Proper uses of boilerplate

Published on May 14, 2024 by Matt Bud, The FENG

One from column A and one from column B. Sure makes it easy, doesn’t it?

Much as our electronic world makes life simple, it also makes it more complicated in certain ways due to the opportunity to be lazy or inattentive to details.

Just as there are only a few themes for good writing (man against man, man against nature, etc.), there are also lots of routine things we say in the letters we write during a job search. It would be unwise (that’s the same as silly or stupid) to reinvent the wheel each and every time.

In much the same way that plays are tried off Broadway first, some of the phrases and their sequence in your cover letters need to be considered and evaluated. Practice does make perfect, and there is nothing wrong, per se, with reusing old words and sentences. If you take the time to recombine them in interesting and creative ways, they can serve to INCREASE the amount of time that you can spend on writing the more interesting and purposeful parts of your missives.

As you react to any situation and think through the ideas you would like to communicate, it is often helpful to start with something you have already written.

It is sort of like those very helpful “old spreadsheets” from last year’s budget. Used properly they can provide a checklist and a framework upon which you can build your latest message.

Avoid writing anything important directly in email. I don’t know about you, but I developed a habit a long time ago of compulsively hitting save. Funny thing is that when absorbed in writing an email, I sometimes accidentally have hit send. To avoid this when I am “on a roll” writing email directly, I will save filling in the recipient’s address until I am satisfied with my message.

Keep in mind that most of the folks to whom you are writing receive lots of messages and they can tell a strictly boilerplate letter a mile away. (Okay, their eyes probably aren’t that good.) But that said, they can easily tell when you are being non-responsive to issues they have asked you to address.

I am still surprised at times how malleable words and sentences can be. A little tweak here or there can change meaning and tone more easily than one first imagines. And, the effort is well worth it.

Again, the purpose of having a treasure trove of your best writing in the proper sequence is to give you MORE time to write a thoughtful message, not to save you time.

The easiest way to make a good impression is to at least change the greeting to a person’s name if at all possible. I still have to smile when I see “dear sir or madam” on a note sent in response to something I have posted. If you don’t know who I am at this point, you truly are lost.

Just remember when you write to me, I like to feel special. Don’t send me any “used” words, sentences or paragraphs. It might hurt my feelings. (And, you know what a sensitive guy I am.)

Regards, Matt