4 Characteristics Of A Good Business Letter

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A good business letter should be easy to read

A good business letter should have short paragraphs to increase its chances of being read quickly. A quick glance is enough for the recipient to decide whether to read the letter there and there or shove it aside and read it later when they have time. The larger the paragraphs, the greater the chance the letter will be shoved aside, most likely never to be read forever.

Each paragraph should cover one main idea. Make sure the topic of the paragraph is clearly covered in the first line or two. Don’t let the reader go through an entire paragraph before find out what the paragraph’s main idea is. The reader should be able to get the main idea of the paragraph by scanning the first sentences of paragraph.

Besides short paragraphs, a good business letter should have shorter sentences and shorter words that are easy to understand. No more than 15 words per sentence. Use common everyday language to make sure the recipient comprehend the message quickly. Avoid using unnecessary technical jargon.

Another way to improve the readability of a business letter is to use bulleted or numbered lists whenever possible.

A good business letter should speak to the recipient personally

For your business letter to garner the interest of the reader, it should speak to the reader directly and personally. The letter must be written in a way that expresses empathy for the reader’s perspective. One way to do that is to use a lot more "you" than "I" or "we" language.

An example of business letter that does not speak to the recipient personally:

Dear Sir/Madam

At Sytech Learning Academy, providing the best academic content to our readers is our first priority. We tend to our readers’ needs by providing them the best academic content they can find online. In line with that, we are introducing business communication courses that we know are sure to meet our valued customers’ an through insight into how to communicate on a business level.

An example of business letter that speaks to the recipient personally:

Dear Valued Reader

Providing you, our valued reader, with the best academic content is our first priority at Sytech Learning Academy. Your academic needs are important to us. So we have recently introduced business communication courses to help you learning how to communicate with your business associates.

A good business letter treats the reader with courtesy

If you are writing a letter to tell someone what they should do, what they should have done or what they shouldn’t have done, do so courteously and politely. Nobody wants a commanding letter. Avoid using expressions like "you must bla bla bla", "you should have…" or "you shouldn’t have done bla bla bla".

Instead of commanding your readers, show them why they should have doing things differently in an way that appeals to their empathy. It helps to use phrases like "To help you solve… you might consider…" or "To help you achieve your desired goals…"

A good business letter should be straight to the point

Go straight to the point and reveal what the letter is all about as early as possible, lest the reader lose interest before reaching the point. Most readers lose interest if the letter doesn’t reveal its intention in the first three lines.

Example of a complaint letter that doesn’t get straight to the point:

Dear Sytech Learning Academy

I want to thank you for such a wonderful service you are offering. We joined your premium service a month ago and managed to download some useful worksheets for our son doing O level Physics. Your website worked like a charm and we even enjoyed your articles. Even when we used the free service, we enjoyed it. Yesterday I tried to download the latest question papers.

When I tried to download the latest question papers, your website kept on loading like forever. It seems like the "latest question papers" service doesn’t work. As a premium member, I felt disappointed.

My God, this is supposed to be a complaint letter. A busy person might read the first paragraph and consider it an appreciation letter before tossing it aside. Go straight to the point and spell out your complaint as early as possible. Like this:

Dear Sytech Learning Academy

Please help us access the "latest question papers" section. Everytime I click the download button your website keeps loading but nothing happens. I am looking forward to you solving the issue as soon as possible.

However, be careful of sounding brash. There are rare exceptional situations where getting right to the point is not advisable. Such as when writing about bad news. You can’t just write "We have award the contract to your competitor. Please try applying the next time". A letter meant to convey bad news increases the reader’s pain if written that way. When dealing with bad news, think about how you would want to hear it, then write it that way.

There are basically two types of letters where you should think carefully about getting straight to the point:

  • A letter conveying bad news.
  • A persuasion or proposal letter.

Juliet Muturuki

Quantity Surveyor and Freelance Writer.


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