Definition of Business Letter
A business letter is a letter written in formal language, usually used when writing from one business organization to another, or for correspondence between such organizations and their customers, clients and other external parties. The overall style of letter will depend on the relationship between the parties concerned. There are many reasons to write a business letter. It could be to request direct information or action from another party, to order supplies from a supplier, to identify a mistake that was committed, to reply directly to a request, to apologize for a wrong or simply to convey goodwill. Even today, the business letter is still very useful because it produces a permanent record, is confidential, formal and delivers persuasive, well-considered messages.
Types of Business Letter
The most important element you need to ensure in any business letter is accuracy. One of the aspects of writing a business letter that requires the most accuracy is knowing which type of business letter you are writing. A number of options are available for those looking to trade in business correspondence, and you will significantly increase your odds for getting a reply if you know the form you need to send.
1. Letter of Complaint
A letter of complaint will almost certainly result in an official response if you approach it from a businesslike perspective. Make the complaint brief, to the point and polite. Politeness pays off regardless of the extent of anger you are actually feeling while composing this type of business letter.
2. Resume Cover Letter
A cover letter that accompanies a resume should revel in its brevity. You should take as little time and as few words as possible to accomplish one task: persuading the reader to anticipate reading your resume. Mention the title of the job for which you are applying, as well or one or two of your strongest selling points.
3. Letter of Recommendation
A recommendation letter allows you to use a few well-chosen words to the effect of letting someone else know how highly you value a third party. Resist the temptation to go overboard; approach your recommendation in a straightforward manner that still allows you to get the point across.
4. Letter of Resignation
An official letter of resignation is a business letter that should be fair and tactful. Be wary of burning any bridges that you may need to cross again in the future. Offer a valid reason for your resignation and avoid self-praise.
5. Job Applicant Not Hired
In some cases you may be required to write a business letter that informs a job applicant that he was not chosen for an open position. Offer an opening note of thanks for his time, compliment him on his experience or education and explain that he was just not what the company is looking for at the present time.
6. Declining Dinner Invitation
Declining a dinner invitation is a topic for a business letter that, if not done tactfully, may result in a social disadvantage. Extend your appreciation for the invitation and mention that you already have an engagement for that date. Do not go into detail about what the engagement is.
7. Reception of Gift
It is very polite to return a formal business response letting someone know that you have received her gift. Extend a personalized thanks to let her know that you are exactly aware of the contents of the gift. If possible, it is a good idea to include a sentiment suggesting that you have put the gift to use.
8. Notification of Error
When sending a business letter that lets the receiving party know that an error has been corrected, it is good business sense to include a copy of the error in question if there is paperwork evidence of it. Make the offer of additional copies of material involved in the error if necessary.
9. Thanks for Job Recommendation
A letter of thanks for a party that helped you get a job should be professional and courteous. Above all else, avoid the temptation to go overboard in offering your thanks. Be aware that your skills also helped you land the job and it was likely not handed to you as a result of the third party.
10. Information Request
A business letter that requests information should make the request specific and perfectly understandable. It is also a good idea to state the reason for the information request. Extend advance appreciation for the expected cooperation of the recipient.
Parts of Business Letter
Companies usually use printed paper where heading or letterhead is specially designed at the top of the sheet. It bears all the necessary information about the organisation’s identity.
2. The date of the letter
Date of writing. The month should be fully spelled out and the year written with all four digits October 12, 2005 (12 October 2005 – UK style). The date is aligned with the return address. The number of the date is pronounced as an ordinal figure, though the endings st, nd, rd, th, are often omitted in writing. The article before the number of the day is pronounced but not written. In the body of the letter, however, the article is written when the name of the month is not mentioned with the day.
3. The Inside Address
In a business or formal letter you should give the address of the recipient after your own address. Include the recipient’s name, company, address and postal code. Add job title if appropriate. Separate the recipient’s name and title with a comma. Double check that you have the correct spelling of the recipient ‘s name. The Inside Address is always on the left margin. If an 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper is folded in thirds to fit in a standard 9″ business envelope, the inside address can appear through the window in the envelope.
4. The Greeting / Salutation
Also called the salutation. The type of salutation depends on your relationship with the recipient. It normally begins with the word “Dear” and always includes the person’s last name. Use every resource possible to address your letter to an actual person. If you do not know the name or the sex of of your reciever address it to Dear Madam/Sir (or Dear Sales Manager or Dear Human Resources Director). As a general rule the greeting in a business letter ends in a colon (US style). It is also acceptable to use a comma (UK style).
5. The Subject Line (optional)
Its inclusion can help the recipient in dealing successfully with the aims of your letter. Normally the subject sentence is preceded with the word Subject: orRe: Subject line may be emphasized by underlining, using bold font, or all captial letters. It is usually placed one line below the greeting but alternatively can be located directly after the “inside address,” before the “greeting.”
6. The Body Paragraphs
The body is where you explain why you’re writing. It’s the main part of the business letter. Make sure the receiver knows who you are and why you are writing but try to avoid starting with “I”. Use a new paragraph when you wish to introduce a new idea or element into your letter. Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented. Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.
7. The Complimentary Close
This short, polite closing ends always with a comma. It is either at the left margin or its left edge is in the center, depending on the Business Letter Style that you use. It begins at the same column the heading does. The traditional rule of etiquette in Britain is that a formal letter starting “Dear Sir or Madam” must end “Yours faithfully”, while a letter starting “Dear ” must end “Yours sincerely”. (Note: the second word of the closing is NOT capitalized).
8. Signature and Writer’s identification
The signature is the last part of the letter. You should sign your first and last names. The signature line may include a second line for a title, if appropriate. The signature should start directly above the first letter of the signature line in the space between the close and the signature line. Use blue or black ink.
9. Initials, Enclosures, Copies
Initials are to be included if someone other than the writer types the letter. If you include other material in the letter, put ‘Enclosure’, ‘Enc.’, or ‘ Encs. ‘, as appropriate, two lines below the last entry. cc means a copy or copies are sent to someone else.
Style of Business Letter
The Styles of Business Letters (Layouts of Business Letters) have undergone changes over the period of time. In the old times, the style was followed strictly. But recently liberty has been given to the business people to follow their own styles. Although no room was allowed for deviation form the standard form an effective letter during old days, the letters written then was more effective. There are still many business houses which use the old layout. But things have become much easier and business people have taken liberty in their approach towards adopting the layout of their business letters.
Fully-Blocked Style, Modified Block Style and Simplified Style are widely used these days among the business houses. Fully-Indented Style, Semi-Indented Style and Hanging-Indented Style are not extensively used. But all can be used by all. There is no restriction in using one style over others. It is only you who should decide which should be the best for you to bring the desired results. Usually the business letters are written on the letter head of the company. In case you have to write your letter in a white paper, please write your address before you start writing your letter. There are few people who suggest writing the sender’s address just below the date. This is also acceptable. There is not strict rule to suggest what is best for you. Let your sense of business judgment rule.