Learning how to write a business letter is an integral part of successful entrepreneurship. If you don’t know how to write a business letter whenever you want to show your interest in another company, communicate with your clients or employees, or propose a partnership, your business simply won’t look professional.
Here’s the deal.
Clients expect your business to present itself in a certain way.
When businesses fail at that, customers think that you don’t value their business or know how to interact with them successfully. That’s why this seemingly small task is actually incredibly important. Business letters have their own language and formatting, which is why they have a bit of a learning curve.
So, how do you learn how to write a business letter?
Thankfully, mastering how to write a business letter isn’t difficult. All you need is to understand the different parts of a business letter, how they function, and how to use them. In this article, we’ll walk you through a few examples of how to write a business letter and what to keep in mind as you do.
What is the standard business letter format?
The first step on how to write a business letter is to follow a general structure.
Format: Font and Margins
In the United States and Canada, the proper size for business letters is 8½ x 11 inches. In most of the rest of the world, the appropriate size is known as A4 (approximately 8.27 x 11.69 inches). Make sure to observe the norm for your country, as it will be what your recipients expect.
Times New Roman is the most common and therefore most acceptable font. Size 12 is standard since it’s small enough to fit a lot of information on a page but big enough to be easily readable. You can also use Arial. Just avoid anything too different in style from Times New Roman, however. This will be distracting for whoever is reading your letter.
As with the other considerations about how to write a business letter, choose a font with your intended audience in mind.
The letterhead is vital because it’s the first thing the recipient sees upon opening your letter. Often, letterheads are just the company’s logo or some variation of it. This isn’t always the case, and an acceptable letterhead can also be the name of your company. (This is often the practice in specific sectors, like law offices.)
Make sure that your letterhead is clean and not too complicated. The goal is to represent your business’s brand, not to distract. Remember that business letters aren’t advertisements; they’re professional correspondence.
Your Company’s Information and Your Information
This one may seem obvious, but you must list your company’s contact information at the top of your letter. This includes your phone number (with your extension, if applies), email, and your title. This lets the recipient know exactly who you are and how to get ahold of you.
It’s vital to put the date of your writing at the top of your correspondence.
This is not just important for legal reasons, should any professional correspondence ever need to be cited in court. It’s also essential for helping you and your clients keep track of your correspondence. If you don’t date your letters, neither you nor your clients will know when you sent it, how quickly they were expected to respond, and whether the letter reflects the most up-to-date status of transactions and operations.
Recipient’s Contact Information
Attaching the contact information of your letter’s recipient is important not just on the envelope but also on the letter itself. That’s because the contact information ensures that the right party is reading the letter.
For example, whether you’re writing a business letter to a particular board member or the whole board of directors of another organization makes a difference. The only way for the recipient to know they’re the intended audience is to see their information on the letter.
Your business letter’s salutation should be brief, professional, and direct.
Unlike with personal correspondence, the salutation shouldn’t be too familiar, even if you know the recipient well. Showing this kind of professional respect is essential for communicating that you understand this is a serious business interaction. Make sure to use the proper titles of any named recipients.
The body of the letter contains your reasons for writing. It should be composed of an introduction and one or two following paragraphs.
It is a good idea to close your business letter with a professional but courteous farewell. An appropriate sign-off might be something like “Sincerely,” “Regards,” or simply, “Best.” This is followed, of course, by your full name and title.
Make sure to include your signature after your name in print. This shows that you are directly responsible for the letter and its contents. Signatures are traditionally written on each individual letter, but digital signatures have become commonplace and are generally acceptable.
If your letter is rather short, don’t try to fill the page with unnecessary text or information. It’s OK if your business letter has white space!
The Content of a Business Letter
Let’s talk about a couple of different scenarios where you would need to format a business letter.
Scenario 1: Cover Letter
When you are applying for a job, it is not enough to just send in your resume and application. You also have to introduce yourself in a cover letter. This gives interviewers an idea of who you are and what your skill set is.
But cover letters are not only used when applying for a job. As a business owner, you may want to send a cover letter to anyone you want to get to know your company, like potential partners or investors.
Follow these guidelines to write your cover letter:
- Provide your contact information
- Introduce yourself and give a summary of your experience
- Discuss your relevant skills and strength
- Politely explain why you think you are the right candidate for the position, why your recipient would benefit from your collaboration, or your simply your purpose for sending the letter
- Express excitement in the outcome and invite the recipient to contact you
Scenario 2: Application Letter
Like a cover letter, an application letter is sent to a prospective employer when you are applying for a job. The critical difference is that a cover letter serves as an introduction to a resume, while an application letter is a standalone product. However, they often cover much of the same material.
In this letter, you want to:
- Explain what job you are applying for and how you learned about the job listing
- Discuss how you can fulfill the needs and requirements of the job
- Share your related skills and experience
- Thank the letter recipient for their time, express excitement about speaking to them more, and provide your contact information
Scenario 3: Sales Letter
A sales letter is, as the name implies, a letter that pitches a product or service to a customer. While sales letters are essentially advertisements, they are also a type of business letter, and they require specific skills and organization.
A sales letter should include:
- A natural opening (avoiding sounding like you are making a sales pitch, but rather a personal outreach)
- An introduction that intrigues your audience
- A body that garners interest and identifies a problem
- An explanation of how you can provide the solution
- A call to action to encourage the reader to take advantage of your products or services
- A natural closing
Before you prepare your final draft, choose the right paper quality. Business letters should be printed on durable, clean paper. Many business owners overlook how much the quality of the paper can impact the overall image their letters convey. Make sure that the paper you use is not too thin or frail.
Start Writing Business Letters!
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