What does “reach out” mean, and why is it important to business writing?
Reaching out means connecting personally with the person who’s reading your email, letter, or report. It might involve information, a compliment, an affirmation, a question, an anecdote, or a simple “thank you.” Often it’s placed in the first sentence or first paragraph. Here are some examples:
Thank you for your interest in our software.
It was a pleasure meeting you at last week’s conference.
I’ve checked into the problem you encountered in our First Street store last week.
Because your health is important to us, we want to remind you that it’s time for your annual checkup.
We appreciate your taking the time to complete the enclosed survey.
Notice how much better these sentences are than traditional openings for business letters:
This is in reference to your April 4 email. WEAK
I am responding to yesterday’s phone call. WEAK
We received your letter of November 3. WEAK
I am director of the recycling program, and I will be answering your inquiry. WEAK
These traditional openings are time wasters that don’t provide any useful information to your customers and clients. (If you have some important information that your reader needs right away, put it into a subject line: Your letter of May 12. Order #163524. Case 310.)
But what if you’re writing to a company? Why should you provide a friendly tone?
The answer is that companies can’t read: Only humans read letters and emails.
Suppose you’re the dean of a private school, writing to tell students about the procedure for registering for next semester’s courses. A list of regulations, reminders, and deadlines does nothing to make students feel confident coming to you with questions. On the other hand, a friendly sentence or two enhances your image and builds loyalty to your school.
This letter serves to inform you about dates and procedures for Spring Registration. COLD
I hope you’re looking forward to the Spring Term as much as I am. In this letter I’ll be giving you some important information about Spring Registration. WARM
But why should you bother? The answer is that businesses, institutions, and agencies usually have limited opportunities to build user loyalty. You should take every opportunity to showcase your professionalism.
Sometimes an extra sentence or two can put a lasting shine on your image. The results are well worth the extra time to write something friendly and positive.