How To Write Business Letters
That Get The Job Done
Despite the widespread use of e-mail in commerce today,
traditional business letters are still the main way way that
the majority of businesses officially communicate with their
customers and other businesses.
This is especially true when businesses want to formalize an
agreement or an understanding. So far, emails are great for
all of the preparatory work, but a formal business letter is
still most often needed to "seal the deal".
There are two basic categories of business letters: business
to business, and business to customer.
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS LETTERS
Most business to business letters are written to confirm
things that have already been discussed among officials in
meetings, on the telephone, or via e-mail.
Can you imagine the letters that would have to go back and
forth to cover all of the questions and possibilities that
can be covered in a one-hour meeting, a half-hour phone call,
or a few quick e-mails?
The main purpose of a typical business letter is to formalize
the details that were arrived at in those discussions, and to
provide any additional information that was agreed upon.
Over the years, certain general standards have evolved in the
business world that the vast majority of businesses use in
drafting their business to business correspondence.
BUSINESS TO CUSTOMER LETTERS
There are many different types of business to customer letters.
They include: sales and marketing letters, information letters,
order acknowledgement letters, order status letters, collection
letters, among others.
As with business to business letters, over the years certain
general standards have evolved in the business world that the
vast majority of businesses use in drafting letters to
existing and potential customers.
Of course, going in the other direction are customer to
business letters. These include: order letters, order status
inquiry letters, complaint letters, and others.
Since these are customer-generated letters, there is no
particular expectation that they follow any particular letter-
writing standard. Typically, they are handled just like any
other piece of personal correspondence.
BUSINESS LETTER WRITING TIPS
Here are a few tips I have picked up while writing literally
hundreds of business letters over the past 20+ years. This is
a slightly modified version of the tips included in my eBook,
"Instant Home Writing Kit".
1. Limit Them To One Page
By definition, business letters should be short and to the
point, preferably one page in length. Studies have found that
busy business people do not like to read beyond the first
page, and will actually delay reading longer letters.
2. Relegate Technical Details To Attachments
Often, it is necessary to include detailed technical
information as part of a business letter package. In such
cases, use the main letter as a cover letter that lists and
briefly explains the attached (or enclosed) documents.
3. Keep Them Formal and Factual
Generally speaking, the tone and content of business letters
should be formal and factual. Feelings and emotions do not
have a place in business letters.
4. Carefully Plan Your Letter
Before writing the letter, take a few minutes to list all of
the specific points you need to cover. Sometimes it may even
mean a call to the recipient or his/her company to confirm a
specific point. Remember, the purpose of the letter is to tie
up all of the details on the subject at hand, so that more
letters won't have to be written back and forth.
5. Be Customer Friendly
When writing directly to customers, always focus on their
needs and their perspective. Put yourself in their position
and imagine what it would be like receiving your letter.
Everyone can do this, since we are all customers of some
other business in some part of our lives.
6. Use Non-Discriminatory Language
Make sure that you avoid language that is specific to gender,
race, or religion in all business letters, either to other
businesses, or to customers. For example, use "workforce"
instead of "manpower", or "chairperson" rather than "chairman".
Most style guides contain detailed lists of the offensive
terms and some suggested substitutes.
To see a fully-formatted "real-life template" of a typical business letter, click on the following link:
(C) Shaun Fawcett is Webmaster of two of the most visited writing-help websites on the Net and is the author of numerous "how-to" books on everyday practical writing help. His Business Letter Writing Kit with real-life templates is a leading resource on how to write and format business letters for ALL types of business situations.
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