The Business Letter
Knowing how to write effective business letters is a practical skill. Business letters serve a variety of purposes from expressing complaints to requesting information to applying for jobs, and how well writers present themselves in business letters can have a significant impact on their futures.
Business letters follow simple formats and are typically concise. Most audiences do not wish to read a business letter over a page in length; however, occasionally it may be necessary to write longer letters. The expected format includes three paragraphs as well as the other obligatory parts of a letter: dateline, addresses, salutation, and complimentary close. Several typed formats are acceptable for business letters. One popular format is block style, where all information is generated from (or flush with) the left margin.
Unless letterhead is used, the first section of a business letter is the sender's address, known as the "heading." No abbreviations other than the state abbreviation are used in the addresses within a business letter. This address should be single spaced. After this address but within the heading, the date is included. Two lines are skipped and the "inside address" appears. It too is single spaced. Unlike the address in the heading, which does not include the sender's name, the inside address includes the recipient's name. No abbreviations except for the state should be used in this address either.
Double space again between the inside address and the salutation. The salutation should read Dear + Title + First and Last Names of the recipient. It should be followed by a colon (:) instead of a comma. Writers should then double space between the salutation and the body of the letter.
The first paragraph should be devoted exclusively to identifying the writer and stating the purpose for writing. The second paragraph should relate any narrative or details pertinent to the situation. Finally the third paragraph should state appreciation for any action the reader might take regarding the previous contents of the letter.
The letter closes with a complimentary close located flush with the left margin and double spaced beyond the body of the letter. The close should be formal, i.e. "Sincerely" as opposed to personal--"Love always." Following the close should be four lines and then the typed version of the sender's name. Any enclosures should be itemized following the notation enc:, located three spaces below the typed name. Copies of the letter sent to other recipients may be noted at this same spot by the notation cc:.
Writers should also remember always to sign business letters. A signature provides the letter with a personal touch and at the same time authenticates its validity.