With the business world becoming more competitive each and every day, there is now virtually no room for mistakes when preparing business correspondence. An inability to correctly draft a business letter is a severe handicap, one that will inevitably come back to haunt you again and again. The following article is provided as a guideline to help those unfamiliar with the observed rules of business correspondence to better understand how to go about drafting an acceptable business letter.
The following is a description of the most commonly accepted format for business letters. All of these sections must be included within the business letter in some fashion. Each section is described individually to help readers understand what is expected of each section.
- Heading – This should include both your name and your return address.
- Date of the letter – The importance for including the date in a business letter should never be underestimated. The date allows the recipient to take into context events that may have occurred subsequent to the sending of the letter. It is also a good idea to write out the name of the month in order to prevent any confusion between numbers.
- The Greeting – How you address the person to whom you are writing depends upon who that person is and the type of relationship the two of you share.
For Example: Dear Sir or Madame or (professional title) should be used if you are unaware of the person’s name; Dear Mr. (Name) should be used if you know the name of a male recipient; Either Dear Mrs. Or Ms. (Name) should be used when addressing a female recipient, depending upon whether or not her marital status is known. When in doubt, always use Ms.
- Letter Body – This is the meat of the letter, where you will address all the important points you wish to communicate to the addressee.
- Closing – The closing includes the parting information given to the addressee concerning your actions that will follow the letter, or what actions you expect from the addressee. In addition, the closing also includes the “sign off,” some of the most common being “Yours truly,” or “Sincerely.”
Concepts to Be Aware of
The following are concepts to keep in mind when drafting your business letter. By adhering to these concepts, you can ensure your letters are of a high standard that will be respect by those who receive them.
- Stay Short and Sweet – Business correspondence should be kept as short as possible by only including the necessary information. Anything that is extraneous should be eliminated. Time is very important in business, and as such the recipient of your letter may resent you wasting his or her time with unnecessary information.
- Don’t Show Off Your Vocabulary – When writing a business letter, use the most simple, straightforward language possible. Attempting to appear more intelligent by using million-dollar words when everyday language is just as appropriate often has the opposite effect.
- Be Thorough – If your business letter is in response to a received letter, be sure to address all the topics brought up in that letter. If you are the one initiating the correspondence, be sure to include every point you wish to address in the letter. The will prevent you from appearing incompetent by sending follow-up letters.
- Be Friendly – Write business letters with the same degree of politeness you would if you were meeting the person face-to-face. Aggressive or stern writing will not help you to achieve the goals you wish to achieve by writing the letter in the first place.