The Power of Correspondence

Years ago, I worked for a plastics company. I had graduated from college but had not found a position in the career I wanted to pursue. But this full-time job helped me and my family survive at the time.

I then obtained a part-time teaching position here at Clinton Community College. My full-time job was from 4 p.m. to midnight, so it did not interfere with classes I taught at college. But then one semester I was offered a Monday evening course at one of the area correctional facilities.

I immediately went to my boss at the factory and asked if I could have Monday evenings off and work a four-day week for the next 15 weeks. He knew that my future was in teaching, not making plastic bottles. However, he didn’t think I warranted the day off and told me I couldn’t have it. I then told him that I couldn’t work there anymore, in that case, and left the plant.

My work ethics at the factory, I believe, had been exceptional, and I did not think I had been treated fairly. I wrote a letter to the company’s main office in Montreal, explaining the situation and providing management with production sheets showing that I was doing a very good job.

About a week later, I received a call from the local plant manager. I will never forget the words he said to me: “Jeff, I guess I have to eat crow,” meaning that he was apologizing for letting me go and had been told by headquarters to hire me back and allow me to work four days a week for the semester.

I no longer work at the plant, but that letter proved to me how powerful proper correspondence can be. When you write professional documents, whether to complain about service at a local store or to apply for a job opening, you need to write in a professional manner. You need to be brief but emphatic, succinct but specific. Convince your audience that what you are writing about is important to both you and your reader.

Our next mini-lecture will focus on a specific kind of business correspondence, one that can be used for many business letters: the bad-news format.