Create effective introductions to letters with these hints

Cover image
A person sitting at an old typewriter.

Have you ever read the introduction to a letter, only to find that it doesn’t relate well – if at all – to the rest of the it? It’s always an unwelcome surprise.

In business letters, the goal is not to surprise readers; the goal is to inform them. This giving of information begins in the introduction, not in the body of the letter.

To create effective introductions, follow these two steps:

  1. Set the situation. By setting the situation, you are answering the question: What happened to bring me to write this letter?
  2. Give the message. The question you want to answer now is: What is the rest of the letter going to do?

Here’s a sample introduction that sets the situation and gives the message:

Thank you for your response to our proposal. We are happy to inform you that we have chosen your company. Here are some details you will need before we can move forward.

Notice how short this introduction is. Two guidelines that you want to follow are:

  • Remove bulky phrases. Bulky phrases include: I am writing this letter in receipt of… or This letter is in acknowledgment of…
  • Keep the introduction at 2-3 sentences maximum.

One last element to consider is whether you are writing a letter that gives positive news or negative news. If the main message of the letter is negative, you need to avoid giving the no/not/negative word in the introduction.

It’s important that the introduction remain neutral in a negative letter so that your reader will not toss the letter away immediately. Get the reader’s interest in the opening, and then in the first line of the second sentence, give your no/not/negative word.

For example:

Thank you for your application. We received inquiries from many excellent candidates, and we have made our decision.

At this time, we can’t offer you the position of communications liaison. However, there is another position that we encourage you to apply for…

Marie Antaya avatar

By Marie Antaya, CTDP

Author of The Eclectic Writing Series.