In a previous post, we addressed the importance of the subject line. It’s crucial to attracting attention and tempting your audience to read your business letter. Assuming, you get past the salutation, the next big hurdle in any letter is the introduction. After the subject line, it’s the most important component of any effective business letter.Just as your subject line serves as the motto, the introduction is the mission statement or executive summary for your letter. It sets the tone and tells the reader what they need to know.
* What the letter is about
* Why they should read the letter
* Why the letter is important to them
* Why they are receiving the letter now
* Who the letter is from
Anyone who’s familiar with journalism, will recognize these as the 5 W’s (it’s really four W’s, but why appears twice in place of where). Typically, the 5 W’s appear in what journalists call the lead (or lede). Most news stories provide this information right at the beginning. That allows the reader to gather the top-level facts and make a decision about whether they will continue reading.
In a newspaper, the lead appears before the jump (the continuation of the story on another page of the paper). When you send a business letter by email, your intro appears in the preview screen or above the fold. Your goal here is the same as any journalist — keep them reading.
The key to keeping them reading is to tell them the 5Ws, but not give away the store. Set their expectations, make them understand why this is important to them, and then"?¦
(Will you keep reading to the next paragraph?)
Let them know that something else is coming. This can be an important feature of your product or a special offer and you’ll tell them more about it in the conclusion.
But if you don’t write a good intro, they’ll never reach the conclusion.