Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

The Works of Marketing with Ray INDEX

October 12, 2004 • Volume 4 Issue 23

A Book from 1942

Last week I told you about a book with a 2004 publishing date.

This week it's a book first published in 1942, updated in 1961 ... and today is just as full of nuggets we can use as six decades ago.

My best buddy Gene was cleaning out his library and offered me this book. I accepted - as the title reminded me of a seminar I took on how to write letters. Something my first California employer, Matson Lines, sent me to. An all day event sponsored by the L. A. Chamber of Commerce.

"How to write letters for all occasions" by Alexander L. Sheff and Edna Ingalls, with revisions by Mary S. Allen is 220 pages worthy of at least a skim by all of us in marketing.

Yes, even today. When we write letters less. Meaning those we do write are even more important. And because I feel strongly most of the techniques that work for words on paper also work for words on a screen ... ala E-mail and the WWW.

Writing letters is still a normal means of communication. And although they should be conversational, they must be more. As you will not be there to immediately respond to a quizzical look or sign of disbelief or misunderstanding. i.e., your letters must be better than your conversation.

A boss of long ago Bob Hemmings use to say direct mail is a salesman in an envelope. Your letter represents your firm. It must look and 'feel' as good as your people, your products, your services.

So, let's look inside this almost ancient document and see what we find.

The book is divided into Business Letters and Social Letters. I'll let you go through the social section on your own ... and talk here only about a few of the business pages. We begin with what are the eight parts of every letter;

  • The Heading ... is your business letterhead, logo, full ID. And the date. I've always liked to include the day ... such as Tuesday, October 12, 2004. I like the date in the upper right hand side.
  • The Inside Address ... begins with the name of the person you are writing, and a title if fitting, the company name and a complete mailing address. All this must be block left with the left margin, and be one to four lines below the date, depending on the total length of your letter. Even when the receiver is a good business friend, it is still business. Start just a tad formal - include everything.
  • The Salutation ... can be formal or not, depending on how well you know the person you're writing to. It might be Dear Mr. Baldwin, or dear Chuck. Your letter could begin 'Good Morning. ' It should never start Dear Madam or Dear Sir. A letter is personal ... always use the name of the person.
  • The Body of the Letter ... this is the meat of your message, the subject matter. It might be a single paragraph, or a series of pages. Each paragraph should be indented - it makes them easier to read. Your right margin should be ragged vs. justified or block - again because it is easier to read. Your paragraphs should be a max of seven lines (not sentences, lines!). Shorter is okay.
  • The Complimentary Close ... this is the 'Good-Bye' part. Your sign-off. In marketing it is not the end - you are most likely asking for action - you want a response. Yet, it is still the end of the letter. I like 'Most Cordially' or 'Sincerely Yours'. Other popular closes include 'Very Truly Yours', 'Respectfully Yours' and variations on all of these. Decide what works for you and use it.
  • The Signature ... both typed and in blue or black ink is the preferred way, with the Signature four or five spaces below the Complimentary Close. If your handwriting is clean and clear you may get away without the typed portion - yet, plan on both ways. The sig block should always be on the right hand side of the letter - always.
  • The Post Script (P. S. ) ... is not an option. In all your marketing letters a P. S. is mandatory. Usually two or three lines - sometimes longer. The message in the P. S. is a repeat of the key offer and how to take advantage of what you have outlined in more detail in your body copy. Even to your best customers you must Ask For The Order more than a single time.
  • The Outside Address ... The assumption here is you are using your companies #10 or #11, maybe a 6 X 9 or 10 X 13 mailing envelope for your letter, and any enclosures. Type the complete mailing address directly on the envelope or label, with all your corporate ID. The address block left is best. Just as on the inside, the name, title, company and complete mailing address, in that order top to bottom, is the preferred way. Formal, yet friendly. And the post office can read the zip/postal code/bar code, too.

Rather than detail any more of my thoughts with those of the authors, I'll close with what you'll fine when you get yourself a copy of this "how to ... " book. A dozen pages on punctuation, spelling and grammar. Punctuation is something most American writers over use. It's purpose is to make reading easier, nothing more. Of course spelling errors make you look less than wonderful. Using basic grammar correctly makes you a professional.

There is a section on the opening of your letter. Here a lot depends on your message - still, the bottom line is the opening needs to be quick and short. To pull the reader in to the main body message. Starting with "Thank you ... " has worked, does work today and will work tomorrow.

Most business letters are short vs. long. With less "nothing phrases" and fewer adjectives. Most use what is acceptable conversational Business English - that which is familiar in your industry and marketplace. They are direct - saying what needs to be said and moving on. Just as you would in a face-to-face meeting. Yet, these are guiding thoughts vs. being Biblical dictates.

As with all marketing, your letter must attract the reader's attention. The layout can do this. Yet, it is the words, the text, that must be interesting (my favorite word). Your message should fulfill a need or describe a need, answer a question, offer a special value for reading on and then responding.

There are scores of samples of every dimension in the book - many of them "old fashion" for today. Still, I like the book because it is full of ideas that will make you think and make your letter writing better. Interoffice memos, too. Your E-mail. Plus your "About Us" section in your web site. Just about every document.

A quick search found used copies of "How to write letters for all occasions" in paper back are available from Barnes & Noble.com - Used Book Search Results - which means from other sources, too. Get yourself a copy.


It's fall. The marina close to me is full of sail boats.

Some afternoons the water is full of beautiful multi-colored sails - and some days it is not. Anonymous has a response, which applies to business as well as sailing;

"If there is no wind, row."

The RJm Story

An almost absolute for professional speakers are products. Books and tapes and such that allow your audience to take you back to the office with them.

So, over the two plus decades of speaking I've created product. You may find something useful to you - a book, an audio or video tape @ www.MagicMarketingMinutes.com

Of course, you can reach us @+1+760-376-1858. Or by sending your E-mail message to Ray@RayJutkins.com.

The Works of Marketing with Ray INDEX

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