Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• After recently paying a parking ticket at the Court House, I noticed an ad on the bulletin board for an opening in the probation department.• The bad joke in the opening (for a job application in law enforcement, no less) trivializes the persona, making the writer ultimately seem uninterested in the job.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• I recently read of your opening for a field geologist. One of my professors, Dr. R. D. Loner, worked for you, and claims that your company was beneficial to her career. My taking the position would be a great opportunity to advance my career in geology.• The self-serving persona here clearly violates the principle that a letter should emphasize what the applicant can offer the employer, not vice versa. The “you” perspective is nonexistent.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• I have spent many summer vacations hiking and camping in Yosemite National Park, and would like to return to the park as an employee.• This effective opening immediately gives the writer’s main point—the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Executive Writing Course booklet calls it “the one sentence you’d keep if you could keep only one.” We get the impression of a writer who is informed, sincere, motivated, and very definite about his or her plans.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• Please consider my application for the business-oriented programming position advertised in the Boston Globe. I will graduate in May from Eastern University, with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology.• This opening is familiar and safe, but effective. Nothing flashy—merely a serious, conservative persona, appropriate for this type of job.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• Texaco is a very important leader in the development and distribution of the world’s energy resources. Would your company have a place on its R&D team for a mathematician with experience in computer programming?• Busy professionals hate having their time wasted by worthless information. The writer’s trite and pathetic attempt at flattery creates a juvenile and unprofessional persona.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• While attending Eastern University, I have closely followed your company’s financial statements, and have become highly interested in your sales growth. Therefore, when Roberta Lowny, Vice President of Sales for Bando Sportswear, informed me of an opening in your fabric sales division, I decided to write immediately.• This persona suggests a writer clearly on top of things, informed and action-oriented.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• Does your company have a summer position for a student determined to become a technical writer? If so, I think you will find me qualified.• The main-point lead and the confident but diplomatic tone create a forceful yet likeable persona.
Letter Openings: Good? Bad?• I am applying for a position as a computer clerk. Most of my programming experience has been with PASCAL. I have experience programming in a variety of languages. I was referred to you by Chris Mather, who is employed as a computer clerk in your firm. His interest and enthusiasm encouraged me to write.• The Dick-and-Jane sentence structure and diction, along with a nonexistent “you” perspective, add up to a dreary, faceless persona.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• I would like an interview with you as soon as possible.• Being bossy with a prospective employer is no way to create a likeable persona.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• If my qualifications seem to interest you, would you kindly consider the possibility of contacting me at home (247-555-9867) any weekday after 3 P.M.?• The humble tone in this example, with its many qualifiers, creates a Milquetoast persona. Nobody likes a wimp.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• I know I can succeed as a technical writer in the software industry. I look forward to hearing from you about my placement in your company.• Although definite and determined, this writer oversteps the bounds for an applicant. His “placement” is far from being an established fact.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• I hope you agree that I am the type of engineer DGH is seeking. Please allow me to further discuss career opportunities with you.• This closing is confident yet diplomatic, both summing up persuasively (assuming the letter text supports such a conclusion) and moving the reader to action.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• I feel well qualified for the position as Park Naturalist, and hope you will consider me for the job. If you need more information or wish to contact me for any reason, feel free to call at 265-555-5467 any weekday after 4 P.M.• The tone is relaxed and friendly, a good persona for this job.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• If your department has a place for an enthusiastic intern, I hope you will consider me. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you directly.• This closing leaves us feeling as if the applicant is a person worth meeting: energetic, motivated, and assertive.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• I would like to arrange an interview with your company to discuss this position. Please phone me at your convenience.• This closing reads like something from a set of military orders—a faceless writer telling a faceless reader what to do. All intimacy is missing.
Letter Closings: Good? Bad?• I am hardworking, efficient, eager to learn, and anxious for the opportunity to apply my skills. Please consider me for a summer position.• This closing effectively sums up the writer’s view of her assets, and restates the main point as a diplomatic appeal for action.
Final Tips• Letter openings should capture attention.• Letter closings should motivate action.• Think about your “persona” and how it comes across in your writing.• Avoid clichés, “canned” phrases, and flattery.