Maureen wrote to me today to ask about the appropriate salutation to use when writing a letter to one person who is a friend and another who is a stranger. Would it be "Dear Kathy and Ms. Greene"?
I suggested sending two separate letters, with each one communicating the right message for the relationship.
But Maureen was planning to start her letter "We are in receipt of . . . "
Blech! Yuck! No, Maureen–don't do it!
For a moment, imagine a different communication: If you were writing to your best friend to say thank you for a gift, would you write "I am in receipt of"?
If you were writing to a client to say thank you for a referral, would you write "I am in receipt of"?
"I am in receipt of" is cold, bureaucratic machine talk.
Try these alternatives as openers for your replies:
- Thank you for letting us know . . .
- Thank you for your letter . . .
- Thanks for your letter!
- Thanks for your message.
- I appreciate your letter . . .
- Thank you for taking the time to write to us . . .
- How wonderful to hear from you!
- It was a pleasure to hear from you.
- I am grateful for your detailed letter . . .
- I have received . . .
- We have received . . .
The last two alternatives are neutral rather than positive. Reserve them for the rare instances when you don't want to communicate a positive tone. For example, if someone sent you unsolicited attacking feedback and you were required to respond, you might use "I have received" as an opener. If a customer sent a wacky complaint letter, you might use "We have received." However, in normal circumstances the best opener in response to complaints is "Thank you for," which instantly establishes a positive tone.
Sometimes people fear that they write the way they talk. They want to sound more professional in writing. Well, "I am in receipt of" isn't the way anyone talks, yet we shouldn't write that way either. We should choose natural language that communicates human to human.
Do certain cold phrases drive you nuts? Please share them here.