Even in this age of technology, where emails and messages are binging away, letters are the most effective mode of communication with people who are far off as this indicate the quality time you’ve spent in contacting a person, who in turns gets the sense of importance necessary to improve your impression. I f we pay attention to simple details and follow the business letter writing etiquette, it’ll surely reflect on our levels of success. Mastering the craft of writing effective business letters is just an article away…
Business letters are also known as formal letters. They are impersonal and require one to follow decorum by using formal language. Such letters include inquiry, ordering, reference, applications, proposals, etc. In these letters a formal tone should be adopted.
Parts of a Business letter
The date line can be written on the right or flush-left of the documentary. It includes the date, month and the year. It can be written in one of the following ways:
30 March 2014
March 30, 2014
But refrain from using abbreviations for the month or adding superscripts to the numerals like 30th.
These are the special references to sources like files, account, orders, invoices, etc. They are sometimes centered but usually written below the dateline. If the letter extends over a page, all the succeeding pages should hold the reference line on top.
This is the notation also found on the face side of the envelope and state the privacy of the letter. It generally says “PERSONAL” if it’s intended for private matters or “CONFEDENTIAL” if it’s one for the company authorities. In the letter it should be written four to five lines below the dateline, and the inside address should be started after two lines of this notation.
Inside address of the Recipient
It should be at a minimum distance of eight lines from the dateline. It includes the following:
Addressee’s courtesy title and full name: Be careful to write prefixes such as “Dr.” if the person holds such a degree. If they don’t, you can go along with a general Mr. / Miss / Mrs. If you are unsure of the title, you can call in the firm to confirm it. If you’re not aware of the marital status of the woman, you can always write “Ms.” that is acceptable for both. If you’re not aware of the gender of the person, you can always drop the courtesy title and write “Dear” and this can also be followed in the salutation. Though awkward, this would prevent you from causing unintended offences.
Addressee’s business title, when required: This will depend on the purpose of your letter. If it is suitable, you can omit this line. However be careful to write it as:
Mr. John Smith
and not as: President John Smith
Name of the business: You should write the name of the company as it is. Check their letter heads or websites and copy it exactly. If they write Ltd instead of Limited, write that. No questions asked just copy it off.
Full address: Write the full address of the firm where the letter is to be received. The street, name, building number, ZIP code should be included.
Usually it is a simple “Dear Mr. _____ / Ms. ______” It is a rule that you salute a person in the manner you address him in person. If you are on a first name terms with the person concerned, it’s well and good for you to use that, but if something else, then stick to that.
If you’re addressing it to a company or department instead, write “Dear Alpha Company” or “Dear Financial headquarters” or simply “Dear Financial Head”.
Keep it short, precise and to the point. Keep it to one page if possible. It can range from one paragraph to several more…maybe a few pages. But make sure to adopt a formal tone and make it as short as possible. In the bargain, don’t miss out on important points as it may leave a bad impression.
Even here, stay brief but friendly. If you are on close terms with the person you can send regard for family members but if not you can simply state “I am looking forward to talking to you” or “You can contact me on 9876543210 for further information or copies”. Finish your letter with a show of gratitude for attention but don’t thank them for something they have yet not accomplished.
A complimentary close is a must. Aligned flush-left, you can end like “Yours truly” or “Sincerely Yours”. If you’re on a first name basis with him or her, you can end like “Regards”. “Cordially” is also a very good choice.
Below that is placed the handwritten signature and the typed one. The typed signature would include your title (Ph.D. or Mr. or Ms.) and would also include your company name and your position. If the letter is presented by more than one person, everyone’s signature should be included.
If you are hiring a typist for the purpose of typing your letter, its initials are mentioned two lines below the signature block.
If you are enclosing attachments, it is mentioned here in the following way: “encl.” or “enc.”
If the number of enclosures is more than one, then write “Enclosure (2)” or “Enclosure (3)” bracketing the number of enclosures. If you are mailing something separately, mention it as in “Separate mailing: Annual Reports 2014”
Postscripts are undesirable as they mark your irresponsibility. It points out your poor presentation in leaving out information from the main body.
By following these guidelines, you can write a letter as artful as possible. And if it’s your first letter, remember – First impression is the last impression.
Glam up your writing skills and make it to the top!