A Guide to an Effective Business Letter (and an Example)

There is a time for everything; a time to act casual and play around, and a time to be formal and take things seriously. Being able to write is one thing, but knowing when to write and how to write is another. A business letter is one of those documents that it’s more preferable you know what you are doing in preparing. It is a document that you are not necessarily saying “hi” to another, but one that you prefer what you have put in it is actually going to be taken seriously and applied. This is regardless of whether you are the boss or employee. One may want to write a business letter to: suggest an idea to a superior, apply for a job, make an inquiry about a refund policy, or request a price list. If you have been wondering how to get it right, here’s how.

One of the synonyms of the term “business” is “organization”. Well, like everything in business, order, priority, and significance are qualities that should be observed when preparing a business letter. There is a structure one should have in mind, as well as a manner of expressing concepts. An effective business letter is one that considers the needs of the individual it is intended for. Often, the targets of business letters are persons higher in status than the sender, who are naturally busy.

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The 5C principles of effective business correspondence

One should, therefore, write business letters that convey courtesy, are clear, and concise. Employ the active voice, personal pronouns, and action verbs. Be formal but avoid jargon, particularly when you are not sure about the background of the recipient. Do not assume that just because the person you are sending the letter to has a higher status, he or she is going to understand whatever it is you are trying to express. Explain yourself the best you can, and always remember to stick to the point. Okay, how then should one prepare a business letter to ensure that the concepts being suggested are observed?

The Structure of an Effective Business Letter

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The Address of the Sender

This is usually the first portion of the business letter and is normally found on the letterhead. On the off chance you do not yet have a letterhead, then you should include your address at the top of the document, a line beneath the date. The title and name of the sender should not be included in this section as they will be included at the signing off of the letter.

The Date

Shows the day the letter was written. If you are targeting enterprises in the United States, employ the American date format; month, then day. If you are from other regions, kindly find out what date format is preferred in your locale and format your date accordingly.

The Inside Address

This is the address of the recipient. A good practice is to invariably write to a particular individual within the organization the letter is being sent to. Remember, the more direct the letter is, the sooner things will be done. If the target of the letter is a non-specific person, it will take longer to be addressed, that is if it will ever be tended to at all. A little research will prove beneficial if you are not sure who exactly you should address the letter to. Ultimately, observe individuals’ titles; Mr., Mrs., Dr., among others.

Salutation

In the event you are familiar with the recipient, then address them by their first name. If you don’t, then it is fine to use the name in the Inside Address, and remember to consider the personal title. Preferably, use their personal title followed by their last name. On the off chance you can’t determine a recipient’s gender, then use a neutral salutation like the job title, accompanied by the recipient’s name. This is often true when persons have names that are unisex; like, Robin, or Kim.

The Body

Most business letters observe the block format approach. This is the kind of formatting where you use bigger line spaces or blank lines to separate paragraphs, instead of using tabs to indent the first line of each paragraph. The body is where the juice of the business letter is, so remember to observe the points that were suggested in the initial paragraphs of this article. The first paragraph should be courteous and capture the main point of the business letter. Let that main point be the last sentence of this paragraph. Most recipients will jump straight to this last sentence, so make sure it captures exactly what was intended. The subsequent paragraph should reinforce the main point. Break the main point into clear and concise details. The paragraphs that follow should be preferably few but adding bit by bit to the main point of the letter. The terminating paragraph ought to recapitulate the intent of the letter, and where applicable, call for some sort of action.

The Closing

Starts at the same vertical line as the date, and a line subsequent to the last paragraph of the body. Only the first word should be in upper case – for instance, Sincerely or Thank you – then leave a gap of around four lines for a signature. After the signature, place the sender’s name.

Enclosures

Any supporting documents like a resume, certificates, receipts and others, are indicated by a line reading “Enclosures” then the number of documents, beneath the closing. Optionally, you could list the supporting documents; for example, you may be including ten documents. To ensure that the recipient gets all of them, it is a good idea to list them down so that the recipient can confirm that all indicated documents are present.

The Typist Initials

This part only applies if someone else typed the letter for you. The initials of the typist go here. In the event you did everything by yourself, then you may as well forget about this bit.

There you have it. As long as you follow the above format and observe the principles outlined in the initial paragraphs of the article, you should be fine. You may have to try it out yourself a number of times to get it right. Here is a sample business letter that may paint a clear picture to get you started:

July 7, 2027

Dummy Company777 Enterprise StreetSuccess-villa, WA 44980

Dear Ms. X

It is my sincere anticipation that all is well with you. My name is Max Power, and I am an attorney at Good Houses, Inc. The purpose of my writing is to inform you regarding an issue with the house you bought last month, June 17th.

We have discovered some inconsistencies with the documents that you presented during the purchase of your current residence. Unfortunately, some of the documents you presented are counterfeit, while one of them is actually expired. We are aware that you have a family and therefore do not wish to cause you any more discomfort than this letter will. Until those documents are replaced, we may be forced to repossess your current home, but since as already indicated, we value you as a human being and are willing to give you up to three months to ensure that those documents are authentic. We are sorry about this and hope that in three month’s time, you and your family will appreciate peace and a clear conscience again. Please contact me as soon as possible so that I let you know the way forward. Sincerely

[signature]

Max Power

Enclosures: 5

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