part of the series: How to Use Print Promotional Tools
Cover letters give a personal touch to everything you send out. People look at your cover letter first, so it deserves your attention. You only get one chance to make a first impression - and you want it to be a good one.
A good cover letter captures your reader's attention. Attention is the first step to relationships. And relationships lead to sales. Have I got your attention now?
A well-written cover letter won't guarantee you results. But you can be sure that a poor one won't get you past "hello."
"Recently I saw a cover letter from an artist who had run-on sentences and no break between paragraphs. It was impossible to follow what this artist was trying to say. Remember that with any writing you do, keep it simple and understandable to the general public. When you have only a short amount of time to get your point across, it is essential to be clear and concise."
Few people can just sit down and write perfect letter first time in just a few minutes.
Writing is a four-part process. Think, Write, Edit and Check.
Be clear about why you are communicating. You can use cover letters to submit a proposal, follow-up on interest, or thank someone with a gift. Cover letters serve many purposes, but each one you send should have a single focus.
Know your audience. Take a moment to think about the person who will read your letter. If you don't know much about them, this is the time to do some research. Write to a human being, not a job title.
It takes longer to write a good short letter than a poor rambling one. Limit your cover letter to three paragraphs. Keep each paragraph to three or four sentences. Keep each sentence on the purpose of that paragraph. I love the Flesch-Kincaid Index that gives you a score for passive sentences, readability and grade level. (You will find it in the spell-check Options in Microsoft Word. The readability for this post is 76.3 and the grade level is 5.6. That means you can scan it quickly and get the message.)
Set the letter aside for at least a few hours. Come back to it with fresh eyes. Put yourself in the reader's shoes and see if it makes sense, is appealing and if you would want to go to the next step.
Review grammar and spelling. If you use spell-check software remember that it does not pick up incorrect word usage and watch out for auto-correction of words like "you're" for "your."