Writing a “Readable” Direct Mail Letter…

Writing a “Readable” Direct Mail Letter


Because letter-style direct-response packages designed for development or fundraising purposes must meet response standards –– which is a fancy way of saying This Letter Must Raise Money — these standards sometimes override traditional punctuation and grammatical principles.

You must catch the reader’s attention … and carry her eye forward from phrase to phrase, from thought to thought. You’ve got to do what you can to avoid the “scan”!

You must make use of a complex science of alternative punctuation, unorthodox capitalization, and sentence fragmentation –– all of which increases response to a package, but sometimes drives secretaries and editors batty!

For example, we make significant use of ellipses (…) and dashes (––) and frequently use capital letters after these items, even though a capital is not technically called for.

This has the surprisingly strong effect of holding the reader’s eye –– and generally does not reflect too negatively on your reputation for editorial precision, since most readers don’t process their mail through a mental filter of “the rules.”


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