Knowing how to write a good business letter is an important skill in the corporate world of today.
With an unprofessional business letter format, you and your company’s image may be irreversibly tarnished.
As such, we’ve come up with some tips and tricks for you. Here, you’ll learn:
- The key forms that business letters can take
- The secrets to writing polished formal communications
- The best way to address a firm in your personal letters to companies
- Useful resources to help you write business correspondence
- Plus much more!
Without further ado, let us begin!
The key forms of business letters
The traditional medium by which the business letter was sent was via snail mail or post. However, with the advent of speedy internet communication, that is quickly changing.
Gone are the days of snail mail, which is gradually being replaced by electronic mail.
Some of the more commonly used forms of business letters include:
Cover letters are a form of writing correspondence that job applicants will commonly attach to their resumes in their job applications. Although a cover letter isn’t necessary for all job applications, having one can be very useful in showcasing an applicant’s experience in the industry, skills, and why they want the job.
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Another common letter format that is frequently used in business communications is the sales letter. The objective of such a business letter is to capture the attention of potential customers and convert them into paying clients.
These are commonly used to continue ongoing correspondence and usually serve as reminders. That being the case, follow-up letters do not typically run too long and usually have an earlier conversation or event referenced in them.
Inquiry letters are used to find out more information about a topic or subject from the letter’s recipient.
Letters of Recommendation
These are typically requested by Human Resource Departments from potential new employees.
These letters do exactly what their name implies, which is to formally express displeasure about something.
This type of correspondence is used to reply to complaint letters. They start by recognizing the issues highlighted by the complainant and then apprising the complainant of the measures which have been put in place to address the issues.
Despite the varied objectives of business letters and the wide range of situations in which they can be utilized, all of these letters fundamentally still have a common thread in the way they are formatted.
Pro-TipIt is always useful to understand the target audience of your letter before you write. This knowledge can help you to ascertain the best style and tone for your letter. For example, a letter addressed to a boss should definitely avoid colloquialisms that may be included in a letter to peers.
The perfect professional letter format
You may be wondering: what is the use of a business letter format?
With a business letter that isn’t well-formatted, the recipient of the letter may end up forming a bad impression of the sender.
An example business letter would ideally include the following.
This particular example is one of an American letter format, a British letter format would have some marginal variations.
- The date on which the letter was written, aligned to the left, and in a month-day-year format
- The address of the recipient on the left too
- The name of the recipient with any relevant salutations
- Body paragraphs that describe the intent and purpose of the letter
- Call to action - what the recipient is expected to do upon receipt of the letter
- The sender’s name and signature
- Mention of relevant documents which are sent alongside the letter
Business correspondence format: How to end one and what salutations to use
How to start a business letter? How exactly should the closing of a business letter be written?
This table here compiles some of the best greetings for different formats of business letters.
|Personal Salutation Examples||General Salutation Examples|
| Dear Ms. Brown|
Dear Mr. Allen
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Taylor
Dear Mr. Morgan and Ms. Jackson
Dear First Name (if you know the person well)
Dear Dr. Simons
Dear Ms. Gordon, Dr. Lloyd, and Ms. Burns (if there are multiple recipients)
Dear Marcus Wright (when you don’t know the gender)
| Dear Customer Relations Executive|
Dear Customer Relations Team
Dear Recruitment Team Executive
Dear Recruitment Team
Dear Recruitment Team Manager
Dear Sir or Madam
To Whom It May Concern
Pro-TipTry not to use the salutations "Mrs." or "Miss" unless you are familiar with the recipient’s marital status.
Using these pointers, your letter should begin with a salutation from the above table.
An example might read:
I’m writing to thank you for the immense support you provided my team and me during the latest conference…
If your letter is written with a specific department as its audience, it may instead read:
I’m writing to follow up on the recent interview we had…
It’s that simple!
Let us now move on to how to end the professional letter format.
Closing lines are necessary when writing business letters as they highlight the sincerity of the sender and their gratitude to the recipient.
A sample of a formal business letter format might look something like this:
|Business letter closings to use||Business letter closings to avoid|
Thank you for your consideration
Keep in touch
Once you have included the closing line, put a comma, space, and then your name after it.
Pro-TipRefrain from overusing emojis, colloquialisms, exclamation marks, question marks, or full capitalizations. Additionally, slang and texting shorthand is better suited for casual correspondence and are not suitable to be used in business letters.
How to craft a personal business email?
A personal business email is typically written from a personal standpoint and addressed to a firm or other individuals in any given company.
Here are some scenarios where a personal business letter can be used:
- From a customer to a firm
- From a prospective employee to a business
- From an individual to a government agency or official
- From an employer to their workers
- Between colleagues
- From a charity to a potential patron
The key objectives of personal business letters usually include beginning a correspondence, sending regards, expressing gratitude, obtaining information, or catching up on previous correspondence or events.
To write a professional business letter, a good understanding of its key elements is necessary.
For starters, a good personal business letter should include:
- Body paragraphs
- The sender’s signature
This is a sample of a standard business letter format that can be used for a formal email example:
I am writing to express my gratitude to you for your support during the “London Watch Fest” last month. The logistics support you provided us with was crucial in ensuring that the event ran without a hitch and that all the necessary equipment was in place.
As a token of my appreciation, I would like to offer you and each individual on your team a complimentary watch from our catalog which we will send out to you by post.
Please let me know which model each individual on your team has selected so that we can prepare the watches and have them mailed out by the end of the week. You can reach me either at email@example.com or phone number +440000000000.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or need more information pertaining to our catalog.
The email is not only written in a professional tone but is also direct and clear in conveying its message.
Additionally, the sender also includes their contact details for further correspondence and states what attachment is enclosed at the end of the letter.
Pro-TipDo always include any relevant contextual knowledge that is required for the recipient to understand your message and take steps in response to it. This is always preferable to assuming that the recipient has the relevant contextual knowledge.
How to address a company in a letter
Having read the slightly informal personal business letter example above, you might be wondering if a letter written to another company must be wholly formal.
Simply put, that isn’t necessarily the case.
In this day and age, slightly informal business writing has become the norm.
This can deliver your message in a more comprehensible manner and increase the readability of your letter.
Adopting an informal tone in your business writing can actually be beneficial if it increases the clarity of your message and gives the recipient a better understanding of what you are conveying.
When you write to a business, you don’t always know who is going to end up receiving and perusing your letter. Thus, a business letter header can be more general in nature.
When writing to another firm, your salutation business letter might look like this:
I’d like to find out more about the products that you currently have in stock…
Your business letter directed to another business should also finish off with a call to action and a suitable closing line.
Thank you for your time,
Pro-TipDon’t forget to proofread your business letter before sending it out. Put yourself in the intended recipient’s shoes and see if the letter is clear and understandable without having to reread it. Otherwise, it might be beneficial to revise your letter to make it more direct.
Find out more about business correspondence
To find out more about what a business heading is and how to properly address a business letter, here are some resources that may be useful.
- This writing business letters course will teach you how to write the perfect business letter.
- This basics of business correspondence course will give you a versatile business letter email format and teach you the fundamentals of writing, proofreading, and revising business correspondence.
- This book: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer written by Roy Peter Clark also has some concise yet very useful tips that can help you sound more assured and reliable in your business email writing.
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