Don’t appear so scholarly, pray.  Humanize your talk, and speak to be understood.”
– Moliere

Writing with style

If the thought of expressing yourself in print is enough to make you break out in a cold sweat and hives, rest assured – it’s easier than you might think.  Practice does make perfect.  In the meantime, you can follow these basic rules to give your communications an air of polish.     

Speak plainly.  Less is almost always more; there are very few exceptions to this rule.  Don’t try to amaze friends and family with your grandiose vocabulary.  Don’t overuse adjectives.  Too many descriptors will bog the reader down, rather than paint a strong visual.  Basically, if you can say it with fewer words, do so.     

Be coherent.  The key to letter writing is to convey a message.  Therefore, the content of your letter should make sense.  It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often this step is overlooked.  Stay true to the topic at hand; don’t go off on endless side trails.  One paragraph/topic should seamlessly transition to the next.   

Mix it up.  Most of us are creatures of habit – even in our writing.  Some of us tend toward verbose diatribes; some of us prefer short and sweet.  As you write, keep in mind that a well written piece will have a little of both.  There will be longer, more detailed sentences.  And short ones.  In the same vein, you should avoid needless repetition of words. 

Keep it proper.  Letters are not the place for slang or colloquialism.  Avoid swear words.  And for the love of Pete, do not use texting abbreviations in formal communication! 

Read it.  And by reading it, I mean read it aloud.  All good writing must pass this test: if you can read your letter through smoothly – from start to finish – exactly as it is written, you’re golden.  If not, you need to work your words, your grammar and punctuation, until you can. 

Of course, through it all your voice should shine.  In other words, don't forget your personality.  A letter is, after all, a piece of you.  You took the time.  You sat down and penned the letter.  You sent it in the post.  When your recipient reads the letter, it should be as if you were standing right there, talking.