Getting Your Cover Letter’s Tone Right

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When writing cover letters, job candidates tend to spend lots of time on the details—where they worked previously, why they’re a good match for the current position, and so on—but don’t devote quite as much attention to tone.

But tone is important. While you don’t want to be too informal (writing “Srsly I would rock this position” never landed someone a job at a major tech firm), excessive formality can come off as too stiff and robotic. You want your prose to be upbeat, professional—and real. Here are some additional tips:

  • Eliminate all slang.
  • Explain your accomplishments and qualifications, but don’t brag.
  • When in doubt, err on the side of keeping things short.
  • Delete phrases that can undermine your case.

What’s the best way to determine whether your cover letter hits the right tone? Read it aloud to another person. If your prose sounds unnatural or “weird” when spoken, it’s time to revise.

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