Archive for August 2013

Anatomy of Writing a Business Letter

August 1, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriting a business letter is often an everyday part of the job for administrative professionals,  but it is not necessarily part of what the rest of us are required to do.

Maybe you never took a business course and English 101 is long forgotten. Where do you begin?What do you do if writing a business letter is new to you?

Here is the simple dissection of a business letter that works for any letter writer.

First, a business letter is just what it says:  a letter written for the purpose of transacting or conveying business matters. The well written business letter  is just as applicable to a small business, large corporation, or nonprofit, as it is to you when you are trying to receive a promised refund on the toaster you returned two months ago.

There are three different formats used in business letter writing. Your choice depends on the reason for the letter. Those formats are:

  • Full block style – The full block style  is a very formal business letter format. It  is commonly used if you are sending business letters to receivers you don’t know.   Examples would be cover letters to grant requests, resume cover letters or the letter requesting your refund from the toaster company.
  • Modified block style – This is not quite as formal. The format of the letter has the closing and the signature on the right hand side of the letter instead of the left, as it is in the full block style.  You might use this to send a letter to a politician, for example.
  • Indented style – This format should be relegated to communications with familiar business colleagues. The body of the letter will have indented paragraphs.

Wondering what font to use for your letter? Writing the business letter in Times Roman is the generally accepted font. At times, Ariel might be acceptable, as well. To be on the safe side, however, use the Times Roman font in twelve point. This will insure that your letter will be easy to read by the widest audience.

The proper business letter will have the following components in each format:

  • Return address – This is your company address (or your address if you are writing as an individual)  placed on the top, right hand corner of the paper. If you are using company stationary, there is no need to repeat the address unless the address is located at the bottom of the stationary.
  • Date – The date is the first item on the left of your paper. It should be the date that you are crafting your letter. The date is important for referencing and possibly filing the letter. Please note: if you include a Referencing line, this will precede the date and become the first item on the left.
  • Inside address – The address of the company you are corresponding with is also placed at the left of your paper, under the date. Include the name and title of the person  you are trying to reach.
  • Salutation – You must greet your receiver in some manner.  If you don’t readily know the name of the individual receiving your letter, research until you find it. The ubiquitous Dear Sir or Madam is your last resort. The salutation is followed by a colon, not a comma.
  • Body – The body is the reason for the letter. Be as succinct as possible. When using the indented format, the beginning of each paragraph should be indented by five spaces.
  • Close – The close signals the end of your letter and is usually some innocuous, polite phrasing such as Sincerely, Sincerely yours, Yours truly or Best regards. The phrase begins with a capital letter and is always followed by a comma.
  • Name and signature – Leave four spaces after your closing phrase and then type your name.  The spaces are to give the letter writer space to sign the letter, a very important component.
  • Notation – At times there maybe enclosures or some other notations to indicate additional material or additional information that may be in the letter.

Occasionally, writing  business letters is an absolutely necessary part of doing business. It is not so complicated when the business letter is dissected and the components examined. It is, however, important that the business letter is crafted correctly so that there is clarity and understanding between the reader and the writer.

Typing Away!

Audrey