How to Write a Business Letter
24 chapters on preparing to write the letter and finding the proper viewpoint how to open the letter, present the proposition convincingly, make an effective close how to acquire a forceful style and inject originality how to adapt selling appeal to different prospects and get orders by letter proved principles and practical schemes illustrated by extracts from 217 actual letter.
Have you ever wondered why we can read small type fairly easily in a newspaper but not in a standard business letter That's because the length of the line on a page is almost as important as the size of the type. We can read lo-point type in a newspaper column that's two inches wide. However, if we tried that in a column six inches wide, we'd be squinting. Most business writing is in a single column on an 8V2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. With normal margins, the length of your line will be about six inches or so. For that length, you'll probably want to use a type size that's 12 or 12V2 or 13 points. To decide which, you need to consider the next two topics.
There's a simple model that can help you get started with a lot of your business writing. This chapter presents a model you can use for much of your business writing a template that will hold the ideas in many documents. These documents can be short (like memos) or long (like reports or even books).
Ben Franklin once wrote, Never use a longer word when a shorter word will do. Brevity is a virtue in business writing. Impatient executives, time-strapped managers, and overloaded workers want you to get to the point. But effective business writing requires more than brevity it requires clear messages delivered in an unambiguous style. The first tactic, conciseness, demands that you write succinctly. The need to address this issue occurs when a communication contains more words than it needs to convey your meaning. Note that length is not the issue. Rather, the issue is whether the communication has more words than are needed to transmit your message. Certainly overly long sentences are cumbersome and hard to read. Your goal, in business writing, is to aid your readers in getting your points accurately and quickly. Anything that hinders that goal is a flaw in writing.
In a traditional outline, numerals and letters are used to create a hierarchy of information. Your primary points are labeled with large roman numerals. Subpoints under primary point use capital letters. The next level down uses regular numbers, followed by lowercase letters, and so on. Following the strict outlining conventions, you need at least two points within each category, although in business writing, there is far more flexibility.
In this chapter, we've covered the essential rules that govern and the decisions that need to be made in business writing. You've learned key punctuation, grammar, word usage, and capitalization standards, along with tips on how to remember the rules. Take the following quiz to discover how much you've learned and remember about creating professional communications.
But just as in normal business conversations we begin sentences with and, but, because, so, therefore, and other similar words and phrases, it is accepted practice to use these words and phrases to begin sentences in business writing if doing so sounds natural and serves to emphasize your point. And as you may have noticed (but most readers do not), this paragraph and this sentence begin with these words, yet they read comfortably.
With these in hand, you can start your letter, which should be in standard business letter format, with a friendly opening paragraph. If this is a drama, you might want to include what this is about on a thematic level as well. This should be followed by a brief paragraph that describes what your story is about, without going into great detail, but hitting the major plot points. Add a paragraph about yourself, if you have a film
Consider the timing involved and the formality of the person and organization you're sending it to. If you need to get a letter out quickly because it has to arrive before an interview that's coming up soon, or if it's a thank-you note after an interview and you know the employer will be making a decision soon, then e-mail is your best bet. Use regular mail if there's no rush and if you sense that the other person would appreciate the formality of a business letter printed on nice paper and received in the mail.
Because so much business correspondence takes place electronically, it is important that you be able to use your resume appropriately for e-mail, online applications, and other electronic methods. There are several different formats you can use, each with its advantages and limitations.
Andrea, the owner of the insurance consulting firm who discovered that her boilerplate business letters needed to be proofed using Level Two standards says, My proposals are more complex, even though I send out only one proposal per subject and they're not huge. Five to ten pages is quite modest by some proposal standards. I once saw a grant proposal that ran over a hundred pages. But still, this is my bread and butter. It is essential to me that my proposals are perfect in every way. 7. Your communication includes only one section. For example, it's a 100-word newsletter article, a business letter, a memo, or an E-mail with no attachments. 1
If a magazine asks for a cover letter, keep it direct and succinct. You don't need lengthy biographical information or an involved synopsis of your story. If the editor wants additional information, that information will be specified in the magazine's guidelines. A simple business letter format is appropriate. Here is an example
Part of your decision will be based on your comfort level. Not everyone is comfortable using the authoritative tone of the imperative. And some people perceive that using please adds a tone of pleading that sounds unprofessional in standard business writing. Use your best judgment on a case-by-case basis.
Several grammar and punctuation rules have changed since you learned them in English class, and in order to produce professional writing, you need to be aware of the new criteria. The answers to the five questions that follow serve as guidelines to help you use up-to-date standards in your business writing. The five questions are
Thank-you notes have a more intimate and friendly social tradition than formal business correspondence. I think that is one reason they work so well people respond to those who show good manners and say thank you. Here are some situations when you should use them, along with some sample notes.
Commas indicate a pause in the sentence. In business writing, you need to use commas in the following circumstances These five circumstances account for most of the comma usage in business writing. By learning these rules and adhering to them, your writing will be polished and professional.
In this chapter, you'll learn strategies to remember the basic grammar, word usage, and capitalization rules for business writing. You'll also take part in several exercises to practice your proofreading and revision skills and to demonstrate that you can remember and use the rules. English evolves quickly. Words come in and out of favor, and so do grammar and punctuation rules. By staying current with contemporary standards of business writing, you'll create a professional and polished image and avoid making embarrassing mistakes.
In this chapter, we're going to look at the level of proofreading that is appropriate for your projects and discuss the types of errors, omissions, and inconsistencies for which you'll need to proof. You'll also be alerted to the most common grammatical and punctuation errors found in business writing.
Nancee, a self-employed makeup artist, writes sales letters, proposals, business correspondence, E-mails, and Web copy. I hate to write she explains. But in business, I have to. So I do. What I've learned over the years, though, is that people hire me for my expertise and upbeat personality, not my writing ability, or as I like to joke, my writing inability Still, I know how important it is that I convey a highly professional image. Proofing matters a lot.
Business Letter Form A business letter is any letter that is not personal that is, it is a letter you write to anyone except your family and friends. Business letters in English have a special form. Here are some things to learn about business letters. 4. A business letter usually begins with a sentence that directly states your purpose. Typical openings are I am writing to complain or I am writing to request 5. A business letter usually ends with a paragraph or sentence that thanks the person. A typical ending is Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. 9. There are several possible closings for business letters. They are listed below, in order from neutral to very formal
In such cases the subject is given, and the first step is chiefly a matter of research, of finding information. Even the problem of organizing the information is often by following a conventional plan, as with scientific papers or business letters. Which is not to dismiss such writing as easy. Being clear and concise is never easy. (To say nothing of being interesting ) But at least the writing process is structured and to that degree simplified.