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The Role of a Buffer in a Letter
Buffers are used in formal or business letters to soften negative news with more positive or pleasant comments. The buffer typically appears as the letter’s opening paragraph but can be longer if you have more positive points to make.
Your buffer should relay some positive aspect of the negative news you wish to impart. For example, if you must notify someone of a refusal of his loan request, you could open your letter with a pleasantry, such as “I appreciate your time and patience during this loan evaluation process.” You could follow this with a more direct, positive statement, such as “our team was impressed by the preparation you put into your loan application materials.” Having established this buffer, you can then relay the bad news: “Unfortunately, we were unable to approve your loan request.” This preliminary buffer helps ease the reader into the letter’s inherent disappointment and can be complemented with a closing paragraph that reinforces these positive elements.
Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.