A business letter is a formal communication from an organization to its customers, the general public for their information, another Company or the Authorities. It is often written in a standard format, and in formal language, compared to a private letter between two people who are well known to each other. The business letter will show things like the address and best way to communicate with the business – by return letter , e-mail or telephone. In general, the letter will be directed to a specific person and be about one topic. Sometimes, the business letter will be looking for a response, but might be to give important information about an up-coming change of address or telephone number. The letter might give information about new developments – a new website; launch of a new product. To allow the sender to handle any response more efficiently, the business letter might contain key information such as an internal reference from the sender or related to the product in question.
A written commitment to pay, by a buyer’s or importer’s bank (called the issuing bank) to the seller’s or exporter’s bank (called the accepting bank, negotiating bank, or paying bank). A letter of credit guarantees payment of a specified sum in a specified currency, provided the seller meets precisely-defined conditions and submits the prescribed documents within a fixed timeframe. These documents almost always include a clean bill of lading or air waybill, commercial invoice, and certificate of origin.
To establish a letter of credit in favor of the seller or exporter (called the beneficiary) the buyer (called the applicant or account party) either pays the specified sum (plus service charges) up front to the issuing bank, or negotiates credit. Letters of credit are formal trade instruments and are used usually where the seller is unwilling to extend credit to the buyer. In effect, a letter of credit substitutes the creditworthiness of a bank for the creditworthiness of the buyer. Thus, the international banking system acts as an intermediary between far flung exporters and importers. However, the banking system does not take on any responsibility for the quality of goods, genuineness of documents, or any other provision in the contract of sale.
Since the unambiguity of the terminology used in writing a letter of credit is of vital importance, the International Chamber Of Commerce (ICC) has suggested specific terms (called Incoterms) that are now almost universally accepted and used. Unlike a bill of exchange, a letter of credit is a nonnegotiable instrument but may be transferable with the consent of the applicant. Although letters of credit come in numerous types, the two most basic ones are (1) Revocable-credit letter of credit and (2) Irrevocable-credit letter of credit, which comes in two versions (a) Confirmed irrevocable letter of credit and (b) Not-confirmed irrevocable letter of credit.
B. Types of Business Letters
The most important element you need to ensure in any business letter is accuracy. One of the aspects of writing a business letter that requires the most accuracy is knowing which type of business letter you are writing. A number of options are available for those looking to trade in business correspondence, and you will significantly increase your odds for getting a reply if you know the form you need to send.
- Letter of Complaint
A letter of complaint will almost certainly result in an official response if you approach it from a businesslike perspective. Make the complaint brief, to the point and polite. Politeness pays off regardless of the extent of anger you are actually feeling while composing this type of business letter.
2. Resume Cover Letter
A cover letter that accompanies a resume should revel in its brevity. You should take as little time and as few words as possible to accomplish one task: persuading the reader to anticipate reading your resume. Mention the title of the job for which you are applying, as well or one or two of your strongest selling points.
3. Letter of Recommendation
A recommendation letter allows you to use a few well-chosen words to the effect of letting someone else know how highly you value a third party. Resist the temptation to go overboard; approach your recommendation in a straightforward manner that still allows you to get the point across.
4. Letter of Resignation
An official letter of resignation is a business letter that should be fair and tactful. Be wary of burning any bridges that you may need to cross again in the future. Offer a valid reason for your resignation and avoid self-praise.
5. Job Applicant Not Hired
In some cases you may be required to write a business letter that informs a job applicant that he was not chosen for an open position. Offer an opening note of thanks for his time, compliment him on his experience or education and explain that he was just not what the company is looking for at the present time.
6. Declining Dinner Invitation
Declining a dinner invitation is a topic for a business letter that, if not done tactfully, may result in a social disadvantage. Extend your appreciation for the invitation and mention that you already have an engagement for that date. Do not go into detail about what the engagement is.
7. Reception of Gift
It is very polite to return a formal business response letting someone know that you have received her gift. Extend a personalized thanks to let her know that you are exactly aware of the contents of the gift. If possible, it is a good idea to include a sentiment suggesting that you have put the gift to use.
8. Notification of Error
When sending a business letter that lets the receiving party know that an error has been corrected, it is good business sense to include a copy of the error in question if there is paperwork evidence of it. Make the offer of additional copies of material involved in the error if necessary.
9. Thanks for Job Recommendation
A letter of thanks for a party that helped you get a job should be professional and courteous. Above all else, avoid the temptation to go overboard in offering your thanks. Be aware that your skills also helped you land the job and it was likely not handed to you as a result of the third party.
10. Information Request
A business letter that requests information should make the request specific and perfectly understandable. It is also a good idea to state the reason for the information request. Extend advance appreciation for the expected cooperation of the recipient.
C. Parts of Business Letters
A business letter is more formal than a personal letter. It should have a margin of at least one inch on all four edges. It is always written on 8½”x11″ (or metric equivalent) unlined stationery. There are six parts to a business letter.
- The Heading (The Retern Address) or Letterhead – Companies usually use printed paper where heading or letterhead is specially designed at the top of the sheet. It bears all the necessary information about the organisation’s identity.
- Date – Date of writing. The month should be fully spelled out and the year written with all four digits October 12, 2005
(12 October 2005 – UK style). The date is aligned with the return address. The number of the date is pronounced as an ordinal figure, though the endings st, nd, rd, th, are often omitted in writing. The article before the number of the day is pronounced but not written. In the body of the letter, however, the article is written when the name of the month is not mentioned with the day.
