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Tip-of-the-week | Application Letter Content Development

Community Guru
John B Member Since: Aug 20, 2015
1 of 16


Tip Of the Week | Application Letter Content | Use Building Blocks

Pre-write and use 'building blocks' of content to build up customized Application Letters.  The assumptions implicit to the use of this technique include:
1. One prefers to field application letters of modest to significant length
2. There are common pieces of information one wishes to install into each Application Letter

1. This technique is specifically helpful to ESL freelancers (English as a Second Language). It helps to ensure their Application Letters are stocked with well-written content.
2. This technique allows Application Letters to be developed more rapidly
3. This technique can solve the problem of an Application Letter sounding cookie-cutter in nature.

Writing Approach | Use the "WH Questions"
Develop specific paragraphs (i.e. blocks of content) that provide bodies of information commonly presented in the Application Letter.  I use this conceptual system to categorize potential building block paragraphs.  They are referred to as the WH-questions.

Who am I?
What experience do I have?
What are my credentials?

Why should I be considered?

What is my work ethos and approach?
What are the next steps?
... there are others.

To use these building blocks of content and others:
(1) Write them in advance.  Target the block length for a word count of no more than 40 words.
(2) Edit each content building block carefully.
(3) For those with English-lite skills, I recommend you have them edited.
(4) Use the building blocks of content to build up the 'standard' parts of the Application Letter.
(5) Insert custom-written blocks of content to tailor the response to specific circumstances.

Why this differs from form letters or cookie-cutter responses
1. The Application Letter can be built up with custom choices of which building blocks of content should be included.

2. The sequence in which the building blocks of content can be varied according to need and response circumstances.

3. Use of building block content avoids building Application Letters that present information that is not relevant (a sure give-away that the response is cookie-cutter).
4. The building blocks of content are augmented by custom-written content to further ensure the response is not deemed cookie-cutter.


To conclude

The development of Application Letters is a highly personal process. I do not mean to suggest this technique will be useful or appropriate for everyone to engage in.  Responses to this piece will add value if the respondent focuses on their approaches and preferences for the development of work-winning Application Letters.

Community Guru
John K Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
2 of 16

John B wrote:


(3) Or for those with English-light skills: have them edited

You mean English lite?

(2) and (3) can/should be stand-alone paragraphs custom written.  Depending on one's specific focus and willingness to write WH paragraphs of variety, the others can be pre-written and ADATPED modestly.

A tip from me. In the edit window, click the ABC/check-mark icon in the top bar. It may prove useful.
Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 1.34.01 AM.png

"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
Community Guru
John B Member Since: Aug 20, 2015
3 of 16

Editing this writing I engage in within this blog:  I take a bye on close-in editing.   I spend at least 30 hours a week on producing IP that is front-line visible.  Mistakes are not acceptable.  This is a stream of consciousness.

You pinged me a bit on this one, however.  My turn to ping back.

My professional editing toolkit includes
MS Spell Checker
Grammarly Professional

Autocrit Professional

- and -
A MS Read Outloud check, as my final hear-the-words-for-real editing step.


Which, to note, for hard-core writing work proposals, I actually highlight in my proposal. 

This blog writing.  Man, I spend at least 30 hours a week putting up words for people that are visible to 100s, 1000s, and for some enterprise websites (for example) are seen by 10s of thousands. Perfection is required and I take even one grammar error of unclever set of words as a total failure.

This is writing-light.


Community Guru
Wes C Member Since: May 3, 2019
4 of 16

John B wrote:

Grammarly Professional

I do hope you know to not actually rely on its suggestions.

Community Guru
John B Member Since: Aug 20, 2015
5 of 16

Hello.  Here's a toolkit that can enable improved spelling, grammar, and stylistic English. As is the case with all business tools, how one uses the tool is the primary influencer on how useful the tool becomes.

MS Spell Checker
This can be the first line of defense against spelling errors. I find the custom dictionary facility particular helpful when I am writing for clients that have a unique lexicon.  For example, the custom dictionary can be used to install a client's company name if it has a complex or unnatural spelling.

