How Do You Write a Business Letter?

Kelly Spors

Time is money when it comes to running a business. So when you sit down to write a business letter, it is crucial that you get to the point as quickly as possible and make your case in a concise and professional manner.

Even allowing for people’s short attention spans, there are other things that can cause your business letter to end up in the recipient’s trash bin. For example, not following the standard business letter formats can suggest that you are inexperienced.

Your writing, however, is the heart of a letter. How you write a business letter will determine whether the letter achieves its goals. Striking the right tone, not sounding arrogant or boastful, conveying the message concisely and quickly, avoiding embarrassing grammar and spelling mistakes—all of these things help ensure that you are taken seriously and that your letter has its desired effect.

How Do You Start a Business Letter?

When it comes to starting a business letter, you can hobble yourself from the get-go if you don’t have a salutation that includes the name of the person you’re writing, or if you’re not referring to the recipient by the correct honorific (addressing a medical doctor or Ph.D. as Mr. or Ms. instead of Dr., for example). Misspelling your recipient’s name is even more disastrous.

If you have to, call the company you are writing to find out who should receive the letter.

“Dear” is the traditional and safe choice to start a business letter salutation, but there have been some arguments that “Hi” is fine, too, and may even add some friendliness. However, a “Hey” or a “Yo!” would definitely be going too far.

In the actual body of the business letter, it is important to minimize the niceties and get to the point:

  • “I am writing to request your….”
  • “I am writing to confirm that you.…”
  • “In reply to your request for….”

Getting a “you” and/or a “your” into the first sentence can boost the letter’s effectiveness because it focuses the letter on the reader.

There are exceptions to the rule, of course, when it comes to quickly getting to the point in a business letter. When delivering bad news, for example, it is best to soften the blow a bit before launching into the bad news: “Thank you for your interest in our company’s summer startups workshop. However, I regret to inform you that….”

How Do You Write a Business Letter Sample?

Generally, the first paragraph needs to state the purpose of the business letter quickly and plainly.

After the first paragraph, don’t waste the reader’s time by going off on a tangent or bringing up another problem or issue. Elaborate on the first paragraph by providing the evidence or persuasion that supports the position you previously staked out. In the third and fourth paragraphs (if you have a fourth paragraph), repeat the point you made and then close with a call to action. (“Please let me know when you are available for a meeting to discuss.”)

Setting the right tone for the letter is essential when you write a business letter, so take the time to read it over a few times. If the letter is especially important, delay sending the letter for a day, so you can read it again. (President Abraham Lincoln, for example, was famous for his unsent angry letters.)

Certain types of business letters require a specific style and tone. For example, a complaint letter should be formal enough to express displeasure but avoid sounding openly angry. The letter should explain the problem and then inform the reader about how you would like it resolved.

Memos, which are often internal company communications, need to be especially crisp and to the point so that they do not waste employees’ time. Also avoid language that is emotional or casual.

Your choice of words can make all the difference in a business letter. Language should be direct, so avoid using words such as “just,” “try,” “probably,” and “maybe.” Keep your language simple, and avoid obscure words or jargon.

Don’t be afraid to search through a dictionary and thesaurus to ensure a word properly conveys the meaning you’re intending for it. Avoid grammar and spelling mistakes, because they can suggest inattention to detail and a lack of professionalism.

Make sure to write in an active versus a passive voice, too. Active voice shows that you are in charge: You are taking ownership for what you say and do. (“We will deliver the new report to you by Sept. 1.” Not: “The new report will be delivered to you by Sept. 1.”)

Example of a Simple Business Letter

Check out an example of what a business letter would look like in block format, which is commonly used for business letters.

What Are the Parts of a Business Letter?

When you write a business letter, it is important to include all of the parts that are required. Generally, there are seven parts that you should include in a business letter. You can find them here.

Whatever you do, remember that how you write a business letter can make a significant difference when it comes to the letter’s effectiveness. Especially in this age of quickly written emails and text messages, taking the time to compose, print, and mail a written business letter can demonstrate your seriousness. So make sure to choose your words wisely.

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