This chapter focuses on the inquiry letter or inquiry e-mail; let's call it the inquiry communication. The inquiry communication is useful when you need information, advice, names, or directions. Be careful, however, not to ask for too much information or for information that you could easily obtain in some other way – for example, by a quick trip to the library or by an Internet search.
Be sure to check out the examples.
For related matters, see the chapter on general business-letter format and style.
There are two types of inquiry communications: solicited and unsolicited.
You write a solicited inquiry communication when a business or agency advertises its products or services. For example, if a software manufacturer advertises some new package it has developed and you can't inspect it locally, write a solicited letter or e-mail to that manufacturer asking specific questions. If you cannot find any information on a technical subject, an inquiry letter or e-mail to a company involved in that subject may put you on the right track. In fact, that company may supply much more help than you had expected (provided of course that you write a good inquiry communication). If you need to find the names and addresses of businesses related to your report project, see the chapter on finding information in libraries and online.
Your inquiry communication is unsolicited if the recipient has done nothing to prompt your inquiry. For example, if you read an article by an expert, you may have further questions or want more information. You seek help from these people in a slightly different form of inquiry letter or e-mail. As the steps and guidelines for both types of inquiry communications show, you must construct the unsolicited type more carefully, because recipients of unsolicited inquiry letters or e-mail are not ordinarily prepared to handle such inquiries.
1102 West 30th
Lawrence, KS 66321
August 4, 19XX
Dr. Maria Gomez-Salinas
Director of the Diabetes Clinic
St. David's Hospital
1000 Greenberg Lane
Wichita, KS 66780
Dear Dr. Gomez-Salinas:
I am writing you in hopes of finding out more about how the new Glucoscan II blood glucose monitoring system, which a representative at Lifescan informed me that your clinic is currently using.
Originally, I saw Lifescan's advertisement of this new device in the January 19XX issue of Diabetes Forecast and became very interested in it. I wrote the company and got much useful information, but was recommended to write several current users of the system as well.
For a technical report that I am writing for a technical writing class at Johnson County Junior College, I need some help with the following questions:
The Lifescan representative indicated that your clinic is one the leaders in implementing new technology for diabetics, and therefore I am eager to hear from you. In the report I will acknowledge your contributions, and I will send you a copy of the completed report if you wish.
Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Student, Medical Technology
Johnson County Junior College
0000 Paul's Path
Austin, TX 78700
July 12, 1998
Red Hat Software, Inc.
4201 Research Commons, Suite 100
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
Dear Technical Support Department:
I am writing this letter to ask you some technical questions about hardware support in version 5.1 of Red Hat Linux. I saw Red Hat Software's advertisement for version 5.1 of Linux in the August, 1998, issue of Linux Journal. I was quite impressed with the capabilities as listed in the advertisement, and I would like to learn some more about the product. Before I make the decision to purchase the software, I need to be certain that it will work properly on my computer.
I have three hardware support questions that I would like you to answer. I have reviewed the technical support information at Red Hat Software's home page ( www.redhat.com), but I have not been able to find answers to my questions. The three hardware-related questions that I have are as follows:
I am aware that some of the early versions of Red Hat Linux were not able to support some of Diamond Multimedia's products, and I hope that new drivers have been created in this latest software release. If the latest release of Red Hat Linux can support my video hardware, I will definitely purchase the product. I feel that the price on the product is exceptional, and the range of features is outstanding.
For your convenience, you can respond to me by e-mail. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to respond by telephone, you can reach me at (512) 000-0000. I appreciate any assistance that you are able to provide me.
W. Gary NNNNN