Business letters are valuable tools in the professional world and play vital roles in the daily decisions made by every company, employee, client, and other professionals. They often possess a clear purpose that requires or requests action from the recipient.
The business letter format used for constructing these messages also needs to be clear and straightforward so it shows a clear understanding of the professional task at hand, and the best way to respond to that task.
Below, we will look at what a business letter is, what it comprises, and how to use this business letter format to create professional messages that present your purpose in a clear and concise manner and achieve your objectives.
What Is a Business Letter
A business letter is a document used for correspondences between companies or between professionals. Companies often use business letters to correspond with employees, clients, and other stakeholders. Understanding how to use a traditional business letter format is valuable in many professional circumstances, including applying for a job, writing reference letters, or delivering professional information.
The Need for a Business Letter
In the professional world, a business letter is often also the first impression you will make on your recipient. Therefore, a good business letter that follows the proper business letter format is an invaluable professional tool.
A business letter uses business writing, which is considerably different from writing in many other disciplines. Business writing typically caters to an audience with limited time for reading and that needs to find the point of the letter quickly and easily understand how they should respond to it.
Business writing should direct, precise, and accurate. You should write business letters using an active voice rather than a passive voice and in a tone and manner that is concise but not blunt or harsh. You should take care to proofread your business letters carefully and more than once.
Following a traditional business letter format will help you construct business letters that adhere to these characteristics and that conveys the information you are presenting effectively.
Ways to Construct a Professional Business Letter
A business letter is a formal document that adheres to certain professional standards for the clear presentation of information and communications.
Before you write your business letter, review the purpose and requirements implied by the specific task. For example, there may be specific requirements you need to follow if you are crafting a response to a job opening advertisement or proposal submission. List out these requirements to serve as an outline and guide you in your writing.
Once you have listed your requirements, identify the specific objectives or qualifications that align with those requirements. As with your letter, be concise and accurate in identifying these objectives.
Identify any relevant industry-specific terminology that may highlight your own experience and knowledge if used in your letter, but do not use language that may confuse or mislead your audience.
A well-written completed business letter will show what the specific requirements were that you identified and how you successfully met those requirements through the objectives or qualifications you presented.
The Business Letter Format
While the information included in a business letter may differ depending on whether you are writing an application letter or a cover letter or submitting a proposal, these letters all typically follow the same business letter format.
The business letter format contains five major parts: contact information for the writer and the recipient; greeting or salutation; the body of the letter; closing; and signature.
The contact information section of the business letter format contains all the details needed to contact the sender of the letter. These details belong in a succinct list before the recipient's contact information and should adhere to the following format:
The recipient’s information follows the sender's information and has a similar format:
Following contact information for both the sender and the recipient, the next section of the business letter format is the greeting or salutation.
A salutation follows one of these formats, depending on how you know the person or entity you are addressing:
- "To Whom It May Concern," is appropriate when you are unsure of who specifically the recipient is that you are addressing.
- “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Last Name],” is a formal greeting appropriate for when you do not know the recipient informally.
- “Dear [First Name],” is appropriate only when you already have an informal relationship with the letter's recipient.
When constructing the body section of the business letter format, be sure to follow these basic rules:
- Use single-spaced lines
- Add a single space between each paragraph, after the greeting, and before the closing
- Left justify the letter
This format of this portion of the business letter must afford for clear, precise, and effective communication. It is imperative that the body of the letter reads smoothly, exercises proper grammar and syntax, while achieving the proper tone for the message.
The tone of your letter should enhance its message. Unlike academic or personal correspondence, the streamlined business letter format presents a clear message that uses simple, but effective language. State the purpose of the letter plainly, avoiding filler and striving for brevity.
Supporting paragraphs should follow suit. They should provide support, or evidence, that solidifies the purpose of your letter to the reader. It's important to keep the information flowing at a steady pace, free from unnecessary or confusing rhetoric.
When considering the purpose of your letter, make concise choices about how to effect achieve your goal. If the intent of your letter is to gain employment or to request a professional reference, then use the body to showcase your experience or skills.
If your letter's intent is to inspire new investors, then highlight the prospective business growth of your company. Regardless of the message, the most important factor is focus–present a clear message that communicates to the reader effectively in a professional tone.
A short closing paragraph should restate the purpose of your letter and offer appreciation to the recipient for their time and consideration.
When closing, consider the nature of the relationship with the recipient. If the connection is formal, then choose a formal closing:
- Respectfully yours,
When the closing calls for a more informal tone, then choose an informal closing:
- Thank you,
- All the best,
When signing your letter, the traditional business letter format dictates you insert four single spaces after the closing. This ensures plenty of room for a handwritten signature before your typed name and title (along with any other information you wish to include).
However, if your letter is being sent in a nontraditional format, like email, then you may place contact information below the signature and not at the beginning of the correspondence–save for the subject of the letter in the email header.
Business Letter Example
The following is an example of a business letter written with the purpose of getting a writer position for a sample company:
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
Thank you for the opportunity to write for your exciting company. I am a graduate student working on a Master of Humanities in English and have recently completed my second novel. Professionally, I write original curriculum and testing material for State University’s testing center.
My extensive background in academic and professional writing makes me a valuable candidate for this position. I would love to apply my passion for research and writing to your specialized publications.
I look forward to elaborating on how my specific skills and abilities would benefit your organization. Please contact me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or via email at Email@domain.com at your convenience.
Thank you for your consideration,
Your Typed Name
A professional business letter - one that follows the business letter format above - is essential in many professional situations.
You can use a business letter to showcase your skills and accolades to persuade executives to hire you for that position you have always wanted. A well-written business letter can highlight your company's achievements and goals to inspire funding from new investors.
The process is simple. Identify the requirements of your letter based on the specific task you are trying to accomplish whether it's applying for a job or responding to a course prompt in your business class. Then highlight the objectives or qualifications that meet those requirements.
Package that information into a letter using the business letter format above, using a concise tone and emphasizing relevancy and accuracy to the task.
Use this business letter format in your own professional life to make better decisions for yourself and your company, and to begin to achieve your own professional goals and objectives.