Effective Technical Writing in the Information Age

Professional Letters


Beyond the cover letter, you will undoubtedly be faced with the need to write other professional correspondence, be it by e-mail or envelope. These letters are just as important in that they can also become part of a file devoted to all of your correspondence with a company or individual. Professional letters you write are likely to be kept in a file along with your resume as part of your permanent record. Letters are also your opportunity to show professional courtesy, impress companies with your knowledge of and interest in them, and allow readers to know you as a person. Good letters humanize you. And employers tend to choose people they feel they know—not strangers.

In addition to the cover letter, the other types of professional correspondence you are most likely to write include:

  • A Query Letter, making a specific request for information.
  • A Thank You Letter, expressing thanks for an interview or invited visit.
  • An Acknowledgment Letter, acknowledging the receipt of a job offer or some materials.
  • A Letter of Decline or Letter of Acceptance, declining or accepting a job offer.

While writing a letter for any of these circumstances, follow the same basic guidelines for tone, appearance, mechanics, and format as you do for cover letters. However, keep these letters brief—just a few short paragraphs—so they can be read in one-minute’s time. Using a gracious, professional tone, fill your letter with specifics particular to the circumstances, for example:

  • The date of your previous correspondence or interview.
  • The names of any other individuals relevant to the correspondence.
  • Details about what action, if any, you want your audience to take.
  • Clarifications of any points worth repeating or open to potential misunderstanding.
  • Carefully worded, warm, personal remarks, especially if you have had repeated contact with the same person, and especially if you are asking for a favor.

Follow these guidelines carefully and you can be assured that your letter will inspire your reader to take appropriate action, whether that is simply to place your letter into a file respectfully or perform a more involved task that you requested professionally.