Mike Long's
Weekly Writing Tips

Michael Long is a speechwriter, author, educator, and award-winning screenwriter and playwright. He teaches writing at Georgetown University, where he is the former director of writing in the Department of Public Relations and Corporate Communications in the School of Continuing Studies. To discuss speaking engagements, corporate  education, ghostwriting, or just to ask a question, email him at Mike@MikeLongOnline.com.

Letter? I Didn't Even Know Her!
Mastering the kick-ass thank-you note and letter of congratulations.

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Quick note: My latest short play, "The Test," won The Players Theatre Short Play and Musical Festival February 18-21 in New York City. This is my second consecutive win in that festival. Thanks for your interest in and support for my creative efforts.

Your momma!
(Hang on, stopped too soon.)
Your momma made you write thank-you notes, but I’ll bet she never told you how. (My mom was grateful that I got the things written at all.) But now that we’re all big-shot, big-time big-wheels in business, government, non-profits, trade associations, or our own imaginations, it behooves us to know how to write a thank-you that sounds considered, professional… sincere. (As George Costanza said, once you can fake sincerity, you have it made.)
Here's a crazy-easy template to get you there, and it won't sound canned at all:
Begin with the words “thank you,” then identify the item, act, or kindness. For instance, “Thank you for your kind words on Late Night with Seth Meyers last night about the work of our foundation,” or “Thank you for the lovely potted plant you sent last week in memory of our founder, Percival J. Bottomtooth.”

Easy, right?

Be sure to avoid the ever-tempting, too-long setup:  “I am writing to thank you for…” or “It is with great pleasure that I write to….” Pretentious. Unnecessary. Dumb.
In a sentence or two, say what is useful about the gift, or describe something about it that you like. Be specific. If it’s a physical gift, explain what you are doing with it. “We have set the fern in the reception area where more people can enjoy it.” Or “Because of your kind words about us on the Letterman show last week, we are seeing a burst of new donors – the best gift we could possibly receive!”
Close with a kind word about the giver.Try this:  “Thank you again for thinking of us. Everyone here values your friendship and we hope to see you soon.” 

If it’s a card, just sign your name. If it’s a letter, close with “Best,” or “Sincerely,” or something else basic.

This note seems too short to you, doesn't it? It's not. Professionals make their points graciously, then they close. Like the best dog food, they don't use filler.

A congratulations letter or note follows a similar pattern, but instead of offering thanks, you express admiration or pride. 
Begin with the word “congratulations,” then identify the achievement. “Congratulations on your promotion to chief speechwriter,” or “Congratulations on your selection as a White House intern.”
In a sentence or two describe the value of the achievement. “As the head of speechwriting, I know you are going to have a lot of influence on how the company is perceived by the public,” or “The competition for White House internships is great, and you must have impressed them greatly with your communications skills and ambition.”
As with the thank-you note, close with a kind word. Something corporate will suffice – “All of us here are excited at your new opportunity and wish you all the best” – but a personal thought is nice, too:  “I’m proud of you and happy for you. Please stay in touch.”
A few final thoughts:  If you haven’t done so already, invest in high-quality, personalized stationery. Write personal notes by hand – don’t type them. Again, don’t feel obligated to write a long note – a few sincere sentences about are far more effective than three paragraphs of boilerplate. And be sure to send your notes in a timely way. Newlyweds may have a year to acknowledge gifts, but you don’t.
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