Welcome to our topic entitled, Writing business letters! Writing business letters is one fundamental application of your knowledge and expertise as technical writers. When a professionals would like to use formal approach in dealing with clients, they start writing business letters. Business letters may vary in length depending on the writer’s objective, purpose, and message.So, in this topic, we will begin writing business letters. Are you ready? Let’s get going!
Intended learning outcomes (ILOs)
At the end of this topic, you should be able to:
- Differentiate a friendly/casual letter with that of a business letter;
- Identify the different types of a business letter and analyze how it works; and
- Construct a sample business letter.
Writing Business Letters
Before we actually begin writing business letters, it is important to differentiate a friendly/casual letter with that of a business letter. The main thing that differentiates a business letter from other letters is that a business letter is a legal document. The writer can be held liable for anything written in the letter. For example, if it is stated that a project will be completed by a certain date in a business letter, the project legally must be completed by that date. However, if the project can’t be completed by that date, another letter can be written stating that the project is behind schedule and why. For this reason, business letters must be written differently than letters used for personal use. So, it is wise to remember the following points:
- It is important to remember that any business letter is a legal document between the interested parties. These documents can be held for up to seven years, so it is important that all information is honest and legitimate.
- A business letter can be classified as private, however, it is typically not circulated to others, but rather meant for the eyes of the participants involved.
- A business letter needs to be clear, focused, and to the point. When writing a business letter, the author should avoid interjecting personal stories.
- In writing business letter, it is preferable to use personal singular pronouns like “I” and “you”. Avoid using plural pronouns like “we” since it can mislead the audience to assume that the company supports the message of the letter. In addition, personal pronouns are easier to understand, because it directly refers to the parties involved.
Format in writing business letters
The website lumenlearing.com (2018) summarizes the following formats in writing business letters:
- Use single or 1.15 line spacing. NEVER use double spaces within the business letter.
- Use a simple format with font that is easy to read. You may use:
- Full block format
- Semi-block or modified block format
- Simplified format
- Leave a blank line between each paragraph. This makes it easier to follow the changes of topics within the letter.
- This paragraph should introduce why you are writing the letter and sum up the key points in the following paragraphs.
- Include a statement that shows you are knowledgeable of the audience to which your letter is directed.
- Provide background or history regarding the purpose of the letter.
- Talk about key points you are making.
- Include a justification of the importance of the main points.
- List any important dates, discussions, and conversations that are relevant.
- Ask questions, if necessary.
- Summarize the main points of the letter.
- Restate the problem and resolution if pertinent.
- Include deadlines.
- Provide contact information (Email, Phone Number, Fax, Etc…).
It is important to take into account your audience when ending any business document. Being both respectful and professional are two important elements of your ending salutation. You must remember that each employer, boss, or co-worker may have different expectations as to what is acceptable as a proper salutation. A few general ending salutations deemed professional include:
- Respectfully yours,
- Yours truly,
- Best regards,
These should be used with individuals whom you do not have a relationship with, new co-workers, potential clients, or a large email to a wide variety of individuals. When you are sending a business document to an individual to whom you are accustomed, your salutation should changes. Consider a professional salutation, which is not too formal. Examples include:
- Kind regards,
- Best regards,
- Many thanks,
- With appreciation,
- Best wishes,
When in doubt about which type of salutation should be used, a simple “Thanks” or Thank you” is always appropriate.
Always close a letter. ‘Sincerely’ would be the safest way to close out a business letter. On a typed business letter, following the closing, you should leave a space to sign your name with a pen. This will allow for a more personal touch on an otherwise bland letter. This is the only handwriting on the paper so make sure the signature is clear. Below this personal signature should be your typed first and last name to allow for easy reading. After this you can include anything else that the reader may need to know. This could include:
- your job title,
- identification number,
- a notation that there are copies attached at the bottom of the document, or
- other contact information, such as e-mail address or business phone number.
Additional Tips on Writing Business Letters
- Address the reader formally (with Mr., Ms, or Mrs.) unless otherwise directed.
- Address the letter to a specific person whenever possible, and not the company so it does not get discarded.
- Use a colon after the salutation if using the reader’s last name and a comma if using their first name. (if you are comfortable with each other already 🙂 )
- Use company letterhead to make the document more professional, if the document is related to company affairs.
- Use a subject line to inform the reader quickly of the documents content.
- Sign your name in ink neatly at the bottom, between the closing and the Electronic Signature of the document. An alternative is a scanned signature then pasted on top of the printed name in the soft copy.
- If a letter does not fill an entire page, put be sure the content of the letter is in the middle of the page and the document is balanced.
- Be sure to list the people on the letter that you are sending copies to so a certain individual is not left out.
- It is okay to use specific pronouns, such as “I” and “You”, but be careful when using “We”. This is simply because it can commit your company to what you have written.
The Full block format
The following sample business letter is written in full block format and obviously, everything is flushed to the left.
The Modified block format
The following sample business letter is written in modified full-block format. This is very much the same with full block except the location of:
- The Date;
- The Complimentary close; and
- The Signature block
The Semi-block format
The following sample business letter is written using the Semi-block format. There is indention on the first line for each paragraph in the body of the letter. This is very much the same with Modified-block format.