How to Write a Business Letter Effectively
Compiling a business letter can be quite difficult if you don’t know how to do it correctly. To write a competent document, you need to know a whole range of requirements, rules, and business practices. We have created this business letter guide to make your writing easier.
What is a business letter?
Before you will get the information on how to write a business letter, you must clearly realize the term and goals of writing such types of papers. A business letter is a method for communicating and transmitting information aimed at forming, stopping, or preserving relationships with partners, employees, and contractors (suppliers and customers).
Types of business letters
A large variety of business letters exist due to the development of a market economy, as well as the increasing need to transfer information between counterparties. Email, due to speed and availability, has become firmly established in commercial and government structures. The mass use of business messages in daily use has led to an increase in their variety. In this regard, a single classification is missing. The following types of business letters can be distinguished:
- Warranty letters. The content is directed as a request, but with the provision of guarantees for the fulfillment of obligations on its part. The formulation of such letters is as follows: “We ask you to ship (deliver, provide, etc.) goods (products, services). We guarantee payment until (date).”
- Commercial letters. This is the most common type of letter that organizations use in the implementation of their daily activities. In essence, this is a business letter of cooperation. The organization initiates a specific partnership proposal with certain conditions.
- Notification letters. The content is aimed at conveying certain information necessary for the implementation of further interaction. In commercial organizations, the most common example of such a letter is the notification of the change of details (when the servicing bank is changed).
- Offers. The text is of a commercial nature on the delivery of goods or services. This is a business letter of cooperation, which specifies all the essential conditions for the supply agreement and the service agreement.
- Letters of official complaint. The content of the text is directed to notify the recipient of incomplete or poor fulfillment of obligations. Most often such letters accompany defective products. There is a clause in standard service or supply agreements that states penalties are imposed for non-fulfillment or the improper fulfillment of obligations. The countdown of time for calculating penalties starts precisely from the moment the written complaint is sent.
- Transmittal letters. An example is an inventory of an attachment to an envelope. This letter is used most often when sending a package of documents by mail. In the case of sending documents for participation in tenders, an inventory of attachments is mandatory.
- Receipt acknowledgment letters. This type of letter is a manifestation of respect, is considered good form, and is not binding.
- Request letters. The text contains a request. It begins with the words “I ask,” or “We ask.” The most common request is a request for resubmission of accounting documents. When delivering products, bills of goods and invoices often do not reach the accounting department (they were not sent along with the cargo, transferred to an unauthorized person, etc.). Therefore, asking to duplicate these documents is common practice.
- Reminder letters. The content of the text notifies of the approach of a certain point (the date of fulfillment of obligations, the expiration of the contract, the date of the event, etc.). One example of such a letter is the notification from insurance companies about the expiration of the policy. This politeness is at the same time informational in nature and is a commercial proposal for the opportunity to use the services of the company again. It is convenient because there is a chance to politely and gently extend the contract.
- Congratulation letters. This is a business letter which is sent to congratulate on any holiday.
- Invitation letters. Invitations to conferences and exhibitions are the most frequent. It is another additional successful tool to remind your partner of further cooperation.
- Cover letters. This type of business letter is sent together with a CV when applying for a job. A cover letter provides additional information about an employee’s qualifications and experience.
- Apology letters. An essential document that helps improve the situation in business and express regrets. Some apology letters play significant roles in agreements. The aim of such a letter is to admit a mistake.
- Welcome letters. Such a business letter aims to introduce a company to new employees on his or her first day of work. Welcome letters provide the information that helps prepare for work and follow all necessary formalities for new employees.
By the number of persons (companies), there are the following types of business letters: circular (sent to several individuals) and standard (sent to one address for a specific person).
The most common circular letters are invitations, notifications, and informational announcements (about upcoming changes).
Business letter writing tips and rules
A business letter should be written correctly, without mistakes in spelling, punctuation, or format. The presence of obvious and gross errors repels the recipient, and creates the impression of shortsightedness, and of illiteracy. The likelihood of partnership after receiving poorly written letters drops sharply.
Before you make a business letter, you need to decide on the type (notification, invitation, offer, etc.). Break the text into paragraphs, as it will facilitate the perception of the information presented. If the message is to be received before a certain date, it is better to send it by express delivery services or by email.
The basic rules of a business letter are as follows:
- the information presented is accurate;
- the content is complete;
- a summary is included (preferably no more than one page; the rest of the information can
- be attributed to the application);
- the letter lacks rudeness, and has a neutral tone;
- the letter is absent of blots, corrections, or deletions;
- the letter is absent of slang and slander;
- abbreviations are avoided;
- an objective tone is presented (only facts).
The rules of a business letter suggest the absence of long-winded and ambiguous phrases. In one message there should be one subject, one goal. The presence of several topics is permissible only if they are interconnected. Otherwise, several emails must be sent.
Parts of a business letter
Writing each element of your letter will be one step to creating a perfect business letter format. Do not forget that initially, you should follow the algorithm and structure provided in the manuals by your teacher or supervisor. For example, not all business letters have letterheads that will influence the style of writing the address. If you do not have clear instructions from a professor and should figure out how to write a business letter on your own (it probably could be a part of your assignment), follow the steps below. A business letter must include these parts if you wish to write a compelling piece that will score a good grade.
The sender’s address. Start with putting the address of the sender on the letterhead. However, some business letters lack letterheads, so a writer should put the sender’s address one line above the date. Hence, the address should be mentioned at the top of your business letter. The sender’s name should not be included – just the street address, city, and zip code. You will include the sender’s name later in the business letter’s closing.
