How To Write A Business Letter

If you own a small business, chances are that sooner or later you are going to be required to write actual business letters. Circumstances that might force you to write a business letter include:

  • making a formal complaint
  • delivering a heartfelt thanks.

Writing a business letter follows a standard that has been the same for centuries the world over. However, there are are some minute details that can change to suit the writer’s and the reader’s needs. For example, the writer might include their telephone number or e-mail address in the letter’s heading, though it is not standard. The main parts of a business letter are essentially the same.

The most common format when writing a business letter is know as the block format. This is the format shown in the example below. Using this format, the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.

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Example of a structure of a business letter

Sydney Chako
8359-2

Mbizo, Kwekwe, zw

December 14, 2021

Reference: Student Number 14343-S

Juliet Muturuki, Students Welfare Representative
Sytech Learning Academy
1997 Railway Avenue
Mbizo Kwekwe

Attention: Students Liaison Officer

Dear Ms. Muturuki:

Subject: XXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX
XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXX

Sincerely,

Sydney Chako

Parts of a business letter


Heading or letterhead

A business letter typically starts with a letterhead that shows who is sending the letter. For most companies the letterhead is usually preprinted on the company’s stationery. The letterhead generally includes the sender’s name and a full address.

Date

A business letter should include a date, written in full to avoid any confusion. For example December 14, 2021.

Reference line

A business letter usually includes a single reference line to help identify the query, account, customer, or file number. The reference line helps the recipient to quickly find the information he or she needs to help you.

Recipient address

This part contains the recipient’s full name and address. Though the recipient’s address is put on the envelop, it is a requirement for it to be included on the letter itself. This is because the letter may end up getting separated it from its envelope.

The recipient’s address should include:

  • recipient’s name, if you know it
  • recipient’s job title
  • department name
  • organization name
  • and a fully spelled address.

Attention line

Attention line helps to indicate the department or person who should handle or act upon the letter. The attention line should also be included on the envelope. There are many different ways of writing the attention line:

  • “Attention”, then the name of the person who should handle your letter and the recipient’s address for example:
    • Attention: Juliet Muturuki, Students Welfare Representative
      Sytech Learning Academy
      1997 Railway Avenue
      Mbizo, Kwekwe, zw
  • Or the attention line might be written after the recipient’s address. This way, the attention line indicates the individual who should handle the letter if the addressed recipient is not available. If you don’t know the second person’s name, you can put the position or department name to ensure that the letter wont get lost. For example:
    • Juliet Muturuki, Students Welfare Representative
      Sytech Learning Academy
      1997 Railway Avenue
      Mbizo Kwekwe
      Attention: Students Liaison Officer

Salutation

This part is the greeting. It typically begins with the word “Dear.” Then followed by the title and full name of the recipient. Salutation on a business letter typically end with a colon (:), but may also end with a comma for a more casual business approach. Usually a comma is preferred if you used the recipient’s first name in the salutation. For example:

  • Dear Miss Muturuki:
  • Dear Juliet Muturuki:
  • Dear Juliet,

Subject line

The subject line sets the tone of the letter and clearly states to the recipient what the letter is all about.

Body of the letter

The body is the main text content of the letter. The body is typed leaving a blank line between each two paragraphs. The first paragraph, should contain a friendly opening and then a statement of the main point.

The second paragraph should begin by justifying the importance of the main point brought out in the first paragraph. No new point should be introduced in subsequent paragraphs. They should be there to continue justifying the main point with background information and supporting details.

The closing paragraph should reiterate the purpose of the letter and, if applicable, request some type of action.


Closing a business letter

A business letter is closed by a polite sign-out generally composed of a word or two. The closing of the letter reflects the level of formality of the letter. If the close of the letter is made of more than one word, capitalise only the first word.

Examples of appropriate business closes:

  • Sincerely,
  • Yours sincerely,
  • Respectfully,
  • Cordially,
  • Regards,
  • Kind regards,
  • Yours truly,

Juliet Muturuki

Quantity Surveyor and Freelance Writer.

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