Whenever you need to communicate with another company or share important news, business letters can present your message in a classic, polished style. Unlike internal memos, business letters are usually written from one company to another, which is why they're so formal and structured. However, letters are also quite versatile, as they can be used for official requests, announcements, cover letters, and much more.
Despite the formality, letters can still have a friendly tone, especially because they include brief introductions before getting to the main point. Regardless of the tone you use in your letter, your writing should remain concise, clear, and easy to read.
The business letter's precise structure is crucial to its look and readability. As you write your letter, you can follow the structure below to create an effective document.
- Opening: Include your mailing address, the full date (for example, July 30, 2021), and the recipient's name, company, and address. Skip one line between your address, the date, and your recipient's information. Don't add your address if you're using letterhead that already contains it.
- Salutation: First and foremost, make sure that you spell the recipient's name correctly. You should also confirm the gender and proper title. Use Ms. for women and Mr. for men. Use Mrs. if you are 100% sure that a woman is married. Address the recipient using "Dear," along with their title and last name, such as "Dear Mr. Collins" or "Dear Director Kinkade." If you don't know the recipient's gender, use their full name, such as "Dear Taylor Dean." It is standard to use a comma (colon in North America) after the salutation. It is also possible to use no punctuation mark at all.
- First paragraph: In most types of business letter it is common to use a friendly greeting in the first sentence of the letter. Here are some examples: "It was a pleasure meeting you at the conference this month.", "I appreciate your patience in waiting for a response."
After your short opening, state the main point of your letter in one or two sentences: "I'm writing to enquire about...", "I'm interested in the job opening posted on your company website."
Second and third paragraphs:Use a few short paragraphs to go into greater detail about your main point. If one paragraph is all you need, don't write an extra paragraph just to make your letter look longer. If you are including sensitive material, such as rejecting an offer or informing an employee of a layoff period, embed this sentence in the second paragraph rather than opening with it.
Final paragraph: Your last paragraph should include requests, reminders, and notes on enclosures. If necessary, your contact information should also be in this paragraph. Here are some common phrases used when closing a business letter: "I look forward to...", "For further details...", "If you require more information..."
- Closing: Recommended formal closings include "Sincerely" or "Yours truly." For a more personal closing, consider using "Cordially" or "Best regards." Use a comma between the closing and your handwritten name (or typed in an email). If you do not use a comma or colon in your salutation, leave out the comma after the closing phrase.
- Signature: Skip four lines after the closing and type your name. Skip another line and type your job title and company name. If you're submitting a hard copy, sign your name in the empty space using blue or black ink.
- Enclosures: If you're including documents with this letter, list them here.
Another important part of the structure is the layout, which determines how the text is formatted. The most common layout for a business letter is known as block format, which keeps all text left-justified and single spaced, except for double spaces between the paragraphs. This layout keeps the letter looking clean and easy to read. Revision
is a crucial part of writing. Review your letter to keep it concise, and proofread it for spelling and grammar errors. Once you're finished writing, ask someone to read your letter and give you feedback, as they can spot errors you may have missed. Also make sure any enclosures are attached to your document and that any hard copies are signed. If possible allow one day between writing and sending your letter. You are more likely to spot any typos or other errors with a fresh eye.