Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Type Casting

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Many people currently writing for a living started with a typewriter. If you’re younger than that, please stick with me; this post is actually about computers.

    One great thing about typewriters was the tab stop. If you were writing a semiblock letter, for example, you could set a tab stop for the center of the page. Then hit the tab key and “zing” the carriage would go right to that spot. Nobody hit “space, space, space, space…” ad infinitum to reach the center. Even releasing the carriage with one hand and sliding it with the other was troublesome. “Tab, zing” was absolutely the way to go.

    Now here’s the thing: Computer word processors also have a tab system, and it’s even easier to use. In most software, you just hover the mouse pointer where you want a tab, then “click” and it’s set. Want more than one tab? “Click, click,” and they’re set too.

    What’s more, you can even choose the type of tab you need. In most software, just click the tab icon on the left side of the screen. Left-justified is the default, followed by a center tab, then right-justified, then a decimal tab. (Your software may also have a bar tab, first-line indent, and hanging indent in that location.)

    The trouble is, it seems virtually no one knows about these tab controls. So in order to space text out, people use “tab, tab, tab” or “space, space, space” until things look right on their screens. Unfortunately, when they pass a file to someone else who uses a different program—or even the same program on a different computer—the alignment is all messed up. That’s especially true if the document gets edited at all. Indents and tabs slide from one line to another, and text starts jamming together or stretching far apart.

    All for the lack of a simple “hover” and “click.”

    I challenge you to find the tab controls on your computer. Use them to ensure your own text remains in place when your file goes to someone else’s machine. It’s an easy way to make the world a little better for us all.

    —Lester Smith

    Photo by Laineys Repertoire

    Formatting Business Letters

    Thursday, April 01, 2010

    While it may seem that all business communication is being done electronically today, hard-copy letters are still an important part of business correspondence; and the appearance of those letters can make or break your business. Here are the three basic formats for business letters and some ideas about when to use each.

    • Full-block format. This format presents a contemporary style while maintaining a professional look. All elements of the letter, from date to signature block, are set flush against the left margin. The look is clean and easy to set up for routine letters, although it may not be the right choice for a more traditional situation.
    • Semiblock format. This format is appropriate when a more traditional look is desired, which is the case with international correspondence. The date line, closing, and signature block are indented to the center of the page, offering a professional look that is less severe than the full-block format. Paragraphs may be either flush left or indented, depending on preference. The total effect is balanced and professional - excellent for international and social letters.
    • Simplified format. This is the most casual style, omitting courtesy elements like the salutation and complimentary closing. It includes a subject line at the beginning and just the writer's name and title beneath the signature, with all elements flush left. The term "functional" applies to this format, and while it will not enhance the persuasive, personal, or international letter, it suits notices, bulletins, orders, and other such messages very well.

    Keep templates on hand for all three formats, and take the time to consider which will best fit the purpose of each letter you send. Although today's business office has assumed a comfortable, less formal atmosphere, it's still critical to present the appropriate professional face in your business correspondence.

    You can learn more about writing and formatting business letters beginning on page 25 in Business and Sales Correspondence, from the EZ series of writing books, just one of the many helpful business writing materials from UpWrite Press.

    - Joyce Lee