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I'm an engineer with a fair knowledge of the English language. I can converse with people in English and write as well, but now I'm interested in learning to write cover letters and blogs. I see plenty of books on writing letters in different ways; however, I am still left with the following questions:

  1. In what format can I write a cover letter?
  2. Can I include technical terms in a cover letter?
  3. Are cover letters sent through email differently than written letters?
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I think this is more suitable in Writers SE. –  Lester Nubla Dec 30 '13 at 12:17
    
@LesterNubla Should, I include any other tag for this ? –  Rudra Dec 30 '13 at 12:21
    
I am also new to this site so I am not familiar with the tags here. –  Lester Nubla Dec 30 '13 at 13:13
    
@LesterNubla - Looks fine for our site, and we don't have anything that's quite a dupe. –  Neil Fein Dec 30 '13 at 22:37
    
Rudra, welcome to Writers! Nice question. You might also get some good information from this related question. –  Neil Fein Dec 30 '13 at 22:37
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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Dec 30 '13 at 12:26

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

3 Answers

I think post by sotondolphin (based on info in the included link) is pretty good, but I have the following disagreements / additions:

  1. Make it mistake-free. [Many hirers' attitude is, "If they can't avoid mistakes in a cover letter, then it's guaranteed their work will be even sloppier after I hire them."]
  2. I disagree about the technical terms. Often, HR staff don't read cover letters or resumes/CVs; they just look for buzzwords. The right buzzwords get you passed along to the next level.
  3. A corollary to that is: Your cover letter is for the people for/with whom you'll actually be working. Speak to them, not the HR staff.
  4. If you want the job, then YOU get back to THEM, not the other way around. [p.s. The same goes for getting a date, or (since this is a writer's site) getting something published. :-) ]
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  1. A cover Letter has a fixed structure:
    • The first paragraph describes which position you are applying for and where you found the position.
    • The second paragraph explains why you think you are suitable for this position.
    • The third paragraph is set for follow-up actions you are expecting or you may take (such as hearing from you or "I will call you to discuss more details", etc). Also, keep the cover letter to one page.
  2. I reckon you use as few technical terms as possible because the covering letter is usually read by HR staff, they merely need to know your general working experience.
  3. There are significant differences between an email cover letter and one sent by post, in the header and footer sections. In brief, you don't need header information in an email (addressee info, date, sender name and address, etc) and length isn't as big of a deal in an email, although you still should keep an email cover letter short. You may find more info on this page.
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Why did someone downvote this post, from a totally new member? Just because it paraphrases another website (which it references)? That is unwelcoming, if not plain rude, IMO. I'm upvoting. –  dmm Dec 30 '13 at 22:16
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@dmm - I'm puzzled as well. It's a good answer, and I upvoted it too. Although it could quote more from the link, I don't think that's worthy of downvoting. (In OP's favor, that link is hard to summarize without just quoting all of it.) –  Neil Fein Dec 30 '13 at 22:40
    
@sotondolphin - I've tried to summarize the link, as well as done some other edits, but please feel free to revert or further change my edits. –  Neil Fein Dec 30 '13 at 22:48
    
It's a good answer except for point 2. If you can't correctly name things you'll be working with, it's a sure-fire sign to your employer that you have no clue about them. HR can skip words they don't understand. Your future team will judge you by how you used them. (possible exception: you're taking the single, sole position nobody in the company ever occupied before, doing something nobody there has any clue about. Then you may go lighter on deep jargon.) –  SF. Dec 31 '13 at 9:02
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1. In what format can I write a cover letter?

Read the job posting carefully and see if they have any requirements, number one priority is to follow all instructions exactly.

In general you want to start by stating the position you're applying for. After that you can use any format you'd like if you believe it will be professional and beneficial. There is no set format and I've gotten interviews from single paragraph cover letters, and from lengthy ones consisting of 5 or 6 paragraphs. It is about the structure, content, and reason. Just as any writing - say what needs to be said and remove the rest.

2. Can I include technical terms in a cover letter?

Absolutely. I would be be careful not to repeat your résumé though. If you state in your résumé, "skill in technical term" then there is no reason to repeat yourself in the cover letter.

3. Are cover letters sent through email different from written letters?

In general, not really. Just make sure that any minor changes needed are made. For example in an email you might say somewhere "My résumé is attached in both .pdf and .doc for your convenience." Which wouldn't make sense if mailing it in.

MOST IMPORTANT: Follow any instructions given. If the company specifies to state something, state it. If they ask for a format, use it. If they want a particular filetype, do it.

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Follow instructions. Yes. If you can't follow instructions when applying, why would I hire you? (Same deal as having typos.) –  dmm Dec 31 '13 at 3:26
    
Also, I would add that you should repeat the exact phrases that are in the job description if you are including technical terms. That is, if it says "C# programmer", don't write "proficiency with .Net", write C# programmer. HR won't know that it means the same thing or better, so it won't get checked off on the list and it might not get passed on then. –  KitFox Jan 3 at 18:20
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