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Advice to letter-writers from an expert

The old man trudged to his front door, opened it and smiled wearily at the postman, who himself was staggering under the weight of the mail sack slung across his aching back.

“Another one for you, Guv. See you shortly.”

Dragging the bulging sack back to his low-ceilinged sitting room, the white-haired gentleman looked around for his reading glasses.

“Put the kettle on love,” he called, hearing his wife clattering around in the kitchen. Then he settled into the cosy embrace of his favourite armchair and opened the first of the letters. Oh dear, he thought. It’s worse than last year. He read:

“Dear Snata,

As a valued supplier, I am writing with exciting news. I have been a good boy and here is my list of present’s what I want…”

“By all that’s holly!” cried Santa. “Look at the grammar. The spelling. You’d think he could do a bit of proofreading. And just look at that opening. ‘As a valued supplier’ indeed!”

Sadly, the rest of his mail that morning was no better. Here are some of the other spikes in his pulse-rate:

A letter from a car insurance firm illustrated with a young lady dressed most unsuitably for the South coast of England, let alone the North Pole. Wouldn’t make me buy insurance for the sleigh, he grumbled.

A letter from a management information company illustrated with a picture of four rather glamorous people gathered around a computer screen and smiling. Hmmph, thought Santa, used to be the piano in my day.

A postcard from a reindeer rest home with the text set in white over a snowy scene. Might be good, he mused. But I can’t make it out.

A self-mailer from a toy wholesaler, written in management speak with phrases like “leverage your gift-manufacturing management competencies”. Huh? thought Santa.

As he sipped his tea, he started jotting down notes for a letter HE might write one day. Though as his long-suffering wife pointed out, “Who would you send it to, you old softy.”

Here are his ideas:

“What I want for Christmas…

  1. A letter written to me and me alone, not a group of “some of you”.
  2. A tone of voice that is friendly as well as professional.
  3. Some reasons why I might want to do what the writer wants me to. It’s not that difficult: what’s in it for me?
  4. A letter with no mistakes in it. Not one. No spelling errors. No misplaced punctuation. No double spaces. No structural lurches where cut and pasting goes awry.
  5. Short, simple sentences I can understand straight away, preferably around 16 words long. I’m a busy man and I don’t have time to decrypt gobbledegook.
  6. Pictures that are relevant to the letter and to me. I like those meerkats and the ladies whose clothes fell off but I can never remember what the letter was about.
  7. A writer who keeps calm. I own a flying sleigh, have an army of elves working under me and can circumnavigate the globe in a single night, and even I don’t say it’s “exciting”.

Who knows whether Santa ever got his wishes. But we can all try, can’t we.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukah. Peaceful Eid-ul-Adha.

Categories: Freelance life and Maslen on Marketing.

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