Article of the Week

Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

Business Writing

Business writing has its own distinct style. When writing any professional document, it is important to have a clear goal and to make sure that every detail supports that specific purpose. This objective should help you decide which details and experiences to include. However, it is important that you not share too much information, and instead include your qualifications thoughtfully and concisely as they relate to your desired position.

  1. Basic Cover Letter Format
  2. Writing Purposefully
  3. Writing Succinctly 

Basic Cover Letter Format

In order to write an effective cover letter, follow the general outline below:


1. Introduce your purpose immediately. State the position you are applying for and how you found out about the organization. If you have a personal contact, reference him or her immediately. Tell the employer what you already know about the business and why you are interested in applying.


2. Summarize your personal qualifications and relate them directly to the job requirements and expectations. For example, if you are applying to be a guidance counselor at a middle school, explain how your education and previous childcare experience will prepare you for the demands of the position.


3. Conclude with details regarding your availability. Will you be available during a specific time period? Be sure to include the contact information (phone number and/or email address) the employer should use to reach you.


Write Purposefully

Why are you writing this letter? Is this a cover letter, business email, grant application letter, or a memo? Before writing any document, it is crucial to consider what the writing assignment should accomplish.


 For example, if you are writing a cover letter, make sure to design your document based on the specific position you are applying for and consider the following:


· What are the specific requirements listed for the position?

· What professional attributes would you bring to the position?

· Avoid ambiguous language. Write clearly about the experiences and characteristics that qualify you for the position.

· Use field-specific terminology but avoid confusing language. It is not impressive to use complicated terminology if you do not do so clearly and relevantly.


Consider the following examples taken from a cover letter attached to an application for a financial consultant position:


Example A: I partook in the implementation of IT software, acquired in May 2009 for Insurance Agencies that intended to index annuity credit method ratings for acluistic clients. This addressed administrivia and gave those higher up more time to deliver W-cubed.


Example B: While working in tech-support for an insurance agency, I developed a program that allowed customers to access their account information. This provided the agency employees with more time to address client-specific needs and to research pricing trends in the region. 


Example B is much more effective at expressing how the applicant’s experiences relate to a business planning setting. Although IT work for an insurance agency may not directly relate to financial consulting, the applicant emphasizes the influence his/her computer technology skills had on the operation of the business. On the other hand, Example A is ineffective because it overwhelms the reader with unnecessary and confusing jargon that makes the purpose of the cover letter unclear.


Writing Succinctly

In order to write succinctly, you must evaluate which facts and details about your experiences are most important to include in the piece. This is especially critical in business writing because employers only have a short amount of time to evaluate whether you are a good fit for their business.


Consider the following examples taken from a cover letter in an application for a middle school teaching position:


Example A: I have worked as a teacher in Montgomery County for 22 years. Over the span of 22 years, I have worked with many students. I have made lesson plans and taught them and sometimes there were discipline problems.


Example B: As a social studies middle school teacher of 22 years in Montgomery County, I developed topic specific lesson plans that catered to students of different grade-levels and learning styles.


Here, Example B is more effective than Example A. Example A is repetitive - it mentions that the applicant taught for 22 years twice. Example A also lists information without connecting different tasks together in order to create a more complete image of the candidate’s experiences. For example, where Example A states, “I have made lesson plans and taught them and sometimes there were discipline problems,” Example B elaborates that, “I developed topic specific lesson plans that catered to students of different grade-levels and learning styles.” Example B’s statement draws connections between the potential teacher’s experiences while using 10 fewer words overall than Example A. As a result, Example B is both more detailed and easier to read than Example A.