When was the last time someone sent you a love letter? Or any kind of personal note?
If you're like most of us, the majority of your correspondence is electronic. Hastily written jumbles of thoughts that flood your inbox like a plague of locusts. Once they fall below the line of your computer window, they're forgotten.
But a few stand out.
The heartfelt words of praise from your boss.
An angry flame mail from a coworker, an ALL CAPS, poorly spelled, reply-all missive they can never take back.
The actual letter -- printed, signed and mailed with a stamp -- that your best customer sent your CEO telling her how great you are.
These words burn an impression in our brain. We repeat them over and over again in our mind, and often save them.
In era of tweets and texts, good writing still matters. In fact, it matters more than ever, because people often form an impression of you based solely on your written words.
How many times have you seen a relationship turn based on a single correspondence?
A poor opening email can prevent you from starting a relationship and a misread email can destroy months, or even years, of previous goodwill.
People draw conclusions about you from your writing.
Well-written words can make you more successful in your profession and deepen your personal relationships. Poorly written words can make you look foolish, uncaring, sloppy, and even mean.
The challenge is that writing well can be time consuming, so sometimes we don't bother to write at all.
I've written three books and I write a 575 word column every single week. But my husband knows that if I'm complaining about something, nothing shuts me up faster than saying, "Write a letter." The mental energy it takes to compose an actual letter seems so insurmountable, I give up.
Or at least I used to. Now I have a big fat cheat sheet right on my desk -- How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You'll Ever Write by Sandra E. Lamb. It has everything from apology letters to business plans along with word, phrase and sentence lists and organizing templates.
Want to request more credit or send a collection letter? The book has several samples. Want to raise money from potential donors? Lamb provides lists of persuasive action-oriented language.
Not sure what to say in a condolence note? The death in the family letter is more touching than anything I've ever received, and the letter to a friend who was downsized is the perfect combination of empathy and inspiration.
Note to husbands, if you want to make your woman swoon, see Chapter 15: Love Letter. Choose one of the "evocative words" on page 103, add an "expressive sentence" from page 104, put them in a card or email, and you're a stamp or click away from real romance.
Lamb, who spent over a decade compiling the current edition says, "I even use it myself. If I'm going to write a complaint or a resume, if I look at the chapter, I'll see words and phrases that save me all kinds of time." (See www.SandraLamb.com for a video on how to repair a friendship with a letter).
Good writing can make you a better lover or parent, and it enhances your reputation at work. Why wouldn't you want to get better at it?