What are some general guidelines for effective cover letter writing?

Use an accepted business letter format. The most common format used today is the full-block style. There are a variety of resources on cover letters in the Career Discovery Center at Career Services. Look at different samples until you find one you feel suits you best.

Personalize each letter. You should make every attempt to address each letter to a specific individual. This may require that you contact the organization to get the name and title of the appropriate person.

Use non-sexist language. If you are answering a blind ad with no way of obtaining the name of a specific person, do not use Dear Sir or DearMadam; Dear Director of Human Resources or Dear Hiring Official are both appropriate, but only do this when it has proven impossible to get a specific name.

Limit your letter to one page. Clear, concise writing will ensure that you say everything you need to say in as few words as possible.

Cover letters should never be more than one page and are usually not more than 5 paragraphs.

Avoid overusing the word “I”. For example, instead of saying “I have enclosed a copy of my resume” you can restructure sentences to use “you” more often. The result would be “Enclosed you will find a copy of my resume.” A rule of thumb is to try not to use “I” more than twice per paragraph.

Vary your writing. Variety makes your letters more interesting and easier to read. Try to offset long sentences with short ones. Use transitional words and phrases to help your ideas flow together more easily.

Use attention-getting action verbs and adjectives. When describing yourself and your qualifications, use adjectives and action verbs to add flavor and pique interest. Pick up a copy of the Action Verbs…To Enhance Your Resume handout at Career Services.

Proofread, proofread, proofread. Check and check again for spelling errors. Don’t rely on your spell check alone. Read your letter backwards to catch any spelling errors and typos. Check for grammatical errors by reading your letter out loud from beginning to end. Also have others check for errors

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