Many believe the paid version is strong in grammar and sentence-structure editing.  Others call it out as weak.  I view the use of this tool in this frame of reference: 'whisper objections into my ear'.  I particularly appreciate how Grammarly will provide an explanation as to why it believes a mistake has been made. I also appreciate how it provides recommended fixes.  This places me in control of my editing decisions.


Autocrit has grown to encompass a group of tools that are stylistic in focus.  I engage this tool primarily for my fiction writing.  ESL (English as a Second Language) writers may benefit from its readability scoring and grading system that provides a holistic overview of the piece. A specific benefit of this tool is its determination of grade reading level (on the Flesch-Kincade scale). The reading level score can be helpful in structuring writing to its appropriate grade level.  For example, best practices for blog writing are commonly quoted at 8th grade reading levels.  This is a more complex tool to learn than Grammarly.

The MS Word [Read Aloud] Function
MS Word has a facility that will read the words of a block of content outloud and in a fairly natural electronic voice. The assistance this provides has produced astounding personal experiences.   I can hear - not look for - those goofy little mistakes that are so hard to see.  Missing prepositions and commonly misused words top the list. The [Read Aloud] function can be installed in the [Review] toolbar for easy access.


For those of you who are ESL, and perhaps for those of you who simply have a bit of grammarian within then, these tools can be helpful. Professional Editors provide services of high value for many editing circumstances.  I view these tools as more for personal use and the production of content that cannot be professionally edited.


Responses to this piece will bring the most value if the respondent provides recommendations and explanations of the editing toolkit they consider most powerful.

Community Guru
Wes C Member Since: May 3, 2019
6 of 16

John B wrote:

The paid version is strong in grammar and sentence structure editing.  I particularly appreciate how it provides explanations of why it thinks something in the writing might be wrong (great training tool for those learning English).  It also provides suggested fixes. 

My happy news; it does not flag CMS-style comma allocation (This, that, and other things - the third comma is CMS style.  Not having that comma would be AP style.  I am a total CMS style junkie, and apparently Grammarly concurs with me.  It is not clear if I could date an AP style writer.  There would just be too much conflict).


Since you expanded on this, I'll expand on my earlier comment. I'm an editor. I like tools that make my job easier. Grammarly is not one of them. I got the Pro version last year because I needed the plagiarism detection for a few clients who source from freelance writers. Since then, I've run all kinds of material through it. I have not hit a single document yet where less than 80% of the suggestions were just flat out wrong.  And here's a timely example - it wants me to replace "where" in that previous sentence with "were".  It is far worse than Word's grammar checker, and that's not real easy to do.

Community Guru
John B Member Since: Aug 20, 2015
7 of 16

This piece has been rewritten to reflect comments made by forum freelancers.  The intent is to improve its information transfer quality.

Valeria K Moderator Member Since: Mar 6, 2014
8 of 16



I've merged your threads about similar topics. We may occasionally, move, merge or remove comments to keep the forum organized and on topic. 


I'd also like to use this as an opportunity to remind all Community members of the Guidelines. Please, keep the conversation professional and avoid making personal attacks. A few posts have been removed from this thread.

~ Valeria
Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
9 of 16

Just how long are your proposals, that you're pulling in paragraphs? 


I can't imagine sending more than three short paragraphs, and at least one of those is going to be project-specific.


Some of my proposals that have led to long-term client relationships have been as short as three sentences. 

Community Guru
John B Member Since: Aug 20, 2015
10 of 16

To respond to your question, "How long are my proposals".  The proposal length varies according to circumstance, naturally.  My average proposal response is approximately 200 words.  I can rapidly build this length of customized proposal by using content building blocks as described in a previous post.

My experience in receiving prospective client responses from 200-word proposals is consistently complimentary.  I hear responses with these themes:
- Thank you for the thorough reply.
- Your response helped me understand your services better
- You have explained yourself well.

- Thank you for taking the time to respond at length.

Do I know if the tactic of building relatively longer Application Letters provides me with a competitive advantage?  No, I do not.  Do I hear consistently receive "thank yous" and compliments for the use of this tactic?  Yes I do.