- The Inside Address – In a business or formal letter you should give the address of the recipient after your own address. Include the recipient’s name, company, address and postal code. Add job title if appropriate. Separate the recipient’s name and title with a comma. Double check that you have the correct spelling of the recipient ‘s name.
The Inside Address is always on the left margin. If an 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper is folded in thirds to fit in a standard 9″ business envelope, the inside address can appear through the window in the envelope.
- The Greeting – Also called the salutation. The type of salutation depends on your relationship with the recipient. It normally begins with the word “Dear” and always includes the person’s last name. Use every resource possible to address your letter to an actual person. If you do not know the name or the sex of of your reciever address it to Dear Madam/Sir (or Dear Sales Manager or Dear Human Resources Director). As a general rule the greeting in a business letter ends in a colon (US style). It is also acceptable to use a comma (UK style).
- The Subject Line (optional) – Its inclusion can help the recipient in dealing successfully with the aims of your letter. Normally the subject sentence is preceded with the word Subject: or Re: Subject line may be emphasized by underlining, using bold font, or all captial letters. It is usually placed one line below the greeting but alternatively can be located directly after the “inside address,” before the “greeting.”
- The Body Paragraphs – The body is where you explain why you’re writing. It’s the main part of the business letter. Make sure the receiver knows who you are and why you are writing but try to avoid starting with “I”. Use a new paragraph when you wish to introduce a new idea or element into your letter. Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented. Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.
- The Complimentary Close – This short, polite closing ends always with a comma. It is either at the left margin or its left edge is in the center, depending on the Business Letter Style that you use. It begins at the same column the heading does. The traditional rule of etiquette in Britain is that a formal letter starting “Dear Sir or Madam” must end “Yours faithfully”, while a letter starting “Dear ” must end “Yours sincerely”. (Note: the second word of the closing is NOT capitalized)
- Signature and Writer’s identification – The signature is the last part of the letter. You should sign your first and last names. The signature line may include a second line for a title, if appropriate. The signature should start directly above the first letter of the signature line in the space between the close and the signature line. Use blue or black ink.
- Initials, Enclosures, Copies – Initials are to be included if someone other than the writer types the letter. If you include other material in the letter, put ‘Enclosure’, ‘Enc.’, or ‘ Encs. ‘, as appropriate, two lines below the last entry. cc means a copy or copies are sent to someone else.
D. Styles of Business Letters
- Return Address: If your stationery has a letterhead, skip this. Otherwise, type your name, address and optionally, phone number. These days, it’s common to also include an email address.
- Date: Type the date of your letter two to six lines below the letterhead. Three are standard. If there is no letterhead, type it where shown.
- Reference Line: If the recipient specifically requests information, such as a job reference or invoice number, type it on one or two lines, immediately below the Date (2). If you’re replying to a letter, refer to it here. For example,
- Re: Job # 625-01
- Re: Your letter dated 1/1/200x.
- Special Mailing Notations:Type in all uppercase characters, if appropriate. Examples include
- SPECIAL DELIVERY
- CERTIFIED MAIL
- On-Arrival Notations: Type in all uppercase characters, if appropriate. You might want to include a notation on private correspondence, such as a resignation letter. Include the same on the envelope. Examples are
- Inside Address: Type the name and address of the person and/or company to whom you’re sending the letter, three to eight lines below the last component you typed. Four lines are standard. If you type an Attention Line (7), skip the person’s name here. Do the same on the envelope.
- Attention Line: Type the name of the person to whom you’re sending the letter. If you type the person’s name in the Inside Address (6), skip this. Do the same on the envelope.
- Salutation:Type the recipient’s name here. Type Mr. or Ms. [Last Name] to show respect, but don’t guess spelling or gender. Some common salutations are
- Dear Sir:
- Dear Sir or Madam:
- Dear [Full Name]:
- To Whom it May Concern:
- Subject Line: Type the gist of your letter in all uppercase characters, either flush left or centered. Be concise on one line. If you type a Reference Line (3), consider if you really need this line. While it’s not really necessary for most employment-related letters, examples are below.
- SUBJECT: RESIGNATION
- LETTER OF REFERENCE
- JOB INQUIRY
- Body: Type two spaces between sentences. Keep it brief and to the point.
- Complimentary Close:What you type here depends on the tone and degree of formality. For example,
- Respectfully yours (very formal)
- Sincerely (typical, less formal)
- Very truly yours (polite, neutral)
- Cordially yours (friendly, informal)
- Signature Block: Leave four blank lines after the Complimentary Close (11)to sign your name. Sign your name exactly as you type it below your signature. Title is optional depending on relevancy and degree of formality. Examples are
- John Doe, Manager
- P. Smith
Director, Technical Support
- R. T. Jones – Sr. Field Engineer
- Identification Initials: If someone typed the letter for you, he or she would typically include three of your initials in all uppercase characters, then two of his or hers in all lowercase characters. If you typed your own letter, just skip it since your name is already in the Signature Block (12). Common styles are below.
- Enclosure Notation: This line tells the reader to look in the envelopefor more. Type the singular for only one enclosure, plural for more. If you don’t enclose anything, skip it. Common styles are below.
- Enclosures: 3
- Enclosures (3)
- cc: Stands for courtesy copies (formerly carbon copies). List the names of people to whom you distribute copies, in alphabetical order. If addresses would be useful to the recipient of the letter, include them. If you don’t copy your letter to anyone, skip it
|Lesson 29: Writing Business Letters >>> Parts of a Business Letter|