Letter Writing: Cover Letters, Query Letters, and Blog Posts


This week is National Letter Writing Week. Sometimes we think that letters are a lost art. Who writes letters anymore? They’ve been replaced with emails and text messages. But letters are still a big part of our lives, especially in a professional capacity.

There are three kinds of letters that I write regularly. I thought I would share these three types and provide some practical tips.


Cover Letters

After 15 years of working as a recruiter in the temporary staffing industry, I learned a few things about job hunting. I know that many people don’t put a lot of time and effort into their cover letters, but they should. A cover letter allows you to address the recruiter or hiring manager directly, share insights about why you’re a good candidate, and showcase your interest in the position.

There were so many times that I received an emailed resume attachment on a blank email. Not only did this not tell me anything about the candidate, but it also made me wary of opening the attachment in the first place. Lots of dangerous things can masquerade as a resume, so if you don’t tell me you’re a legit candidate, I’m probably not reading an email from you at all.

In today’s digital world most companies are offering an online application process. Many of those have a field to include a cover letter or at least an introduction. Always make use of that. Address it personally if you know the name of the manager, share a few details that aren’t on your resume, and show that you’ve done your homework and know what the company does. This will go a long way toward getting a call back. 


Query Letters

I’ve also recently become intimately familiar with another kind of letter. I would not consider myself an expert in this one quite yet, but I’m trying. A query letter is something authors send to potential agents to entice them to read a new manuscript. I’m trying to take what I know about writing cover letters along with the best practices for hooking a reader into a query letter and craft something that will draw attention.

I have not yet succeeded, but I try and try again. One thing I do know for sure is that it’s not usually the book that makes the difference. It's the pitch. All you need to do is convince the agent they want to request pages or the complete manuscript. Once you do that, your work can speak for itself.

I have a long list of agents that I’m only part of the way through. I send a few query letters at a time and then revise and try again down the list. I am still hopeful that I will get some bites on it soon. Cross your fingers for me.


Blog Posts

I know what you’re saying. Why is a blog post in a list about letters? Well, the reason is simple. A blog post can act as a letter to your readers. Using a letter format to write a blog post can be a very effective way to draw readers in and keep them coming back for more.

Sometimes editorials are framed as “an open letter” to an individual or group of people. When you do this, you address your audience directly. Another common use of a letter in a blog post is around the holidays. Just like the letters that would come in family Christmas cards, you can do the same thing digitally on your blog. This can update your readers about your personal and professional goals from the previous year.

In any case, letters are an excellent communication tool. Even outside of these formal uses, writing letters doesn’t have to be a lost art. Grab some stationary and get a pen pal. Send cards to your family. However you want to, keep letter writing alive.

Can you commit to writing a letter this week? Tell me about it in the comments. 


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