How to Write a Business Letter: Business Letter Writing Guide
Five Sections: How to Begin; Developing the Letter Body; Writing the Summary or Closing; Reviewing and Finalizing the Work; Q&A
If you are in need for an ideally crafted professional business letter, you are in the right place. Almost all business letters are designed according to the same business letter format and pattern. However, if you do not know how to do it right, you can always ask someone for help or follow our recommendations here. To begin with, any business letter must contain a title, date, an introduction, a body, and a summary.
How to Write a Professional Letter
Follow formal business letter format properly. No matter what issue you are discussing in it, you will still have to comply with the basic standards for business letter writing. Use the most widely used fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial. Write in blocks. Do not use indentation. It is never used in business letters.
Do not forget about one-inch margins in your formal business letter.
Write in black font. Do not include any colors, pictures, or illustrations. This is not a game! Be serious, and you will win.
Now you should also choose appropriate paper for your letter. The standard one is 8.5″x11″ size, which is used for all types of business writing. However, in most cases, you will not need to print the letter. Still, if you need to, use your company’s letterhead, which will give your business letter a more professional and convincing look. Do not miss the most important information about your business such as physical address and email. If you do not own a letterhead because you are an independent contractor, include your business details at the beginning of the letter. Use your company’s accepted letterhead, and you will not need to invent one.
How to Address a Business Letter
If you still have to type your personal details such as address on the letter, make sure it is left or right justified and placed right at the top of the letter page. If you plan to send the letter to a foreign recipient, then you will have to include your country’s name in capital letters. Use the recommendations from our blog “how to write a business letter: business letter writing guide” and improve your letter writing skills!
Date must be included in all business letters. Write it fully, like “1 March 2017”. Date comes a few lines below the address or letterhead. If it happens that you have been writing your letter for more than one day, you must include the day on which it was finalized before you send it.
When writing a business letter you add the information about your recipient, including full name, address, and so on.
Every piece of recipient information must come on a separate line. It must be left justified. Include recipient data several lines below the date of writing.
The best thing you can do when writing a business letter is targeting a specific person rather than the company in general. If it happens that you do not know the name or title of that person, try to find it out by all means. This will win you a hundred points, even if you have to spend a lot of time doing this kind of research.
How to Start a Business Letter
Now you must choose the right type of greeting and format business letter properly, as it will show a degree of respect and recognition you are willing to show to the recipient. The right type of greeting will be that which considers the title and position of the person you are addressing, the context of writing, and so on. Here you can use the common phrase “To Whom It May Concern”, when you do not know whom to address or when it does not matter. If you know whom you are addressing, better use “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam”.
If you want to be more specific, use “Dear Mrs. Atkinson”. Ultimately, if you maintain regular business communication and relationships with the person, you can begin your letter like “Dear John”. However, it may also happen that you have never seen that person and you are confused about his or her gender. In this case, use “Dear Kris Levinson”.
Choosing the right tone and format of business letter is one of the most important things to do as you are writing a business letter. It will set the mood for your writing, and it will have great impacts on the outcomes of your business communication. Be professional. Be concise. This is no fiction writing! Do not include too many details.
Avoid too much subjectivity and get straight to the point.
Do not use any sophisticated expressions or over complicated words when managing the layout of a business letter. Do not write in puzzles. Express yourself clearly, even if you feel embarrassed or confused about the issue you are willing to discuss with the recipient. Do not hesitate to be persuasive and convincing in your writing.
Your task is to achieve the desired outcome, which can be anything from mending a fence to reducing the operational costs in your department.
Do not ignore the importance of using personal pronouns. You can use as many “I” and “we” as needed to achieve the intended goal. However, if you are writing your business letter as an organization rather than a person, then “we” would be preferable to “I”. If you are writing on your own behalf, then use “I” when necessary.
Be clear and avoid any ambiguities. Your reader should not have any doubts as to what you need and what you mean. As you expect your recipient to be as clear as you are, then you must set a good example of business letter writing. Specify your position and expectations.
Writing an Effective Business Letter
In any type of business letter writing it is better to use active than passive voice. Particularly when you are addressing someone on your behalf and asking for a favor, you will show more respect and understanding if you use active verbs. Passive voice reduces the personal touch of business letter writing. Even though it is not a piece of fiction, it is still desirable to have some individuality included in it. For instance, “Operational costs are believed to be insignificant” (passive); “Your company does not believe that operational costs matter” (active).
