Instructions: Please review the business letter below and then answer the multiple- choice questions that follow. The correct answers and explanations can be found in the Business Letter Assessment Answer Key below.
November 14, 2011
12345 Stream Ave.
St. Augustine, FL 34567
As the holiday season approaches, we are reminded of the blessings that are bestowed on us throughout the year. At Aspen Country Lodge, the pleasures we share year after year with our Legacy clients are among our most cherished blessings.
And so, as our staff looks forward to spending time with friends and family, we are also thinking of special friends like you and hoping you are enjoying good health and good cheer. We take pride in being your home away from home and reserve a special place in our hearts for the memories we’ve shared with you.
Thank you for making Aspen Country Lodge part of your annual traditions. Have a blessed Christmas and a peaceful, joyous, and prosperous New Year.
Theodore P. Hyde Owner/manager
Aspen Country Lodge • 402 Aspen Way • Cold Bluff, CA 98765 • (303) 346-7889
1. This letter is not the perfect specimen of proper English grammar and diction. Which of the following would describe the style of this letter and how does that style impact the errors it displays?
A. formal and impersonal
B. informal and personal
C. formal, yet personal
D. informal, yet impersonal
E. none of the above
2. Fill in blank #1 with the most suitable salutation.
A. Ms. (or Mrs.) Allen
B. Legacy Client
E. Dorothy Allen
3. Fill in blank #2 with the most suitable close. HINT: Your choice should be consistent with the answer you provided for question #1.
B. Yours Truly
C. Thank You
E. As Always
4. Is it appropriate that the signature lines in this letter include the sender’s title? Why or why not?
A. Yes. It is a standard business practice to always use the sender’s title.
B. No. The sender’s title is optional. For example, it is more appropriate to use it B2B (business-to-business) than B2C (business-to-client).
C. Yes. The title communicates the sender’s relevance with respect to the subject of the letter and its central message.
D. No. The title is optional, so you should consider it with respect to the context and tone of the message.
5. The textbook identifies a number of functions a business letter can fulfill. Which of those is the most accurate way to describe this letter’s function?
A. to introduce the business to a potential client
B. to announce or sell a product or service
C. to communicate feelings and emotions
D. to document an event or decision
E. to deliver important or specific information
6. What rhetorical function would you associate with the phrase, “As the holiday season approaches…”?
7. In paragraph #2, “good health and good cheer” is a phrase that uses a common communication technique to reinforce a message. What is that technique?
E. none of the above
8. Where else in this letter does a word or phrase use the technique noted in question 6 to reinforce an important idea? HINT: There are at least four additional applications of the technique.
9. In paragraph #2, “good health and good cheer” is also an example of parallel structure—a technique that helps establish coherence and flow in a letter. List three sets of words that use parallel structure.
10. McLean recommends tying the opening paragraph to the closing paragraph. Identify the two ways this letter accomplishes that.
11. Why is there no return address on this letter?
A. Because it is written in an informal style, so such deviations are acceptable.
B. Because the recipient’s familiarity with this business means she already knows it.
C. Because the letterhead’s graphic takes up too much space.
D. Because the address is printed in the footer of this letterhead.
E. All of the above.
12. Technically, paragraph #2 is flawed because it skips from one idea to another when a well-developed paragraph should focus on one and only one idea. You could correct this weakness by using two paragraphs to expand each idea. Would that be an effective solution? Why or why not?
13. Which of the following summarizes best the central message of this letter?
A. We cherish Legacy clients like you.
B. We are thinking of you.
C. We hope you are enjoying good health and cheer.
D. We are proud of being your home away from home.
E. all of the above
Business Letter Assessment Answer Key
Explanation: The informal, personal style of this letter makes certain errors acceptable. Sometimes, grammatical correctness can introduce unwanted awkwardness or stiffness, which can disrupt casual qualities that make messages feel more personal.
Explanation: Although this is a formal business letter, the subject matter and client history (the holiday season, being a “Legacy” client, returning “year after year”) warrants a more personal approach.
Explanation: To declare that the message has been sent “Sincerely” or “Cordially” is unnecessary because the content of the letter already expresses those sentiments. “Thank You” is problematic because it would not be clear what the recipient is being thanked for. “As Always” is similarly vague and imprecise. “Yours Truly” is the best choice because it addresses the recipient again (“Yours”) and is recognized as being a more personal rather than formal closing statement. This approach would not ordinarily be suitable in a business letter, but its context justifies a personal approach and thus it should be used consistently throughout.
Explanation: The sender’s title is optional, so you should consider its use with respect to the context and tone of the message. As noted in the explanations for questions #1 and #2, this letter adopts a more personal approach than a typical business letter; therefore, it is consistent to omit the sender’s title. Moreover, it is safe to assume that the recipient, having visited the lodge “year after year,” recognizes the name as that of the owner/manager.
Explanation: This letter contains many references to the feelings of the sender and also uses the emotional aspects of the holiday season to communicate goodwill. Its underlying goal is to build on the client relationship and generate repeat sales, but overtly its focus is on feelings and emotions.
Explanation: The phrase “As the holiday season approaches…” introduces the context of the letter, that is, the circumstances which led to and/or justify its message.
Explanation: The word “good” is repeated in this passage, reinforcing one of the most important, albeit unstated, messages behind this letter: that the lodge, its staff, and its owner/manager are all—like the holidays, friends, and family— associated with “good” things in the recipient’s life.
8. “Blessing,” “year,” “good,” “special,” “home,” and “friends.”
Explanation: The technique used is repetition. Each of these words (or a form of them) are used at least twice in this letter: “year” four times,” “blessing” three times, “home,” “good,” “friends,” and “special” two times each. What is important to recognize is how the repetition of words like these also serves to infer positive qualities that characterize the relationship between this business and its client. The message, for example, is that the relationship is enduring, exceptional, or personal.
9. 1.) “As . . . we are/as . . . we are”
2.) “forward, friends, family”
3.) “[we are] . . . thinking, [we are] . . . hoping”
Explanation: Parallelism is most closely associated with grammatical structure, such as using the same verbal form (#3). However, parallelism can also be developed by wording phrases similarly (#1) or by using literary devices based on repetition: #1 is anaphora, #2 is alliteration, and #3 is rhyme. The key to effective parallelism is the repetition of sounds or structures that tie content together.
10. It repeats 1) the name of the lodge and 2) (a form of) the word “blessing” in the first and last paragraphs.
Explanation: While it is only logical for this letter to mention the lodge, repeat references to the lodge are not really necessary in the close, except as doing so ties the goodwill expressed in the letter back to the experiences the client had at the lodge. Similarly, “blessing” is a somewhat religious word, which ties in well with Christmas as a religious holiday. However, using the word “blessing” in the closing as well as in the opening also drives home the more subtle point that the business values the client (i.e., is “blessed” by having the individual as a client) and, hopefully, the client also values the business (and so will plan to revisit it). These tactics make sense given the letter’s relationship-building and repeat- business goals.
Explanation: There is no need to repeat contact information if it is already present, regardless of where it is located.
Explanation: Simple business letters should contain no more than three paragraphs. Also, too many short paragraphs produce choppy content that lacks the flow and coherence of a good letter.
Explanation: The textbook points out that it is the body of the letter—paragraph
two in this case—which should articulate the letter’s message. As a result, options A and E are technically incorrect. Meanwhile, if B were the central message, its vagueness would make it a very weak one. C and D are both good, explicit messages, but as a central message, D does not reflect the altruistic spirit in which the letter was written.