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How to write a Business Letter


Writing Business Letters is Different

Business letters are formal modes of communication between two parties, though business letters could include more than two parties on occasion. For example, you might be writing a letter to a debtor whose check has bounced back due to shortage of funds in the account of the debtor and you might want to send a copy of that letter to your bank and the bank of the debtor. Several types of business letters are possible based on the situation and the type of business. However, normally business letters are classified as informal, motivational, promotional, and persuasive. Further, business letters could be of conversational styles found in emails or they could be highly formal, even legalistic or technical. Memos, general business letters, and emails related to business communication would be in the intermediate category. They should be neither too formal nor overly casual.

Understand Your Audience

The most crucial element in writing good business letter is to develop the ability for identifying your audience and writing to them with the required level of relevance. When you write a letter to the human resources department, you should not use technical terms that would be comprehensible only to engineers, even if the human resources department is that of an engineering company. The simple reason is that the personnel in the human resources department would not have an engineering background, though they are working for an engineering firm.

Be Precise

Business communication letters should be concise and clear, stating the objective in easily understandable terms, unless they involve legal formats such as contracts or include technical details like business plans. Business letters should not be vague or long-winded, which would drive away the readers. You should state your objectives without the inclusion of unnecessary details.

Be Professional

Professionalism is very important in all business communication letters. Even if the letter is about making a complaint, the language should be courteous and polite. You should only state the problem or the issue in detail and add all relevant information but there should be no attempt of any threat or slander in business communication.

Business Communication Letter Writing

Correct usage of personal pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘We’, and ‘You’ are very important in business letters, memos, promotional letters, inspirational letters, and other business communications. When you refer yourself as ‘I’ and the recipient as ‘You’ in business communication letters, you create a personal touch and intimacy, earning interest and trust. However, if you are writing on your company letterhead, you should use ‘I’ for your personal opinions and ‘We’ for all company policies or issues related to the organization.

You should minimize passive voice as much as possible to convey your messages clearly to the readers. Passive voice might be unavoidable in certain places but usually passive voice makes the message or the content impersonal, ambiguous, and even dull at times.

The first part of writing business letter is to understand the task at hand thoroughly. If necessary, you can read and reread the description of the task several times before you commence your letter. If necessary, prepare a list of the main points that should be part of your business communication letter, so that you remain focused on the exact content. You should identify the objectives, answers, attributes, and qualifications that would meet your the points in your list of requirements. The business letter should cover all the points in a specific and exact manner, instead of being vague or ambiguous. If you have to use field-specific or industry-specific terminologies that are highly relevant to the required contents, you should use them in as much simple manner as possible, so that the readers are able to understand them.

Business Letter Format

Since business letters vary widely, it is not easy to maintain a strict format for business communication letters. Further, business letters could be in block format, indented format, standard format, open format, semi-block format, modified block format, or modified semi-block format. However, only the first two formats are widely used. Block formats are suitable for formal and official business letters. Indented formats are better for promotional, motivational, and personal letters. Samples of business letters in the two major formats are presented at the end. Still, the following main sections would usually form part of any standard business letter format.

1. The first section would be your return address that includes your name, address, phone number, and email ID, if you are not using a business or personal letterhead.

2. The date of the letter would follow the address or presented below the top portion of the letterhead.

3. The subject matter or reference would be below the date, where necessary. Usually, all business letters would have a reference or a subject.

4. Many business letters would have special notations like ‘Personal and Confidential’, ‘Special Delivery’, ‘Airmail’, etc. You could place this above or below the date before the subject or the reference. This special notation could be in uppercase or in lowercase but bolded.

5. The name and address of the recipient would follow the subject or reference.

6. The salutation like Dear Sir, Dear Mr. Michael, To Whom It May Concern, etc. would follow the address of the recipient.

7. The body of the letter would begin with a paragraph, briefly outlining the objective of the business communication letter. The subsequent paragraphs would furnish the details of the subject in a concise, clear, and precise manner. You should remember that concise and precise do not mean being blunt. The language should always be courteous and professional.

8. The closing of business letters is usually complimentary but this would depend upon the degree and tone of the letter. ‘Respectfully yours’ is very formal, ‘Sincerely’ is less formal and typical, ‘Very truly yours’ is polite and neutral, and ‘Cordially yours’ is friendly and informal.

9. The final portion is your signature, your full name, and designation.

10. If there are any enclosures or attachments, they should be mentioned in the last paragraph of the body of the business letter and they should be presented after your signature. You could mention the attachments individually or state them as ‘Enclosure’ or ‘Enclosures: 3’.

11. If you are sending the letter to more than one person, you should mention that at the bottom portion of the letter. You could use ‘Copy to’ or ‘cc’, which means courtesy copy/copies. You could just mention the names of the recipients or provide names and full addresses.

Sample Business Letter – Block Format

Shrapnel Manufacturing

6578 NW 65th Street, Vancouver, Washington 96554

(800) 444-1416 – www.shrapnel.com

 

July 20, 2013

Mr. Joseph Mayor
Director – Operations
XYZ Corporation
64 North Avenue
Vancouver, WA96547

 

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Subject: Change of Company Name

It should be obvious from our letterhead that we have changed the name of our organization to Shrapnel Manufacturing from Shrapnel Company, Inc.

We wish to inform you that the management of the company remains the same. We would be continuing with the same products and the excellent service that has been our reputation would also continue as before. We would request you to inform your accounts payable department about this change of company name, so that they could register this change in their records and files related to our organization.

We wish to thank you on this occasion as one of our most valued customers. We would appreciate your continued support and cooperation in our business.

Alfred Longwood
Chairman, Shrapnel Manufacturing

 

Sample Business Letter – Indented Format

Shrapnel Manufacturing

6578 NW 65th Street, Vancouver, Washington 96554

(800) 444-1416 – www.shrapnel.com

July 20, 2013

 

Mr. Joseph Mayor
Director – Operations
XYZ Corporation
64 North Avenue
Vancouver, WA96547

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Subject: Change of Company Name

It should be obvious from our letterhead that we have changed the name of our organization to Shrapnel Manufacturing from Shrapnel Company, Inc.

We wish to inform you that the management of the company remains the same. We would be continuing with the same products and the excellent service that has been our reputation would also continue as before. We would request you to inform your accounts payable department about this change of company name, so that they could register this change in their records and files related to our organization.

We wish to thank you on this occasion as one of our most valued customers. We would appreciate your continued support and cooperation in our business.

Alfred Longwood
Chairman, Shrapnel Manufacturing.

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