Do not ignore the importance of being conversational in specific parts of a business letter. It can win you a whole lot of points when you are writing a business letter. Remember that the success of your writing and the action that will follow depends on whether you are in a position to build a more personal relationship with the recipient. Do not use any colloquialisms such as “I wanna remind you”. Do not lose your businesslike tone! Only if you have known the recipient personally quite for a while, it is acceptable to make a business letter sound friendly. Here you will have to determine how much friendliness is actually appropriate and can benefit you. It is quite possible to use some anecdotes or humor, but be cautious with this sort of thing in business writing.
You must be courteous when writing your business letter. However, the way of showing courteousness will vary, depending on the recipient, his or her business position, and so on. Even if you are criticizing the recipient, you must do it politely and wisely. You cannot simply say something like “Your department is fucking unserious when managing its operational costs”. Rather, “It makes me particularly concerned that the members of your department do not pay enough attention to their operational costs.”
If your business letter is more than one page long, you will have to include a letterhead on all pages. However, it is strongly recommended that you limit your business letter to one page. Of course, when you are printing a legal contract, it will definitely cover more than one page. On the second and subsequent pages, you will have to use abridged letterhead, but do not forget to include it!
Also, the second and subsequent pages will have to include numbers. That is, you will have to number each page after the first one. For example, Business Letter page 2.
Now it is time to finalize the whole process and bring out a summary of the key points you have made in the body of your business letter. Here you will also specify the action you expect the recipient to take after reading your letter.
How to End a Business Letter
You must be very thorough choosing a suitable closing for your business letter as part of the general format for business letters. The more formal and respectful you are the better are your chances that the recipient will hear your message and follow the desired course of action. You can use “Sincerely”, or “Cordially”, or “Kind regards”, or “Respectfully”. Anything will work.
Now you can sign your letter. You will have to use at least four lines for your signature. You will sign it only after it was printed, edited, and proofread. If you need to send your business letter via email, then print it out, sign it, and scan it for readability. Use blue ink when putting your signature on the letter.
If you are not the one who was writing the letter but you are the one to sign it, begin with “pp.” and then put your signature on it. It means “on behalf of”.
You will also need to include your contact information after your name. Under the signature, type your contact details, so that the recipient could contact you in case of any questions. Each piece of your contact details must have its own line.
Now if someone was helping you to write and type the business letter, you will need to include that person’s personal and contact details. Your recipient must be clear about who was writing the letter. This is important! For instance, you can write “Mr. Jackson”.
If your business letter has any enclosures, you must also mention them in your letter. Any additional documents which accompany your business letter must be noted below the typist’s contact info. For example, you may write, “Enclosures: block scheme, registry, etc.” The word “enclosures” can also be used as an abbreviation (“encl.”).
If your business letter has more than one recipient and you need to send several copies of the same letter to them, you should still mention them in your letter. Below the list of enclosures you will also devote a separate line beginning with “cc” to the names and surnames of those who will receive the letter beyond the main recipient. For instance, you can write like “cc. Jane Dough”. With more than one name added at the end of the letter, you will have to list them in the order of priority, devoting one line per name. However, do not use “cc” before each name.
Reviewing and Finalizing the Work
Now you must edit and proofread the letter. It must be perfectly crafted to create a truly professional impression on your recipients. Your recipients must see that you can write formal letter in a respectful and professional tone. See if you have any misspellings or typos. Correct them.
Read the letter aloud and see if you have any questions about its contents.
Is it ambiguous or confusing? Make corrections to improve the quality of the letter. In case your letter is of utmost importance to you or your company, ask someone else to review and read it, and don’t hesitate to ask others to help you write business letters. Quite often, someone unbiased or uninvolved in letter writing can cast a fresh eye on it and point to the most problematic parts.
Your business letter does not need to be stapled. However, you can use a paperclip just to make sure that the letter and all enclosures will remain in order.
Now you can put your letter in a business envelope and send it via regular mail. Use an envelope with your company’s logo if possible. Do not forget to include your return address, so that the recipient could send a reply back to you.
You can always print this information if you do not want to do handwriting. Use your printer and put the addresses right on the envelope. You may also want to use courier services to deliver the letter, if it is urgent and super important for you and your company.
In case of using email, save the scanned letter as a PDF or a HTML file and forward it directly to the recipient.