View Full Version : Business Letters

14th March 2011, 02:44 AM
Despite the growing popularity of e-mail, much of the communication between businesses still depends on the letter. Letters are usually written to people outside a company—such as customers, clients, and suppliers—and very often take the place of a face-to-face meeting.

Particularly when writing to an outside contact you have never met, you should strive to make your letters as thoughtfully phrased, well structured, and attractively formatted as possible. A hastily drafted e-mail message or memo may embarrass you among your colleagues, but a poorly written letter can result in lost business for your company.

Parts of a Letter

A business letter comprises the following elements, presented in the order listed:

return address (optional)
recipient’s address
body (or text)
complimentary close
typist’s initials (optional)
enclosures (optional)
carbon copies (optional)

For information on the appropriate content and styling of these elements, see Business Letters, Addresses and Dates in; Business Letters, Salutations in; and Business Letters, Closings of.

For a discussion of the two basic formats used for business correspondence, see Business Letters, Formatting of.

Structuring a Letter

Most letters can be divided into three parts:

an introduction, which communicates your purpose in writing the letter
supporting information, which offers background on the topic of the letter, the reasons for a decision you have reached or recommendation you want to make, or the justification for a request you have of the reader
a conclusion, which restates your central point and, if necessary, reminds the reader of any action you want that person to take

A short letter may require only one supporting paragraph or even none at all. A long letter may include several introductory and concluding paragraphs and perhaps many pages of supporting material. If a letter is more than two pages long, consider organizing the supporting paragraphs under headings to make specific information easier to find.

The first paragraph of a letter is the most important because it encourages the reader either to read on or to set the letter aside. If you are writing the letter in response to a meeting, phone call, or another letter, mention this and include the date of the earlier conversation or correspondence. Similarly, if the recipient does not know you or is unfamiliar with the situation your letter discusses, identify yourself or summarize the circumstances moving you to write as early as possible in the letter.

Striking the Right Tone

An underlying goal of most business letters you write is to promote goodwill between you and your reader. Especially when writing to someone for the first time, you should use a tone that will encourage that person to listen to you and want to work with you now and in the future.

If your letter is primarily informational or contains good news, a direct approach is usually best. State your point or offer your news immediately and briefly, and then explain any other information the reader needs to know.

Finding the proper tone is more difficult if you are delivering bad news. In this case, taking an indirect approach may be a better strategy. In the first few sentences, for example, you could begin on a positive note by stating how much you want to work with the reader’s company or by reminding the reader of times you accommodated his or her requests in the past. When you do get to your point, try to minimize the reader’s disappointment or anger by delivering the message in carefully considered language that conveys your news clearly but tactfully.

Source : Microsoft Encarta