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02/02/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Helen Dunn Frame

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Today's guest on Tuesdays with Friends is Helen Frame. Helen's a businesswoman with lots of experience in professional correspondence and today, she's going to share what it takes to write a successful business letter. If you are a writer in the 'search for an agent' stage, a successful writer corresponding with booksellers or editors, or just someone who wants to keep your family up to date on what's happening in your life, this is excellent information. Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend for KdBlog, Helen.



CREATING LETTERS THAT GARNER RESULTS     

 by Helen Dunn Frame

Years ago a friend whose second language was English often asked me to write letters for her. Whether it was to her insurance company, some religious leader, or the Governor of Texas, she always received a reply, usually a personal one.  In her eyes I was an expert.

 Long before I met this friend and personal computers replaced typewriters, I composed letters to my family to keep them up-to-date about my life.  In essence they were blogs before the term was created.  I used to send one relative the original and the others carbon copies, rotating who won the more legible ones.  Now I plan to start a personal blog about my adventure living in Costa Rica.  The goal: establish myself as an expert before completing Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida.  Targeted readers are Baby Boomers who might find my “glimpses of life in Costa Rica” a helpful source for planning for retirement or at least for purchasing a vacation home.

 Writing a blog to get a following has become an important marketing tool.  Creating effective letters still helps to sell a manuscript or finished product, whether it is a query to a publisher, an appeal for a book signing, or a request for a review. 

 It still amazes me how many marketing letters or notices from organizations, often from a top executive, begin: “I would like to tell you . . .?”  Do you really care what the egotist wants you to know?  Frankly most of these letters end up in the trash unread.

 Bottom line, it can’t be emphasized enough that you keep the word “I” to a minimum.  Think in terms of the reader whose “I” is the most important one.  Not yours. Especially avoid starting a paragraph with an “I”.  Proofread the letter to make sure the number of times you use an “I” is minimal and absolutely necessary.

 For example, instead of opening the letter as mentioned above, hook the reader.  You may find that asking a question proves a fantastic beginning. “How do you get a book signing in June?”  Follow it with the answer, “You have a wedding in your book.”  This means, of course, that you thought ahead to logically include events in your book that enable you to market it more easily.  The wedding in my mystery Greek Ghosts was an integral part of the story, not contrived, and enabled me to have a book signing in June, the third event at the same store.

 Keep your letter to one page.  Write short sentences and paragraphs that keep the reader wanting to read the next one.  Use simple rather than complex words because not all members of your audience have college degrees.  Even educated people appreciate easily read and understood pieces. Finally, have an odd number of paragraphs.  For some reason, that incites the recipient to respond.   Don’t ask me why, but an even number psychologically suggests closure with no reply necessary.

 Just as you do in your manuscript, think action verbs and eliminate passive phrases like “There is . . .”   Use different words rather than repeat the same one, especially within one paragraph.  The title of your creation is different. After carefully devising it so it captures attention, repeat it where logically possible to promote recall.

 Also, check for certain words like “is” or “be” and other words you use a lot. Substitute action words wherever possible unless no other one makes sense.  Don’t create a convoluted sentence.  Finally, if you have a widow, a one word line, at the end of a paragraph, eliminate it.

 Set your letter aside for a couple of days after it feels finished.  Later read it like an editor.  You’re libel to exclaim, “Did I write that?”  Your response might indicate it was well done, or not.  Remember, even one typo can turn your reader off. Ask someone else to check it because another person is apt to catch errors. While computer programs have spelling and grammar check tools, keep in mind, you have to know grammar and how to spell to be sure you should change something.

 Finally, many good letters fail because the writer didn’t ask the reader to buy.  What results do you want?  Most likely a positive response like my friend received. Ask for it!



Helen Dunn Frame is an accomplished businesswoman whose professional writing skills and love of travel culminated in the fascinating mystery GREEK GHOSTS in which threads of her experiences have been woven.

In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she has had a number of writing projects including creating a second book in the mystery series, and an anecdotal book to help baby boomers research retiring in the country. In 2008, Helen was Editor of Coldwell Banker Costa Rica's Vista Magazine that utilized her writing, public relations, and real estate experiences.

Living abroad and traveling extensively in 50 countries, as well as having a Master's Degree in Sociology from New York University, has given Helen a deep appreciation for the value of diverse cultures. A graduate of the Journalism School at Syracuse University, she has been published in major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, England, and Germany.

Email Helen at: helen@helendunnframe.com

Website: www.helendunnframe.com

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You may remenber the four proverbs:
Truth never grows old.
Two heads are better than one.
Two of a trade seldom agree.
Two dogs strive for a bone, and a third runs away with it.

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