As businesses see their letters as a reflection of their professionalism in everything they do, business letters need to be neat, accurate, and well presented. Writing an effective business letter requires basic understanding of several key communication components:
1. A statement of purpose
2. Length and Format
3. Audience and intent
4. Language and Tone
5. Content that is clear, concise, and focused
Let’s look at the different stages involved in writing an effective business letter.
Make a list of problems you would like to solve or issues you would like to address by writing to a public official, business, or organization. Select the topic that interests you the most.
2. Consider your Audience & Purpose:
Your language, tone, format, and structure may be determined solely by the nature of your audience and the purpose of the letter. Well, you know who your reader is, but do you know what his/her needs, interests, desires, and worries are? The better you understand your reader, the more effectively you can communicate with him/her. There are four different audiences for business letters: employees, customers, the public, and suppliers. Whether it is a client or an employer, the message you wish to express must be written in a way that will effectively reach the reader. Ask yourself
- What is my relationship with the reader – subordinate, superior, customer, or colleague, etc
Business letters serve a variety of purposes-to inform, to inquire, to persuade, to complain, to respond. Knowing the purpose of your letter will help you decide the length, language usage, and tone of the letter. Jot down your reason for why you are writing the letter.
- Is it a complaint or thank you note?
3. Determine Language and Tone:
The type of language and tone you use in writing greatly affects how your readers will interpret your ideas. Language used in business letters should not unnecessarily burden the readers to find its meaning and purpose. Business writing should not include slang, jargon, and rude comments. Use serious, polite language that communicates respect.
Using the appropriate tone is an important aspect of communicating the desired message and of achieving the desired result. The tone of your business letter should be gentle, courteous, and friendly. When determining the appropriate tone to use, ask yourself who the audience is and why you are writing the letter.
4. Write a statement of purpose:
Identify the main thing you want to accomplish in your letter. Write one statement to sum it up.
List the information you will need to explain and support your purpose. You may need to include concrete facts and examples. For example, if you are dissatisfied with a product, provide specific examples that will help your audience understand your problem.
To convey a sense of professionalism and set up the first impression, a business letter must follow an appropriate format. Using the full-block format will give your letter a professional look.
Prepare the initial draft of the letter. Ensure that the reader’s time is not wasted. Keep the letter short because you are getting straight to the point of what you want your readers to know. Whether you are giving reasons for an opinion or explaining a problem, specific information will make your letter easy to understand. Vague information might make the reader wonder exactly what you want or need.
Organize your letter into three parts.
- Beginning: Introduce the message by stating the subject and purpose of your letter.
- Middle: Present your explanation or proposal and supporting information.
- Ending: Focus on the outcome. What do you want the reader to do, and when, and how? Is there an action that you will take?
Before sending your draft to its intended audience, you will need to revise it to ensure that you have said exactly what you meant to say in a manner that the reader will understand. Revise the letter for clarity, conciseness, tone, and language.
Check your letter for the following traits or qualities:
- Smooth-flowing sentences
- Clear, natural word choice
- Correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and usage
- Correct letter form
In several cases, a competent friend or an expert writer is made to read the letter and present comments or further suggestions.
Broadly, business letters are classified into: business-to-business letters and business-to-customer letters. Business-to-business letters relate to those associated to transactions or deals among firms. Business-to-customer letters are those that relate to details or messages among the different sectors within a firm or among firms.
Business-to-business letters are correspondence that takes place in the usual business scenario. They address issues related to diverse correspondence needed among the different sections within the organization and other organizations.
The different types of letters in this category are
- Appreciation letter
- Business introduction letter
- Business memorandum
- Business thank you letter
- Congratulations letter
- Cover letter
- Letter of reference
- Termination letter and many others
These letters are sent to customers for various purposes. They could be related to a transaction or otherwise.
- Apology letter
- Collection letter
- Contract letter – It is a request for more information before the contract is signed.
- Follow-up letter
- Letter of appreciation
- Letter of condolence
- Marketing letter Rejection letter
- Sales letter
- Welcome letter and many others
We often write a business letter to be sent to a specific school, college, business, or other professional place.
Letters connect the writers with experts and organizations that offer information, provide internships, help solve problems, and much more.
There are many other reasons for writing a business letter.
- To inform
- To persuade
- To express thanks
- To request
- To inquire
- To reject or accept a proposal or offer
- To complain
Let’s have a look at a sample business letter.
6031 Fifth Avenue SW
Columbia, OH 43230
April 03, 2010
Ms. Linda Lopez
5213 Broad Street
Columbus, OH 1910
Dear Ms. Lopez:
Thanks for tutoring me in Writing! I know you are a busy college student, but you took the time to help me understand things like brainstorming, drafting, revising, and proofreading
Ever since school started in September, I had big-time problem with Writing! I was afraid that I got called on, I’d make a mistake and everyone would laugh. When the teacher asked if anyone had questions, I would slouch way down in my desk because I was scared to say that I didn’t understand.
But now, thanks to you. I have pulled up my grade. Your way of teaching Writing made it easy to remember the basics. I especially liked the way you made up the guidelines to help me remember the writing process. That was the part that gave me the most trouble. You’ve made learning writing easier and even fun!
Thank you so much for your patience. I hope you decide to become a teacher. You’d be great!