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Letters of Instruction

5 Steps to Writing Effective Letters of Instruction


A letter can be a good way to provide instructions to business associates such as clients, customers, employees, or colleagues. Letters add a personal touch, which can create goodwill and motivate the recipient to follow the instructions. The following tips will help you write effective letters of instruction.


  1. Understand your audience. The instructions should be based on the recipient's knowledge about the topic. For example, instructions about sending an email would be written differently for people who have experience with computers than those who have never used computers.  
  2. Start the letter on a positive note. Beginning the letter with a congenial tone will send the message that you are concerned about the recipient's needs, willing to make amends, or intent to establish a good relationship. For example, if you are responding to an inquiry, thank the person for the initial communication. If you are responding to a complaint, offer an apology. In other instances, state the purpose of the letter or discuss the benefits of the instructions.


  1. List instructions one step at a time. Provide a bulleted or numbered list that includes each step and the relevant information.  


  1. Provide contact information. When appropriate, include the name and contact information for the person who can answer questions or provide additional assistance.


  1. End the letter on a positive note. Depending on the circumstances, you might end the letter by thanking the recipient, reiterating an apology, mentioning the possibility of future business, reaffirming your relationship, or wishing the recipient well.


Additional Tips






Provide details about why and how something works. When possible, explain why instructions should be followed. If recipients know the consequences of not following the instructions, they may be more motivated to do so.


Consider this example: An air purifier contains a permanent filter and a disposable pre-filter that prevents larger particles from reaching the permanent filter. This helps keep the permanent filter clean, which increases its longevity and effectiveness.  


An explanation about the importance of replacing the pre-filter may persuade the recipient to do so.


Instructions are generally mass produced or disseminated through form letters. This is why personalized letters of instruction can be so useful, particularly for customers and clients. They establish goodwill, show the recipient that their needs are important, and help businesses build excellent reputations.


Therefore, the benefits of personalized letters of instruction can outweigh the time, effort, and costs associated with creating them.


References


Maggio, R. & Griffin, J. 2001, 1998. The Big Book of How to Say It. New York: Prentice Hall.

Sparks, S.D. 1999. The manager’s guide to business writing. New York:  McGraw Hill.