Is Letter Writing Really About Good Grammar?
5. Be very careful with periods. A period brings a thought to an end and that’s what you want to avoid, except when you want to merge into a new thought. Notice I used the word “merge.” You must always keep your letter
moving. Don’t let the reader stop. Remember, when someone is reading your letter, she rarely is 100 percent focused on what you have to say. Usually she’s scanning, and if she stops, then some distraction is going to capture her attention.
Maybe the television is on. Maybe her spouse is screaming about a bank overdraft. Maybe there’s a thunderstorm in the area. Maybe there’s another piece of mail that looks more interesting than the piece she’s looking at now. For goodness sake, don’t let the reader stop!
6. Use “I,” not “we.” Many years ago, a president told me that his organization is larger than just him and he can’t use the word “I” — he must use “we” to capture the breadth of its work. I told him that was a bunch of bull, and he fired me. True, the person signing the letter is the personification of the organization. But donors don’t respond to an organization, they respond to an individual.
7. Use contractions like you would in ordinary conversation. Don’t say, “Here is the reason I am writing you.” Say, “Here’s the reason I’m writing you.” Most writers I know will read their draft aloud to make sure it sounds conversational, which often includes adding many contractions to the copy.
8. Keep on dashing! It’s a good way to balance movement with gentle pauses — without adding a period — because you don’t want the reader to stop altogether, but you also don’t want to tire her out.
9. Believe in the mystic power of a quotation mark. Sure, quotation marks are supposed to be used for quoting someone who has said something. But that’s a rule. A quotation mark can be a tool, too. So, if you want to be “conversational,” then you can use a quotation mark.