Unit 3 Business Letter General Overview

Business letters are formal paper communications between, to or from businesses and usually sent through the Post Office or sometimes by courier. Business letters are sometimes called "snail-mail" (in contrast to email which is faster).


Who writes Business Letters?

Most people who have an occupation have to write business letters. Some write many letters each day and others only write a few letters over the course of a career. Business people also read letters on a daily basis. Letters are written from a person/group, known as the sender to a person/group, known in business as the recipient. Here are some examples of senders and recipients:

business business

business consumer

job applicant company

citizen government official

employer employee

staff member staff member

Why write Business Letters?

There are many reasons why you may need to write business letters or other correspondence:

to persuade

to inform

to request

to express thanks

to remind

to recommend

to apologize

to congratulate

to reject a proposal or offer

to introduce a person or policy

to invite or welcome

to follow up

to formalize decisions

Business Letter Template


Senders address (street address) (city, (state), zip)   Date(optional)   Recipients address (name) (title) (department) (company) (full address) (city, (state), zip)   Date(optional)     Salutation: (Dear Mr./Ms. (Mrs., Miss),)   Body of the letter: first Paragraph: (state the main point of the letter, but do not go into detail: give the reason for writing, i.e. "I am writing to inform/confirm/inquire) if there was a previous contact with the recipient, state a reference reason for your letter, i.e. "With reference to our telephone conversation...")   second paragraph: (expand on the main purpose of the letter, with background information, statistics, and other supporting information)   closing paragraph (restates the purpose of the letter, and tells the reader what actions or steps will occur next. Thank the reader for his/her time. If there is to be further contact, refer to this contact, i.e. "I look forward to meeting you at..." OR I am looking forward to hearing from you.)   Complimentary Close: Sincerely yours,   Signature:   (handwritten signature)     Typed Name Typed Title


Some notes on business letters.

It is a strong trend to use 'open' punctuation in the business world. This means that in a typed letter the date, the reference, the address, the salutation, and the complimentary close are presented without any punctuation. The body of the letter is punctuated normally, with certain exceptions.

The writer's address

aIt is normal practice for the name of the individual sending the letter to appear at the beginning of this address.

bIf a house number is used, it is not necessary to put a comma between this and the street number. Avoid abbreviations such as St. (Street), Ave (Avenue), and Rd. (Road).

cThere should be a comma at the end of each line, except for the last line before the postcode. A full stop is used here.

dNo punctuation is required in the postcode.

eIn handwritten letters the address should be printed completely in capital letters. However, it is acceptable to use printed capitals for the name of the town.

fIf a house name is used instead of, or in addition to, a number, this name is written on a separate line (for typed letters too)

gIf there is a recognized abbreviation for the country, this can be used, ( the same is for typed letters), e.g.



The reference

aIn a typed letter from a firm, this should contain the initials of the person authorizing (dictating) the letter and those of the typist. Sometimes other symbols are used to help with identification e.g. document code.

bIn a handwritten letter a reference is not normally required unless this is quoted from some previous communication related to the subject of your letter. In this case it should be written as 'Your Ref.' and positional at the left-hand margin.

cSome printed letters heads have spaces for 'Our Ref.' and 'Your Ref.' This is self-explanatory, but the writers reference should always be placed at the left-hand margin, e.g.

The date

aPresent the date in the correct order day, month and year.(NB!Am.E month, date and year)

b The only standard punctuation necessary in the date is the comma after the month.

cThere is no full stop after endings used with the day numbers such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th.

Dates can be expressed in a variety of ways: 2 November 1995; 2.11.95; 2 Nov. '95; November 11th 1995; November 11 1995.

The recipients address.

aThe same punctuation rules apply here as for the sender's address.

b The name of the person (or his/her official title) should be included. A clergyman should be addressed as The Rev John Smith, or The Rev Mr. Smith. A Member of Parliament should be addressed as Mary Jones MP.


The salutation

aThe standard beginning to a business letter is

Dear Sir, but others are used in certain circumstances:

Dear Sirs, when the letter is addressed to a partnership;

Dear Madam, whether a woman is single or married;

Mesdames, when a partnership consists of women only.

bThe first letter of each word should begin with the capital letter.

cThe salutation should be followed by a comma.


The main body of the letter

This is the most important part of the letter, because it contains the message. Bear in mind that effective communication should be as simple as possible. Therefore,

aDon't include any unnecessary information.

bExpress yourself as concisely as possible.

c Start a new paragraph for each point you wish to make.

dConfirm to all standard punctuation and grammar rules.

NOTE. Many business letters fall easily into the framework of a three-paragraph plan, which can be generally summarized as:

Paragraph 1 Introduction: this can be an acknowledgement, a reference to previous communication, or any generally informative statement which introduces your main theme.

Paragraph 2 Specific information (facts/reasons).

Paragraph 3 Reference to further action/conclusion.


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