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UNDERSTANDING BUSINESS WRITING BASICS
The most common types of business writing you’ll use as a designer are letters, e-mails, and memos. Since your writing is a reflection of your professionalism, you’ll need to know the basic formats and understand when each form is appropriate to use. LETTERS No matter how they are delivered (e-mail attachment, fax, or snail mail), letters are an important communication medium in the business world. A signed letter is more formal and considered to be more official than a memo or e-mail message. A letter is still the expected mode that is sent to cover important documents and attachments, such as resumés, contracts, specifications, and proposals. Frankly, many businesses are careless in the ways they send out direct and other mailings that look almost like letters but are missing key components of a date or signature. For these reasons, you shouldn’t use any old letter that comes in the mail as a model for your own business writing. Rely on the good models in this book, instead. When it comes to formatting your business letters, the easiest one (and the one we prefer) is a full-block. What this means is that all elements of the letter are flush left. Easy to remember, isn’t it? (There’s also the block, semi-block, and AMS formats, but why make it harder than it has to be when a full-block works perfectly well.) Your goal should be to create letters that express your attention to detail, proportion, and layout so you’ll represent yourself well in the business world. Otherwise, your clients or potential employers may very well react negatively to your careless writing. Readers expect to find certain information in the same place in each letter. Omissions or misplacement sends an underlying message of chaotic thinking. Don’t make your readers search for information in letters that you’ve written; they may decide it isn’t worth their time or trouble. Save your originality for artistic projects. Your design work can be unconventional, but your business correspondence can’t. Letters are instantly recognized because of their conventional visual parts, which are laid out on the page in a prescribed way. (See page 27 for a sample letter.) The following list breaks down the parts of a letter in the correct sequence from top to bottom.