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Expressing Emotion in Electronic Job Cover Letters

Business Communication Quarterly Volume 69, Number 4, ISSN 1080-5699


Increasingly, employers require job seekers to submit their applications electronically. However, while most job seekers may be familiar with email and other modern communication technologies, they often wonder about the rhetorical strategies to be used in their messages. This article describes a case study of a job applicant to identify the elements of an effective email cover letter. The results suggest that a cover letter is an essential component of an online employment application. From the perspective of disclosing emotion, an effective email cover letter represents a delicate navigation of rhetorical extremes. The letters in this study avoided mention of desirable character traits (e.g., enthusiasm, compassion, patience, efficiency), and focused instead on the applicant's emotional engagement with the potential position and emphasizing an appropriate match between the applicant's background and the requirements of the position. Thus, special focus should be on the controlled expression of emotion that successfully communicates interest and enthusiasm while avoiding the double pitfalls of bland, disinterested prose and unfettered, overly emotional enthusiasm.


DeKay, S.H. (2006). Expressing Emotion in Electronic Job Cover Letters. Business Communication Quarterly, 69(4), 435-439. Retrieved February 17, 2020 from .

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