Any time you communicate with others on behalf of your company, you need to make sure that you’re representing your company well. Based on your business letters, what is the impression that you’re making on your clients, vendors, donors, and others? By knowing how to write a business letter, you can create professional documents that will impress your recipients and persuade them to take the action you want. To do this, you can follow these 8 easy steps.
Start by formatting your document properly. Use a letter-size document (8.5” wide and 11” high) with one-inch margins all the way around. Block paragraphs are the preferred format, which require you to push the Enter key twice between paragraphs and refrain from indenting any paragraph.
Also, choose an easy-to-read font, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Keep the size no smaller or larger than 12 points, and use black font. Remember that the format and font should add to the professionalism of the business letter and speak to your company’s brand.
2. Addresses and Date
Unless your company has a pre-designed letterhead that includes the address, you should begin your letter with the company’s address. Type it out on the top left corner of the paper (or right corner, if that’s your company’s preference). For example:
123 Corporate Road
Anywhere, CA 94704
Then, after a few blank lines, add the date. You could state it in either order: month-date-year (January 1, 2018) or date-month-year (1 January 2018).
After a few more blank lines, add the recipient’s contact information. It’s best to address the letter to a particular person who will be responsible for replying to you. If you don’t know who this person may be, it’s time to do some research. Then, write out the address like this:
Business Letter Liaison (the person’s title within the company)
321 Professional Way
Anywhere, NY 10001
The salutation that you include largely depends on the level of formality between you and the recipient. How well do you know him or her? If you have a more casual relationship with the recipient, you could use his or her first name. In this case, you could say “Dear Kim” or “Dear Steve”.
If you don’t know the recipient very well, use the person’s title and last name, such as “Dear Dr. Babcock” or “Dear Mrs. St. James”. If, however, you don’t know whether the recipient is a man or woman, you could use their full name. For example, you could say “Dear Kim St. James”.
As a last resort, you can use “To Whom It May Concern”. But, this salutation is impersonal, so it isn’t the best option for your business letter. If you choose to use it, remember to put a colon after the phrase. Otherwise, you should use a comma after the salutation.
4. Body Paragraphs
While crafting the body paragraph(s), remember that the recipient is a busy person. You don’t want to take up too much of their time with fluff, fancy transitions, or unfamiliar vocabulary. Instead, keep your letter brief, clear, and professional. Communicate your points in a way that will be easy to understand without the need to contact you for further information. Also, use personal pronouns—such as I, we, and you—to keep a conversational tone.
Additionally, remember the goal of your letter. More likely than not, you probably want to persuade the recipient in one way or another. Maybe you want that person to send money, fix an issue, take an action, or change his or her mind on an important issue. Whatever the case may be, you need to use supporting details to make your argument as effective as possible.
Another way to strengthen your argument is by using active voice rather than a passive one throughout your letter. With passive voice, the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. However, for active voice, the subject should do the action. For example:
- Passive: The letter was written by Johnny.
- Active: Johnny wrote the letter.
Do you see the difference between these sentences? Using active voice strengthens your ideas and elevates your writing. Therefore, aim for active voice whenever possible.
5. Additional Pages
Most business letters should stick to one page. If you need to use more pages, make sure to include a header. In this header, you could restate the recipient’s name, date, and an abbreviated address. It’s also important to include page numbers to help your recipient keep the pages in the correct order.
6. Concluding Paragraph
When you’ve finished writing the body paragraphs, consider starting your conclusion with a summary of your main points. What was your reason for writing the letter? Make sure to summarize that in your conclusion. For example, if you want to persuade a company to give you their business, make sure that you remind them of this fact in the conclusion. Briefly restate the reasons that they should choose your company over the competition.
Then, let the recipients know what the next step should be. Should they contact you for more information? Do you want them to write you back? Are you hoping that they send money? Make sure to clearly state what you want the recipient and their company to do.
End the letter by expressing your gratitude for their time. Remember that you’re addressing a busy person, so let him or her know how much you appreciate the time they took to read (and hopefully respond) to your letter. You could simply say something like “Thank you for your time and attention to this matter!”
Close your letter in a similar way to how you opened your letter. The closing that you choose should be respectful and echo the level of familiarity shown in the salutation. Some of the options for the closing include:
- Best wishes
- Thank you
- All the best
- Yours truly
Whichever one you choose, make sure to put a comma after the closing. Then, sign your name in blue or black ink. If you’re emailing the letter, upload a copy of your signature that you can paste into the letter after the closing. Then, add your contact information: email address, cell phone number, etc.
If you’re sending the business letter on behalf of your company, add “pp” under your name. This stands for per procurationem, which means “through the agency of” in Latin. By adding this to your letter, the recipient knows that you’re speaking for your company and not just for yourself.
Another thing that you could add to the end of the letter is CC, or carbon copy. This tells the recipient that they are receiving a copy of a letter that was sent to others. Then, you could list the other individuals who received the letter.
8. Optional Enclosure
Finally, are you including any other documents with your letter? If you want to include a contract, bill, advertisement, or other document, you need to write “Enclosure” or “Encl” at the end of your letter. You can add this a few lines after your signature. Also, you could make a quick note of what the enclosure is or how many pages are included.
The enclosure should be the last part of your business letter. However, if there are multiple people receiving the letter and enclosure(s), you should have “Enclosures” come before “CC”.
How to Write a Business Letter: Final Thoughts
A business letter needs to follow the proper format and formalities in order to appear professional to the recipients. You want your writing to provide a great first impression to clients, customers, vendors, associates, and others receiving communications from you.
What does your writing say about your company? Will it create the right impression? By following these steps on how to write a business letter, and checking your writing for spelling and grammar errors, you can craft a letter that will echo your company’s brand and impress the recipients.