Writing a business letter is entirely different from other forms of letters. For one thing, you may have to address the letter to several recipients and, most of the time, to someone you don’t know. This makes it very tricky to formulate the tone of the letter. That is why, in most cases, business letters tend to have a formal tone. This also helps in avoiding any misunderstanding and mitigating the seriousness of the issue. So, it is very important to follow proper business letter etiquette. If you follow the proper etiquette, you will not only present yourself in positive light but also you can express yourself in a polite manner without creating any confusion. Relationship between business partners is the key to success and growth and you can build this by maintaining proper etiquette, which will help you communicate better. You can know more on the business letter etiquette in the following section.
Business Letter Writing
- When writing a business letter, it is important to note the presentation along with the quality of the content. Make sure that you write the letter in quality plain paper or pre-printed stationery of 8.5 X 11 sheets. There should be a letterhead on the sheet with either your or your company’s name clearly visible. At the bottom of the sheet, should be your address and contact information. However, this information can also be placed at the top of the sheet along with the name.
- Business letter should be formal and so you should give due consideration to the formatting of the letter as well. The letter should be easy to read so you must always use a consistent type and style. Business letters have a typical formatting that is most commonly followed. In this layout, new paragraphs are indicated by adding an extra line space between paragraphs and the text is aligned to the left margin. Overall, make sure that you have balanced margin throughout the copy.
- Begin all business letters with the date when the letter is being sent and the addressee and inside address. Do not put more than two to three line spacing between the date and the address. Be careful to spell the name of the recipient correctly. Also, do not use any abbreviations. The names and the address should be written in separate lines. It should be written in the following format:
Title or Position:
City, State, Country and Zip code (write the entire name of the city, state and country):
- The next crucial etiquette in business letter writing to be followed is how to address the person you are corresponding with. If it is someone you have never met, then it is better to address the person as Mr., Mrs., Ms or Miss followed by the name and title, as a sign of respect. If the person you are addressing has a designation then use only one style. Example: Dr Varun Ganguly or Varun Ganguly, M.D/PhD. You should also address your letter with proper greetings and salutations. Begin with the standard protocol of affixing “dear” before the name as in “Dear Dr/Mr. Varun Ganguly”. If you are familiar with the person then you can use a more casual greeting tone.
- The next step is to know the etiquette involved in writing the body text. Nowadays, it is a very common style to write business letters in a conversational tone. You can use a straight forward formal approach if you want to convey professionalism and education. Write brief paragraphs with two line spacing between them. Always make sure that you have a consistent and clear approach.
- The manner in which you close the letter is also important. While ending a letter, it is better to add a cordial and positive statement. Also, you should use a phrase like ‘Sincerely’, ‘Yours Truly’, etc. and sign your name after leaving a four or five line space. It is very unprofessional to send the letter unsigned.
- After leaving two line spaces below the signature, list out the notations for enclosures, post scripts and courtesy copies. Make sure that you write the full names of all the individuals who are going to receive a copy of the letter. It is better if you highlight the names of all the recipients.
- Before signing the letter and mailing it, you should always proof read it at least three times. This will help you to check errors in spellings, grammar and typing.
- The way you package the letter will show your care and interest. So, fold an 8.5×11 sheet in thirds with the top flap slightly short so that the letter can be opened easily. You should also mail the letter in a standard #10 business size envelope. Always make sure that the letter is correctly folded. In case the envelope is small, then lengthwise fold the letter in half and then in thirds horizontally.
- Finally, it is now time to know the proper way to write the address on the envelope. Using printed envelopes that match the letterhead can send across a very good impression. Type the address in all capital letters so that it can be read clearly. You should also type the return address prominently.
- One crucial point that should be kept in mind before sending a business letter is to mark it appropriately. Write “confidential” if the letter you are sending is sensitive. You can also use other marks like “private”, “personal” or “strictly confidential” so that the recipient can get an idea of the urgency or confidentiality of the letter.
- To be on the safe side, it is better to avoid humor in a business letter. However, if you are familiar with the recipient and believe that he/she will understand the pun or joke then you can use humor. But make sure that you do not include any sarcastic or ironic remark.
- Business letter etiquette also demands that you respond to letters you receive promptly or at least within five working days. If you cannot do so then make sure that you at least send an acknowledgement.
The aforementioned etiquette differentiates a formal letter from a casual one. When followed correctly, this etiquette not only makes good impression but also prompts the recipient for a quick response.