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10 Steps to Writing Effective Cover Letters

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur, writing letters are just one of the many tasks you do every day. Taking the time to write a good cover letter can pay off in the long run, especially when you're trying to interest an investor in funding your business or project.

What can a cover letter do?
A good cover letter introduces your business or product, makes a sales pitch and provides a call to action. It arouses interest or curiosity and entices the recipient to read through the rest of your material.

Here are some tips that will help you to write effective cover letters, quickly and easily.

1. Always address your letter to a specific person, and include their job title. Make sure you've spelled their name right.

2. Use a "block" letter format, with text justified to the left and double spaced paragraphs. Have someone proofread your letter and watch for spelling and grammatical errors.

3. Keep your letter short -- no more than one page. The longer the letter, the less effective it is.

4. Keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Your cover letter needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Most cover letters will be between four and six paragraphs long.

5. In your first paragraph, let the reader know why you are writing. (This is called the opening).

6. In your second paragraph, ask for what you want. If you're asking for money, make sure you clearly state how much you need and what you plan to do with it. Keep your letter factual and don't use obvious flattery.

7. In your third paragraph, explain your "why". This paragraph is your sales pitch, so make it count. Focus on what makes you different from the competition, or why the reader should say yes.

8. Your fourth paragraph is your "call to action." This paragraph needs to be more than just thanking the reader for taking the time to read your letter. What specifically do you want them to do next?

9. Your promise. This can be included in the fourth paragraph, or depending on the type of cover letter you're writing, you can make it your P.S. This is how you will keep the lines of communication open. It tells your reader what you will do next. Are you going to call him? Will you be meeting again? Whatever you are going to do, make it specific and time oriented, so that the reader knows he has to do whatever you've asked him to do within a certain amount of time. (Make sure that you follow up exactly how and when you say you will).

10. Make it easy for the reader to get in touch with you if you have questions. Include your phone number and/or email address in the last sentence, and let them know that they should call you if they have any questions. function SubmitRating(btn) { ratingchecked = false; if (btn.form.aRating0.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating1.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating2.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating3.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (btn.form.aRating4.checked) ratingchecked = true; if (ratingchecked) { btn.form.btnRating.value=btn.value; btn.form.submit(); } else { alert("Be sure a rating value has been selected to continue."); } }