The Features of Business Letters
This site gives you many examples of business letters written for a number of common reasons. Despite the differences in their contents and the reasons why they are written, they all have features in common which make them good business letters. We concentrate on those features, so you will learn how to incorporate them into your own letters and so be able to construct good, clear and effective business letters when the need arises.
A business letter differs from a personal or a social letter in several important respects.
The Letterhead :
The reader of a business letter needs to know WHO it is from. That is, the NAME of the organization on whose behalf it was written and sent. In order to respond to the letter, the reader needs to know the ADDRESS to which to reply. Therefore, the addressor’s postal or mailing address plus telephone and/or fax number and / or email address should be stated.
A business letter produced on a typewriter might be typed on a prepared sheet of paper which has a printed heading giving details of the organization on whose behalf the letter is being written.
That is called a letterhead. Preprinted letterheads might also still be used when letters are produced by computer-controlled printers. However, commonly the letterhead is incorporated into the text of a word processed letter and both are transmitted and / or printed out at one time.
Letterheads can be setup and inserted into or typed into emails. However, it is far too common a mistake for the addressor’s address to be omitted from emails. A sender might expect the addressee to reply by email. But the addressee might not wish to do so. Or it might not be feasible for the addressee to do so. For example, if a printed catalogue or samples of products need to be sent with the response letter.
A Reference or Code :
A business letter often - but not always - includes a typewritten reference or code to identify it.
The Greeting and the Close :
The greetings (or salutation) which is at the beginning of the letter and the closing - or complimentary close - at the end of the main body of the letter have special forms which are customary in business letters.
The Language :
Whatever the actual language (English or any other) used, the contents of the letter should be carefully constructed so that the wording of the letter is clear, is brief and so that its meaning is easy to understand and to assimilate quickly. It is most important that the wording used in a business letter is free from the possibility of ambiguity or misunderstanding. It the reader of a business letter cannot understand or misunderstands or misinterprets the meaning of a letter, serious problems can arise.
We explain all these important points about business letters to you by examining the typical business letters. Take careful note of the ways in which the different parts of the letter are set out. The top portion - the letterhead - might be preprinted on a sheet of paper in advance and might not be typed as is the text - or body - of the actual letter.
The separate paragraphs of a business letter should deal with the separate topics involved and should be presented step by step in a logical order.
Commonly that order will be…
First refer to the correspondence or the event which has given rise to the need to write the letter, that is, the reason why it has been written.
Then state the writer’s views.
Finally make clear what the writer wants the addressee to do.
As we have already explained, every business letter should have a definite objective. And the letter should be written in the manner and in the tone best suited to achieving that goal. It might have to be persuasive, conciliatory, apologetic, cajoling or coaxing, commanding, requesting, insistent, demanding, informative, explanatory and so on according to the circumstances and the character of the addressee.
Whatever might be the tone of a particular letter, the language (whether that is English or another) in which it is written must be in good, correct, simple grammar and composition. The language must be clear and must be within the understanding of the addressee - the intended reader.
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