Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Simple Style in Cover Letters

                Most people underestimate the importance of good writing. There are many situations where good writing can determine whether you succeed or fail. For example, a well written cover letter can get you a job or improve your chances of getting accepted into grad school, but a poorly written cover letter can land your resume in the garbage and you without a job. So how do you write a cover letter? Do you use simple style so your writing is clear and concise, or do you use official style so you sound more professional?  Although in most situations I believe simple style is better, I would argue that cover letters require official language. The cover letter should be written smoothly, flowing from one sentence to the next allowing the reader to enjoy as you explain why you deserve the position your applying for. The cover letter should still be clear and concise but it should have more passion and emotion, more than I think simple style is capable of.
                Let’s first look at the sphere of activities involved. I think cover letters are a professional/ formal sphere which involves two main perspectives, the writer of the letter and the reader. The writers’ goal is to inform the reader why he/she deserves the job in a concise style that gets the readers’ attention. While the reader is a hiring manager who sees applications all the time, so as a writer the most important thing to do is stand out.  The last thing a hiring manager wants to read is a long or boring cover letter.  
As you will see from the attached resume, I’ve built my career in a variety of roles and industries, mostly in small companies where I was not just the admin but also gatekeeper, technology whiz, bookkeeper and marketing guru. I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same.
This is an example of official style in a cover letter. You can see that this is a very long sentence that incorporates multiple combination devices such as a relative clause, a subordinator, and a few prepositional phrases. These devices help the cover letter flow, making it easier for the hiring manager to read. But most importantly, the words this applicant chose displays emotion that the reader can feel when he/she reads it. I believe that is the biggest limitation of simple style it doesn’t take advantage of the copious amount of words. In my experience the simple words usually lack emotion which I believe to be necessary in a cover letter. Examples of good word choice from the sample above includes “sincerely enjoy”, “built my career in a variety of roles”, “technology whiz”, and “marketing guru”. All these words are unique ways to say something simple, yet they make you sound more passionate about what you do. The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position.
It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential.  I found this subject very stimulating.
This is an example of a simple style cover letter. As you can see the sentences are short with no combining devices and the main points are clear. Although the author of this webpage believes this is a good sample, to me this it lacks energy, passion, and personality. This is a very generic “who kicked who” cover letter. 
                The purpose of a cover letter is to separate yourself from the rest of the applicants. How can you create a unique and creative cover letter that shows the reader you deserve the position when you write in simple style? When I talk about simple style I’m not referring to clarity and conciseness because all cover letters whether in official or simple style should be clear and concise.  What I am referring to is the emotion and passion official style can add to the cover letter. Simple style I feel lacks the power to distinguish your-self from others. These are the categories I made for official and simple style: simple style is what I want to read in a textbook so I can find the main points in a very short time, and official style I want in my novels that I read for enjoyment so I can relate and feel something for the characters.  Many might argue that the reader of your cover letter wants the main points with little work.  I believe that argument is 100% credible, but writing an extra 50 words in order to develop your-self and your skills better in your cover letter might give your paper the extra attention it deserves.

                Although in most situations I believe simple style is the most effective writing form, for cover letters I believe official style, if used right, could have the longest lasting and most positive effect on the reader.  Official style allows you to develop and talk about yourself in a creative and passionate way that will let the reader know you are highly qualified for the job and very passionate about the specific field. Simple style allows you to get your main points across quickly and efficiently but it doesn’t allow the reader to form a bond with the applicant. Unfortunately a cover letter written in simple style may just be a waste of time.  

Sam Schneider

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