BreakThru Learning: Professional Correspondence

Learner Series:

Correspondence: Letter Writing Professionalism

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Letter Writing: the Lost Art

Martha Stewart makes a compelling argument about it being time for us to bring back the lost art of letter writing. Fortunately for medical school applicants and medical students, the art was never truly lost. It's fully expected that you will write letters, either physical or virtual thank-you letters along with with a myriad of other correspondence including email introductions, follow-ups, and so on.

Why is this Important?: Correspondence, aka communicating via letters and emails is critically important but routinely overlooked. You are going to have repeated contacts with medical students, physicians, school representatives, and others and you always want to present yourself professionally when you do!

In this post we'll go over some vital do’s and don'ts of your future communication. We’ll discuss common writing errors that many people make and how you can avoid making them. By doing all of this you can be sure to impress the right people with your professional communication!


The vast majority of your communication will be via email. It’s just too incredibly convenient for everyone involved. In addition you can send a lot of information in a small packet. However, it has many perils.

Pitfalls to Email

People often think that emails are a casual way to communicate and as a result they write casually. Avoid abbreviations, misspellings, unprofessional email addresses, and embarrassing pictures associated with the account. Also be VERY CERTAIN you are sending the email to the right person and NEVER hit reply all!

Do This Instead:

Proofread out loud, use formal language, and create a professional-looking signature that reflects a position or characteristic that you want to highlight.

For example:

Nathan Carroll, MBA, OMS-IV
CEO of BreakThru

Thank-You Notes

You should always write thank-you notes to the people you interact with on the interview trail, it’s also a good idea to write them to your teachers, club advisors and absolutely to your letter of recommendation writers.


Try to avoid emailing your thank-you letters. Although with the move to things being virtual it is far more accepted now. Also be wary of bad misspellings, bad grammar, and not saying anything meaningful in your letter!

Do This Instead

Keep a list of everyone you interact with on the interview trail. Carry thank-you cards in your car. Jot out something meaningful about your interaction and write a quick draft of your letter during down-times and then quickly write the letter in your car and give it to those key people the same day as your interaction.


There is almost no better way to inadvertently make a bad impression then to fail to proofread. One of the best things you can do for yourself is develop a healthy paranoia about your spelling and grammar. It should become second nature to check and recheck your spelling on everything you write. The more important the writing the more you want to check it!

Let's look at an example of what NOT to do.

Imagine you attended a great open house and you want to quickly get out a thank-you letter before the doctor leaves for the day. So you scribble something out really fast while you're still at the school and it looks like this...

‘Thanks-you so much for this todays open house! I absolutely love your school and learned so much from talking to all your wonderful students and from today’s panels. I’m really looking forward to future events at your school, as it is definitely my favorite medical institution.

Sincerely, Nate C.
Future ‘Med U’ Student’

Ok that may be a really over-the-top example. But even ONE of these mistakes could leave a terrible Impression.

Now some tweaks

‘Thank-you so much for today’s open house! I absolutely loved hearing about Med U and learned so much from talking to all of your wonderful students and from today’s panelists.

Student Doctor Mike was especially helpful in describing all of the new wellness initiatives on campus. The panel on third year elective rotations was also very exciting to listen to. I’m really looking forward to future events at your school and will be applying this Fall!

Nathan A. Carroll
Pre-SOMA President, State U.

As you can see, just some minor changes, improved grammar, better spelling, and less annoying language really altered the conversation and left a much better impression.

Some Final Notes on Proofreading

-Sloppiness with proofreading implies that you approach other tasks in a sloppy manner.

-Conversely, a carefully checked letter, email, or essay conveys that you have an eye for detail and are mindful of your work. Both are skills critical in the field of healthcare.

-Above all else, although you need to be careful with your proofreading, you don't want to be afraid to write. You want to stay in touch and show gratitude towards the people who are helping you.

Some Writing tips you Need to know

02. Don't

Use Jargon

Just because you are communicating with professionals doesn’t mean you should use lots of jargon or complicated language. Keeping things simple but professional helps ensure your message is read and completely understood.

01. DO

Use Proper Tone

All professional communication should always have a formal tone. Abbreviations and casual language should be always avoided. EVEN IF YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE RECIPIENT! Don’t make the mistake of confusing friendly with casual.

03. Do

Format Your Writing So It's Easy to Read

A wall of text is a nightmare to read. Use paragraphs written around a theme, short sentences, and apply what you learned in English class - Start each paragraph with your topic sentence!

The Path to Medical School Can Feel Long And Unclear

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