What Is a Business Letter?

A business letter is a professional type of letter written for correspondence between a company and another business or an organization and its customers. It follows an approved structure with a tone that depends on the relationship shared between the two parties. Since this letter serves as a means of communication for a commercial purpose, it’s likely to contain valuable information on a business-related concern. It must be clear, concise, and courteous to relay information effectively.

Although you can always use notes and memos to make announcements, business letters tend to be more formal in nature; therefore, making business letters more appropriate for setting requests, forwarding complaints, and delivering a sales pitch.

9 Common Types of Business Letters

Business letters must be simple and straightforward to communicate a point. Putting all your thoughts to paper is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages of having a business letter. But a business letter may serve a variety of functions, each made to generate a particular action. Some of the basic types of business letters include the following:

Acknowledgment Letter: From the name itself, an acknowledgment letter does nothing more than to confirm a certain action for legal evidence. If you want to inform the other party of your absence from work, they’ll likely send an acknowledgment letter as proof that they received your message. Acknowledgment letters provide assurance to the recipient and keep them from spamming you with follow-ups. Apology Letter: Letters of apology express your regret for a fault or an inconvenience that occurred in the past. The writer may also provide the measures to be taken to correct these mistakes as a positive response to the situation. One must be sincere when writing this letter to show that they accept accountability and are willing to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Appreciation Letter: When someone from the upper management wishes to express his or her gratitude toward a lower-level employee, appreciation letters work their magic. An appreciation letter—or what others call a thank-you letter—recognizes the efforts that employees put into their work for continuous motivation. It acts as an inspiration for employees to remain productive, especially during instances when performance becomes seemingly low. Cover Letter: Cover letters usually support an accompanying document for a more persuasive approach. Personal résumés and business proposals often come with a cover letter to help summarize your objective and call-to-action concisely for a recipient to grasp. It’s important to keep these letters short so as not to divert one’s attention from the main material. Follow-Up Letter: Anyone looking to inquire about the status of a project, application, or delivery of an item can send a follow-up letter to remind the person they are writing the letter to about their request. Remember that you can only send these letters if you’ve already had initial contact with the recipient. Order Letter: It’s common for a buyer to write to a vendor to place an order for a product or service. The order letter must contain any specifications about the requested item for clarification. You may also conclude the transaction by attaching your payment with the letter, depending on the terms established by the business (recipient). Recommendation Letter: Otherwise known as reference letters, professional recommendation letters help “sell” a job seeker to a prospective employer. The person writing the letter must describe his or her relationship with the subject as well as the subject’s competence for the desired role. Some employers ask job applicants to provide this letter in an attempt to verify what’s found in one’s résumé. Resignation Letter: If you’re planning to leave your current job, it’s important to let your employer know about your proposed departure from the company in your resignation letter. It’s a written notice that employees must submit to their immediate supervisor to let them know when their last day would be as well as their reason for leaving. In many cases, writers choose not to disclose too much information about their decision but still manage to remain polite and respectful throughout the correspondence. Sales Letter: The purpose of this letter is to drive readers to act according to what you want them to do. A good sales letter starts with a strong statement that aims to attract readers and capture their interest, which may persuade them to choose you over your leading competitors. It also details the benefits that readers may acquire if they choose to respond to your sales call.

How to Write a Business Letter

Business people write and send letters more often than you can imagine. While you can never go wrong with letter writing, you’d be surprised by how a simple letter can greatly affect the way someone views your company. Knowing how to create these professional documents is vital to efficient communication. So if you want to impress your readers and persuade them to take action, here’s a step-by-step guide to keep you focused.

Step 1: Determine the Type of Letter You Need

Business letters can be between a vendor and a customer or a company and another business. It depends on what the writer intends to communicate and how he or she would want the recipient to respond. Among the many types of business letters mentioned, you need to decide what your objective is with the correspondence. Do you want to make an inquiry on a venue for your product launch event? Meet up with a potential job candidate? Or do you wish to recommend a former employee to a prospective employer? Whatever your reason for writing is, you need to make sure that your message remains clear in the business letter.

Step 2: Prepare an Outline

While it isn’t always necessary, creating a short outline does help improve the delivery of your message. This approach is especially crucial for letters that cover critical business concerns. People tend to run into a writer’s block as soon as they start typing, especially if they fail to think about what they want to say beforehand. Diving into the writing process without a plan in place is sure to waste a lot of your time. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to make minor changes than it is to correct significant mistakes in written materials.

But if you begin by gathering the necessary details on the situation you are writing about, the rest of your ideas will come by naturally. Doing so creates a logical structure for your letter to ensure that readers can connect similar ideas more effectively. It also helps you remember points that need emphasizing, in case you forget about them later. Thus, it won’t hurt to spare a few minutes of your time to write the outline of your letter for some guidance.

Step 3: Decide on the Appropriate Format and Order

Unlike the letters addressed to friends and family, these letters adhere to a strict set of rules in a business letter format that writers must follow.

