Despite the widespread use of e-mail in commerce today,
traditional business letters are still the main way
that the majority of businesses officially communicate
with their customers and other businesses.
This is especially true when businesses want to formalize
an agreement or an understanding. So far, emails are great
for all of the preparatory work, but a formal business
letter is still most often needed to "seal the deal".
There are two basic categories of business letters:
business-to-business, and business-to-customer.
Most business-to-business letters are written to confirm
things that have already been discussed among officials in
meetings, on the telephone, or via e-mail.
Can you imagine the letters that would have to go back and
forth to cover all of the questions and possibilities that
can be covered in a one-hour meeting, a half-hour phone
call, or a few quick e-mails?
The main purpose of a typical business letter is to
formalize the details that were arrived at in those
discussions, and to provide any additional information
that was agreed upon.
Over the years, certain general standards have evolved in
the business world that the vast majority of businesses
use in drafting their business-to-business correspondence.
There are many different types of business to customer
letters. They include: sales and marketing letters,
information letters, order acknowledgement letters, order
status letters, collection letters, among others.
As with business-to-business letters, over the years
certain general standards have evolved in the business
world that the vast majority of businesses use in drafting
letters to existing and potential customers.
Of course, going in the other direction are customer to
business letters. These include: order letters, order
status inquiry letters, complaint letters, and others.
Since these are customer-generated letters, there is no
particular expectation that they follow any particular
letter-writing standard. Typically, they are handled just
like any other piece of personal correspondence.
BUSINESS LETTER WRITING TIPS
Here are a few tips I have picked up while writing literally
hundreds of business letters over the past 20+ years. This is
a slightly modified version of the tips included in my eBook,
"Instant Business Letter Kit".
1. Limit Them To One Page
By definition, business letters should be short and to the
point, preferably one page in length. Studies have found that
busy business people do not like to read beyond the first
page, and will actually delay reading longer letters.
2. Relegate Technical Details To Attachments
Often, it is necessary to include detailed technical
information as part of a business letter package. In such
cases, use the main letter as a cover letter that lists and
briefly explains the attached (or enclosed) documents.
3. Keep Them Formal and Factual
Generally speaking, the tone and content of business letters
should be formal and factual. Feelings and emotions do not
have a place in business letters.
4. Carefully Plan Your Letter
Before writing the letter, take a few minutes to list all of
the specific points you need to cover. Sometimes it may even
mean a call to the recipient or his/her company to confirm a
specific point. Remember, the purpose of the letter is to tie
up all of the details on the subject at hand, so that more
letters won't have to be written back and forth.
5. Be Customer Friendly
When writing directly to customers, always focus on their
needs and their perspective. Put yourself in their position
and imagine what it would be like receiving your letter.
Everyone can do this, since we are all customers of some
other business in some part of our lives.
6. Use Non-Discriminatory Language
Make sure that you avoid language that is specific to gender,
race, or religion in all business letters, either to other
businesses, or to customers. For example, use "workforce"
instead of "manpower", or "chairperson" rather than "chairman".
Most style guides contain detailed lists of the offensive
terms and some suggested substitutes.
To see a fully-formatted "real-life template" of a business
letter, you can check out the following link:
? 2005 by Shaun Fawcett
Shaun Fawcett, is webmaster of the popular writing help site
WritingHelp-Central.com. He is also the author of several
best selling "writing toolkit" eBooks. All of his eBooks and
his internationally acclaimed f-r-e-e course, "Tips and Tricks
For Writing Success" are available at his writing tools site: