The Most Important Word in a Business Letter


What do you think it is? Many experts insist it's the word "you." Why?

When most of us read anything, we're looking for something that interests us. What do we need at that moment? What will we need tomorrow? Why should we bother to read this story?

Self-interest is what motivates us to comb our hair, brush our teeth, and seek that new job promotion. It's what makes us change college majors, change careers, or move to a different city.

Yet many sales letters - many of which cross my desk - neglect to personalize the message by using the critical word "you." That's tragic, because "you" is rated one of the English language's most powerful motivators.

A few years ago, it's reported that a major university conducted a study to find the most persuasive words. "You" topped the list, followed by the words money, save, new, and results.

So, how can you work this wonderful word into more of your writing? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Find a way to use the word "you" in the headline. Headlines are reportedly read four times more often than the rest of the story.

2. If your letter doesn't have a headline, can you work "you" into the first sentence?

3. Consider putting the word "you" into each paragraph.

4. Use "you" as a way to convert features into customer benefits. Example: "Our new fabric keeps your shirt looking fresh. And our new spring line offers you five vibrant solid colors."

5. It's said that the second best-read part of a business letter is the P. S. Therefore, you should probably consider using "you" there, too.

Final question: If "you" is the most important word in the English language, should you consider using it more?

Rix Quinn's new book "Words That Stick" offers lots of writing ideas for both students and professionals. You can find it at your local bookstore, or http://www. amazon. com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1580085768/qid/


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