Date. The line with the date is significant for any business letter. It is crucial to see the date of the letter as it could involve deadlines or other time-sensitive aspects of the business processes. Therefore, the function of the date line would be to specify when your business letter was written (make sure you use the proper date format for sending it to your location). Note that if your letter was completed over several days, for example, because you were collecting information for it, the date line would provide the day when the letter was finished and sent. Write the date, month, and year two inches from the top of the letter page. Some formats require typing the date at the center, and some formats require the left to justify the date. Assume the overall business letter format when you are writing it via the US or other countries. The American date format assumes placing the month before the day (for example, May 20, 2023).
Inside address. The inside address is the recipient’s address that should follow the rules of a specific format and the standard rules for business letters common for a particular country. It is recommended to address your business letter to a specific person at the firm you are writing. Research the list of managers or employees of a company and find the name (or names) who could be decision makers in your particular case. If you cannot find a name of a particular person, then speak to all employees or to the company itself. It is essential to add a title when addressing a person, for example, Mr., Ms., Dr., etc. Note that Ms. is preferable to Mrs. if you are unsure of the woman’s preference. Note that if you address a person by a higher title, it will not be a problem in most cases. The inside address must be situated one line below the date, left justified.
Matt Peterson, Director
24396 Michigan Ave.
New York, NY 25009
July 31, 2014
How should a business letter be started? Mention in the business letter salutation the same name as the inside address with the personal title. For example:
Dear Mr. O’Donnell, …
If you know the personal title and gender, use a specific salutation. If you are unsure of the person’s gender, use a neutral, non-gendered salutation. For example, stick to their title and name. You can also use the full name of a recipient if unsure of their gender. For example, Dear Thomas Mayers.
After the salutation, state the reason for your letter. For example:
Thank you for consulting me earlier. I’m writing to order …
More details on greetings for a business letter
Use our detailed infographic to add a perfect greeting to your business letter layout.
Body. You’ve already presented the main point of your business letter, and now it is time to justify the significance of the main point. One should continue justifying your main point with supporting evidence and background information. Make sure you’ve expressed the aim of the paper in this part and requested some actions (if necessary). It is crucial to stay concise and clear when writing a business letter. Most types of business letter formats require using single space and left justifying the text of a business letter. One should leave a blank line after each paragraph.
Start writing the body of a business letter by stating your core point. The second paragraph must provide facts and arguments that will support the significance of the core point. The next paragraphs must provide information that will support the core points with additional information, references to previous letters (if any), and other supporting details. The last paragraph of the body must restate the core thesis. Most business letters end with a call to action.
Closing. How to end a business letter? There is no need to worry about how to close a business letter, as it is the easiest part. It would be best if you expressed your gratitude for your reader’s attention and help. The closing part will look like the following:
Thank you for …
(include 4 spaces here)
Ensure to put the closing part at the same vertical line as the date on the upper part of the letter. The closing must be added right after the final body section. The first word of the closing part must be capitalized. Leave some space to add a signature.
Enclosures. Most business letters contain additional materials (documents, presentations, CVs, and other files). If you are going to add some documents to the letter, type the word “Enclosures” after the closing. List the names of all enclosed documents if there are many types of them.
The initials of the typist. Some business letters provide information about the person who typed the letter. Note that this element is required only in a situation when you were not the one who typed the text. If the text was typed by you personally, do not add the initials of the typist.
Writing a business letter advice
– Try to keep your letter as short as possible. Try to explain the essence of the matter with short and simple sentences.
– Write concisely and to the point. You should not use highly specialized and obscure terms that may be incomprehensible to the reader. It is worth using simple words.
– Use nouns and verbs (no shortened forms). Do not overload the text with adjectives; focus on verbs.
– Writing a business letter should always be in a neutral tone. In no case should you write, “Good afternoon (evening, morning).” You need to write a formal “Hello” in your greeting.
– Write in active voice.
– Be clear and correct. Make sure you’ve checked grammar, punctuation, formatting, and spelling.
– Use the words which have a singular meaning in your particular situation and which will help you to achieve your aims.
Business letter format tips
There are no strict format requirements. There are certain rules adopted in the business world. The format of a business letter is recommended to be done in the following way:
- the forms can be not only angular, but also longitudinal;
- the text is written in Times New Roman, 12-14 font;
- if the letter is composed of more than one page, then numbering of each is necessary;
each application has a separate number;
- in the upper left corner, the number of the outgoing document is indicated, which is recorded in the journal.
Business email writing peculiarities
Each organization receives and sends out a few dozen letters every day. Email is the most accessible and fastest means of communication, allowing for a convenient exchange of official documents.
The electronic business letter consists of the following parts:
- a subject;
- a greeting;
- the essence of the letter (a short text, if the main part is sent in the attachment);
- a signature with contact details.
When sending letters, it is necessary to fill in all the fields (the address of the sender, the recipient, the subject of the letter, and the application). Formatting should be subject to the following rules:
- In your email settings, enter your first name, last name, or the name of the organization on whose behalf you are sending the document.
- The “Subject” field is required.
- Greetings in emails are written in compliance with the standard letter rules.
- The essence (goal) is stated, taking into account the rules of traditional documents.
- The signature consists of an indication of the position of the sender, as well as their last name and first name.
A sample of a request email:
Or, if the addressee’s name is known, then (Dear, [Name])!
Please provide information about the product [name of product/service] with a description of the full characteristics and competitive qualities.
A more stringent form is recommended when contacting government agencies. At the same time, it will be great to become familiar with the necessary laws enforced, which can be freely downloaded on the internet.
Please provide information [describe the data necessary for obtaining].
In connection with the violation of the item [item number in the user agreement] of the user agreement, namely: “[cite the full text of the named item],” I ask you to check and take appropriate sanctions against the guilty [responsible (if we are talking about service employees)] person [site (site name)]. Please report the results of the checks and imputed sanctions at [your own email address].
[The author of the letter]
[additional contact information]
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