legal matters are their subject.

Concern for the reader rather than the writer will encourage a bet­ter reception. For example, the words “Due to a backlog of work, we will be unable to install your new lawn until some time in May” create cer­tain disappointment in the customer, who is not concerned about the backlog of work but is concerned about the lawn. This customer may seek another firm to provide the satisfaction desired. A better way to

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figure 24-4. Correct preparation of a two-fold letter and placement into an envelope (Delmar/Cengage Learning)

say the same thing is, “We appreciate your contacting us to install your new lawn and will be there during the first week of May to do the job.” Disappointment is not built into the phrasing, and the importance of the customer is stressed. Similarly, the words “Please drop in any time from 9 a. m. to 5 p. m. Tuesday through Saturday so that we can be of ser­vice” are more inviting than “Closed Sunday and Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday.”

Thoroughness and Accuracy

In a conversation, the listener can ask the speaker to clarify or com­plete statements that are not fully explanatory. In a business letter, no such opportunity exists. Therefore, the writer must be certain that the topic of the letter is covered thoroughly and accurately. Failing to state a price or stating an incorrect price may lose a customer or obligate the firm to a loss.

The opening paragraph of the letter should state the purpose of the letter and define the subject(s) to be covered. If a review of the back­ground is needed, it should be included in the first paragraph and kept as brief as possible. For example:

• “I am writing because we have had no response to our earlier requests for payment of your overdue account.”

• “Last fall you requested an estimate of the cost for design and installation of your patio. If you are ready to proceed with the project this spring, we are eager to be of service.”

Each paragraph in the letter should aid the reader’s understanding of what the writer is requesting or proposing, and what their mutual obligations or expectations will be. The writer should try to anticipate the reader’s questions in advance and address them in the letter. All correspondence should be proofread for accuracy before it is signed and sent out. Where orders are being sent or checks enclosed, the exact amount that is to be paid or that is being sent should be stated in the body of the letter.