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Business Letter Writing

True, electronic mails are slowly taking over hand-written letters (ref: video below). This is indeed sad, because letters written by hand, especially the personal ones, have (or is it had?) their own charm… a personal touch, the touch of hands, both of the writer and the reader. But I don’t think e-mails can completely take over letter writing. Letters will remain, especially formal or business letters. These still are, and will, remain important; though, of course, they are not written by hand anymore, but are typed on the computer and then printed out. Still, they are letters, and are written and used daily in all offices and homes.

Writing business letters is an art in itself. Business letters have to be written effectively in order to convey the right message. And in order to be effective, they have to be well written in the proper format. And for that, certain guidelines have to be followed  —

A business letter should be aimed at the reader’s needs. What are the reader’s needs? They are relevant information presented in an easy-to-understand style. So make your letter clear, helpful, and as friendly as the topic allows. The key principles of business letter writing are:

  • Keep it short: Cut useless words, needless information, and stale phrases.
  • Keep it simple: Use familiar words, short sentences and paragraphs, and a simple conversational style.
  • Keep it strong: Start subject matter in the first paragraph, use concrete words and examples, and do not stray from the subject.
  • Keep it sincere: Write as if you were talking to the reader, and be as friendly as possible.

Use active verbs rather than passive verbs. Passive verbs are long-winded, ambiguous and impersonal. Active verbs are simpler, less formal, and more precise.

The start:

Dear Sir or Madam (if you don’t know who you are writing to)

Dear Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms (use if you know who you are writing to, and have a formal relationship with)

The finish:

Yours faithfully (if you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to)

Yours sincerely or Yours truly (if you know the name of the person you’re writing to)

Best wishes or Best regards, (if the person is a close business contact or friend)

A business letter may be written in different formats, depending on the situation.

Look at the different formats of business letters here.

Samples of written business letters may be seen here.

So, what do you think? Is letter writing a dying art?

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One Response

  1. It’s true that letters haven’t quite disappeared – but I think we all write fewer than we did five or even two years ago. The problem for me is that I am now used to filing emails and keeping them for reference. I don’t have many paper files any more so would be worried about losing the audit trail if I wrote/received letters.

    However I think that many of the points that you make about emails also apply to letters. Too many business people write inappropriately informal emails, giving altogether the wrong impression to the recipient! I One client told me recently that she received a job application written in text speak! ‘I wd lk 2 wrk 4 u’. My client sent a brief acknowledgement but the application went straight in the bin.

    Thanks for an interesting post.


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