If you’ve ever seen a batch of letters sent in response to a job advertisement, you know they can be very funny. A random sampling usually demonstrates every mistake you can imagine. Here are some errors to avoid:
- Addressing letters, “Dear Sir” or “Dear Sirs” As you know, many readers today are women. If gender is unclear, the salutation should be something like “Dear Human Resources Manager”.
- Addressing letters, “To whom it may concern.” Find out who will receive the correspondence, and address it personally. We received a letter addressed to “Dear Whomever,” to which we replied, “I’ll answer to anything but this!”
- Enclosing a photo. Forget the photo unless you’re a model or an aspiring actor.
- Handwriting or typing over an old resume or letterhead. If you’ve moved, start again. Changes on old documents aren’t acceptable.
- No signature. Even if you type your name at the end of correspondence, you should sign the page in your own handwriting to give it a personal touch.
- Spelling errors. One applicant said he was well suited for “writting and editing chores… contac t me at the adrwss below.” Would you give him your editing work? Another writer said she would enjoy “hearing form us.” Word processing spell checkers make mistakes; so proof everything.
- Handwriting letters. Brief 30-word thank you notes can be handwritten, if legible. All other correspondence should be typewritten. Handwritten letters don’t say “business.”
- FAXing letters unexpectedly.
- Forgetting to include your phone number. One woman wrote, “Please call me at home,” but didn’t include a phone number. That looked bad.
- Cluttered desktop publishing. With the advent of PCs, some job seekers feel the urge to “be creative” using various type sizes and fonts. Avoid this in business correspondence. Except in rare cases, business letters should look conservative. If you want to be creative, do so in your choice of words. Save Microsoft Publisher and Corel Draw for your Christmas cards.
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- Using a post office box as an address. Except in rare cases, such as conducting a confidential job search, use a street address. Post office boxes seem “transient.”
- Strange phrasing, such as “an opportunity to expand my strengths and delete my weaknesses… ” Or, “You may feel that I’m a tad overqualified.” Or, “Enclosed herewith please find my resume.” Do you talk that way? You should write in the way you talk. Avoid bad phrasing by having others critique your letters.
- Typing errors, like “thankyou for your assistance.”
- Mailing form letters. Some letters contain “fill in the blanks.” Generic forms don’t work well.
- Not saying enough. One want cover letter read, “Please accept my enclosed resume for the position of Executive Director. Thank you.” That’s too short. A letter is an opportunity to sell. So say something about yourself.
- WRITING IN ALL CAPS. IT’S HARD TO READ. DON’T DO IT.
- Abbreviating Rep., Ave., Dec., and all other words. Take time to spell words out. It looks so much better.
- Forgetting to enclose your resume. If you say you’re enclosing one, then do.
- Justifying right margins. When you “justify right,” you create large gaps between words inside your sentences.
- Forgetting the date and/or salutation.
- Talking nonsense. “I work in instilling proper conduits for mainstream educational connections while also encouraging individual creative forms.” What? Write in plain, modern English.
- Forgetting to put the letter in the envelope.
- The 300-word paragraph. The worst mistake in marketing is writing too long. Limit sentences to ten or twenty words, and limit paragraphs to four or five lines. In letter writing, short is usually better. Try to limit your letters to one page.
Contributed by Workplace English Training E-Platform