How to Write a Short Descriptive Letter

by Jan Archer
Writing a letter is a skill that will increase your ability to communicate with friends and co-workers.

Writing a letter is a skill that will increase your ability to communicate with friends and co-workers.

A descriptive letter is useful when applying for a job, maintaining contact with a friend or colleague, or addressing your co-workers, community or clientele. Learning to shape a short letter will aid your communication techniques and ensure goodwill between you and your audience. Follow a few specific steps to ensure that your letter is detailed, concise and easy to read.

Begin with a proper salutation. This might include "Dear ___," "Good Morning" or "Good Afternoon." A salutation helps grab the reader's attention in a positive way. It focuses the reader on your voice before you launch into the content of your message, thereby avoiding the effect of "interruption" that can occur in a letter that offers no heading or salutation.

Introduce the topic of the letter with a broad statement. For example, "Lately the weather in Chicago has been warm and breezy. It seems like spring is just around the corner." Have the dictionary handy and look up any words about which you are unsure. Relying too heavily on spell-check can be a detriment to a descriptive letter, as the software will not catch all mistakes or misuses of words.

Move into the body of the letter and include concrete details. Concrete details are words and phrases that appeal to the five senses---touch, taste, smell, sight and sound. These concrete words help a reader visualize and experience the details you write. For example, a descriptive sentence that uses sensory details might look like this: "The weather in South Florida is beautiful this time of year. The sun is warming up to a temperate 85 degrees, and the palm trees are bright and tickling their leaves in the breeze. I stare out the window each day and think of how lucky I am to see cool blue water and bright tropical plants." This use of description gives the reader something to visualize as she reads, as opposed to a sentence like "The weather is nice," which produces no image due to its abstraction.

Close the letter with a positive statement. For example, "I hope to hear from you soon" or "I hope things are well on your end" or "Have a wonderful week, and stay in touch." Ending the letter with a gracious closing helps the reader walk away feeling satisfied with the conclusion. If the letter cuts off mid-topic, the reader may feel a sense of disappointment or assume that the writer did not care enough to finish the letter before sending it.

Proofread your letter thoroughly. The shorter a document the more important it is to avoid errors in spelling and grammar. Print out the letter for the most effective proofread, and read the letter aloud to catch missing words and sentences that need variance. Variance is important because several long sentences together (or several short sentences together) can become very ineffective and lose the reader. For example, the following sentences need to be revised for variance: "She came over today. She was happy to see the baby. He laughed when she picked him up. It was a good afternoon. She left at four." These sentences are choppy and create a robotic tone that departs from what would otherwise be a positive and joyful subject matter for a descriptive letter. Revised for variance, the sentences might read: "She came over this afternoon and held the baby. He laughed joyfully when she held him. We had a lovely afternoon together, and she left around four o'clock." If you feel at a loss for words, you can use the thesaurus to find better words and phrases for cliches or outdated language.

Items you will need

  • Pen and stationery or computer with word processing software
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus (optional)

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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