When corresponding with a client, investor, or business partner, consider adding a business letterhead for formality. Most business people use a letterhead as a template to avoid the hassle of writing a heading for every time they need a letter. A formal salutation then follows to address the individual or organization you are writing to, which usually includes a person’s title, if applicable. As for the body of your letter, you must discuss the matter at hand in a concise manner for your recipient to comprehend. Always remember to close the letter appropriately, similar to how it began.

Step 4: Use the Right Tone and Vocabulary

Some letters are more formal than others. Depending on what you intend to deliver, you need to word your letter carefully to avoid coming across as rude or immoral. For instance, no matter how disappointed you are about the actions exhibited by the subject, you don’t want to offend anyone in your complaint letter. Maintaining proper composure is essential to steer clear of trouble with the opposite party. It’s also necessary to observe a professional tone and to use simple vocabulary to maintain an appropriate level of professionalism.

Step 5: Proofread Your Copy

There’s no room in a business letter for spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and minor typos. Regardless of how urgent it is, missing this part of the writing process is a risk you wouldn’t want to take. While we all admit to struggling with the basics of written communication, it’s still not an excuse to ignore the importance of proofreading your letter. In time, you’re bound to overcome the difficulties of the craft. But for now, you have to play it safe by double-checking what you wrote or having someone else review your letter for a second opinion.

The Dos and the Don’ts of a Business Letter

As a professional, writing emails and letters is all in a day’s work. It serves as a means for you to promote your business and share information with clients or partners more coherently than a personal letter. But if your business communication skills aren’t as polished as you need them to be, the following dos and don’ts in writing a business correspondence should help you deliver your message accurately to readers.

Dos

1. Do put your recipient in mind. 

Before you begin writing, first identify who your audience will be to determine the appropriate language to use. If you wish to discuss a technical subject to a non-technical recipient, you may want to avoid using industry-specific terms that the average person may not be familiar with. Try putting yourself in the shoes of your audience to figure out the best way to convey your message. That way, you can explain technical concepts and other complicated ideas more explicitly for your readers to relate.

2. Do keep writing clear and concise. 

Be extra careful about what you need to get across, or you may end up rambling in your letter like you would to a close friend or family member. There’s no place in business communication for flowery words and vague statements that would only delay your message from being understood. Getting your points out through proper wording will help keep you focused on your main message. Cutting out needless information and using bullet points to break down your thoughts are some techniques that ensure clarity in writing. It’s easier to say what you need to say in as few words as possible when you take the time to gather your thoughts before composing the letter.

3. Do select a professional letterhead. 

For consistency reasons, you might want to think about using a letterhead design for all your business letters. It’s one way to stay on brand and to make your letters look distinctive in the eyes of a reader. The letterhead may consist of your logo, business name, address, and contact details for recipients to use as a reference.

4. Do have it typewritten.

Be sure to type your message on a computer for a more professional approach. While there’s nothing wrong with handwritten letters, it’s best to reserve these letters for a more casual form of writing. A simple conversation style through a typewritten correspondence offers the convenience of keeping your text clean and visible for the sake of clarity. By doing so, you can avoid instances where people mistake a word for something else due to poor penmanship.

Don’ts

1. Don’t be careless with your words. 

Be mindful of your choice of words. You could mean well in your message, but it can still come across as discriminative or offensive when taken the wrong way. It’s easy to say something unprofessional when you aren’t tactful when writing. Hence, it’s always a good idea to read the written material aloud before you consider sending it to anyone in your mailing list. It’s also one way of ensuring that the contents of your business letter remain accurate and acceptable to its purpose.

2. Don’t inject personal opinions. 

Stick with the facts. Refrain from adding information that you aren’t sure of, as phrases like “I think,” “I believe,” or “In my opinion,” aren’t very reliable. These words express a level of uncertainty that won’t resonate well with a reader, especially when it concerns business-related matters. Instead, you should save it for verbal or less formal exchanges with the supposed recipient.

3. Don’t give in to the temptation to use sarcasm for humor. 

Refrain from using sarcasm as a playful joke. What makes a verbal exchange different from written communication is how the delivery and tone of your voice determines the intention of your message. There’s no way a recipient could indicate whether you’re serious or humorous in a business letter, which makes it highly possible for readers to misinterpret your message in the worst way possible. Although it was never in your intention to offend anyone, what may seem funny to you at the time of writing could have an opposite effect on the receiving end.

4. Don’t forget your call-to-action. 

When readers reach the end of your formal letter, they should know what to do or believe in obtaining a favorable solution. Concluding the letter with a strong CTA should drive a person to respond accordingly. You can also state what you intend to do as a follow-up to the letter.

Everyone can benefit from a business letter, as long as people make an effort to write them carefully. Although it’s impossible to master the skills in letter writing overnight, what matters most is your ability to convey a message that your recipient may understand. Fortunately, you can hone your skills in business communication with the help of the letter templates and samples provided.