- Reading a letter is a process of asking questions. The more the letter allows answering them, the more is the chance that there will be action in the end.
- But what’s more, it also pushes the reader to consciously reread the letter and make himself more prepared for the meeting, if we are talking about business mail.
- The questions the reader is looking for answers to are the following:
- Who is this from?
- What are they writing about?
- Am I interested in reading this?
- Letters are the means for personal communication. And the letter is a signal, that you are known. BTW, that’s an interesting take, that email newsletters work. For some people. They want to be known, no?
- And if we’re writing a letter to colleagues, we have to make sure that letter follows on the promise.
- We know you, and you are important in this meeting or in this project, your opinion as of the utmost importance to us and crucial to the success outcome of the work we are doing.
- This also means that WHO is writing is the most critical part, does this person address me correctly, has he misspelled my name or confused my title and role with someone else?
- People are reading an email in the same manner as we skim the text of the book. But for the letter, the most informative part is not the beginning and the end of the paragraphs, but something different.
- This the [[How people read letters.png]] the itinerary of how the eyes of a reader move through the text.
- Courtesy of Chris Keating, he summed up a book written by Voegele, which is accessible only in German.
- If Voegele is right in his assumptions, it means that the reader glances at the logo or the name of the company, department, then falls straight to the end of the letter and reads the signature.
- This is the “reading curve of the letter”.
- Which allows the reader to answer the questions: What is this about? What do they want? Is it worth me reading this now?
- What is unusual, is that people read PS in full, word by word. Where can I find research on the topic, and actually look at how reading emails has changed the nature of reading correspondence?
- After reading PS, only then the reader returns to the beginning of the letter.
- All the stated above point to the role of words we use in the letter along the reading curve of the letter.
- The layout of the letter not only allows the reader to navigate in the letter more confidently, it gives him the handholds for attention. It makes it easier to read, and nudges the reader to read more carefully.
- There are certain parts that readers’ eyes catch:
- Single-line paragraphs because they are considered as subheadings.
- Underlines and bolded text or words.
- Paragraphs with indentations.
- The endings of paragraphs, particularly words that spill over onto the next line.
- These elements of the letter will be only glanced and not read properly. They provide answers to questions: What’s this about? Do I actually want to read this?
- PS, in the most readable part of the letter! Make it meaningful.
- Voegele’s observation on how readers read a letter is that 90% of them stopped to read a PS on a letter and if they did, they read in word for word.
- How PS must look like to make it more attractive:
- 2-3 lines long, though it depends on the letter. If a letter is 4 pages A4 long, it’s ok for PS to be several para.
- PS must mention the benefits of the letter to the reader, all takes and must be mentioned there.
- PS isn’t suitable for personal letters.
- PS is a summary of the gains of the letter.
- When the reader returns to the main body of the letter, he already knows what he is up to. And the main body must answer the questions:
- What are the benefits of the action you want me to take?
- Where is your evidence of these benefits?
- What is the next action if I find evidence strong enough?
- One last moment, if you want to provide additional material, do it as attachments to the letter.
- Do not include them inside the main body of the letter. Attachments must answer specific questions, and they are open when the reader needs it and deems necessary.
[[2000 words. How we read correspondence]]