Writing a professional, polished business letter or business email is easy once you know the basics. Most business letters are written in a simple format that is easily adapted to any company’s needs, and business email follows a similarly simple format. Read on to learn more about how to make your business correspondence look its best.
How to Write a Business Letter: The Basics
A business letter always contains a few standard parts:
- The date
- Information about its sender and recipient
- A salutation
- A body consisting of a few concise paragraphs
- A closing
- The sender’s signature
- The sender’s typed name, title, and contact information
- A list of enclosures, if necessary
If your company has letterhead, you can use this instead of typing out the information. If not, your company’s address should appear either right or left justified at the top of the page. Write out each word in the address instead of using abbreviations. For example:
400 Leafy Lane
Los Angeles, California 90002
Write the date out rather than abbreviating with numbers only. For example, “March 1, 2015” or “1 March 2015.” The date should be left justified and should be positioned two or three lines above the recipient’s address.
Recipient’s name and address:
Add the recipient’s name, their title if known, and their address. Write out each word in the recipient’s address. This information should be left justified a few lines above the salutation. For example:
Mr. Jack Reacher
Craft Supply Provider, Inc.
602 Spinner’s Road
Los Angeles, California 90001
Choose your salutation based on whether you know the person to whom you are writing, how well you know them if so, and the relationship’s level of formality. A salutation is more than a simple greeting; it is an indicator of respect. There are several options to use depending on the situation:
- To Whom It May Concern: Use this generic greeting only if you don’t know whom you are specifically addressing.
- Dear Sir / Madam: This is another generic greeting that should only be used if you don’t know who will be reading your letter.
- Recipient’s Title and Last Name: This is a widely accepted method of incorporating a salutation into business correspondence. Examples include: “Dear Dr. Jamison” or “Dear Professor Williams.” The salutations “Dear Mr. Smith,” “Dear Ms. Kennedy,” and “Dear Mrs. Rollins” are additional examples of this kind of greeting.
- Recipient’s First Name: Use this only if you and the recipient already enjoy an informal relationship. An example is: “Dear Maria.”
- The Recipient’s Whole Name: If the recipient does not have a title and you are unsure of their gender, you should greet them using their entire name. For example: “Dear Pat Brown.”
Always add a comma after a salutation, unless you are using “To Whom It May Concern,” in which case a colon is appropriate.
The body of your business letter should contain a few concise paragraphs that convey your message clearly. Strike the right tone by avoiding lengthy, meandering sentences and getting straight to the point. If you are not sure how to start, consider using “I am writing you regarding…” as the opening phrase.
Your reader will get the best impression when your meaning is crystal-clear. You should explain your position using as few words as possible an. At the same time, feel free to be conversational if it is appropriate. Business correspondence should be friendly and helpful if possible.
Summarize your points clearly in the last paragraph and outline your expectations or your planned course of action. This is a suitable place to mention that the recipient may contact you with concerns or questions. Be sure to thank the recipient for his or her attention to the letter or to the matter at hand.
Like its salutation, a business letter’s closing is an indicator of respect that should reflect the formality of your relationship.
- Formal Closing: A closing such as “Sincerely,” “Yours sincerely,” “Respectfully,” “Yours Truly,” “Regards,” and “Cordially” are suitable for all types of business correspondence.
- Informal Closing: Less formal closings such as “Best wishes,” “Warm regards,” “Best,” “Thank you,” and “All the best” are still professional, but are best for letters to people with whom you enjoy an ongoing, friendly business relationship.
Use a comma after your closing, no matter which you choose. Left justify the closing.
Leave about four lines of text empty so you have room to sign your name. Use blue or black ink for a clean, professional look.
Sender’s typed name and contact information:
Type your name, then add your title on the next line. Skip a line, then type your telephone number. On the next line, type your email address. For example:
Vice President of ABC, Inc.
This information should be left justified.
Enclosures (if applicable):
If you plan to enclose anything with your business letter, type the word “Enclosures” followed by a colon and make a note that tells the recipient what else to look for in the envelope. For example:
Enclosures (2): brochure, flyer
Enclosures: two brochures
This information should be left justified and should be positioned a few lines below your contact information.