Writing Business Letters

Adapted from Cain, The Basics of Technical Communicating,American Chemical Society:Washington, 1988

Introduction

Although there are many ways of communications, business letters remain the preferred means of communication when a permanent record of the communication is necessary. Often an enclosure such as a report accompanies the letter so the document is often called a cover letter. All letters have specific requirements. They must always be typed perferably on paper containing the letterhead of the company, organization or institution which contains the return address printed on it. You should always use a spelling and grammar checker before sending a letter.

Format of a Business Letter

If the stationary has the address of the company but does not contain the writer's address, this should be the first item on the letter. The date follows the writer's address. Followed by a double-spaced line comes the name, title, and mailing address of the recipient. A salutation followed by a colon separates the recipient's mailing address from the body of the letter. Always address the recipient by a title unless you and the recipient are on a first-name basis. Do not use a generic name such as "Sir" or "Madam" unless you do not know the identity of the recipient.

The body of the letter is separated from the salutation by double spaces. The body should be as concise as possible without omitting important information. The letter should typically have three paragraphs which are separated by double spaces. Typing within the paragraphs should be single-spaced. Paragraphs should not containly only one sentence.

The first paragraph is short and should give the purpose for writing and extend any cordialities that are desired. The second paragraph, the body of the letter, should present your message in complete but brief detail. The conclusion should be a short paragraph which will often contain a statemnt such as "If you need more information, please don't hesitate to write or call".

The body of the letter is separated from the closing by double spaces. Typically the closing will be "Sincerely", "Sincerely yours", etc. Your name followed by your title if you have one is typed below the closing leaving enough room for your signature between the two.

If the letter is typed by someone other than the author, the typist's initials are placed at the left margin following the closing usually in concert with the writer either as ABC:yz (initials of writer:initials of typist) or ABC/yz (initials of writer/initials of typist). If there are enclosures accompanying the letter, they should be indicated below the typist's initials at the left margin. Indicating the presence of enclosures alerts the reader to them. If they are missing the recipient can notify the sender of their absence. When multiple copies are enclosed, you should specify the number or identify them by name such as:

 

Enclosures (2)

Enclosures: Report
                 Contract

Get a Microsoft Word letter template for this assignment. All you have to do is download the template, type your information in place of the instructions and add your text.

 


Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to Arlene Courtney, courtna@wou.edu.
Last Modified Febrary 22, 2005