A business letter is an important part of business communication. A letter, whether sent by post or by e-mail, for business reasons, has to be written by taking certain points in mind. It has to follow a certain format and a certain tone. Here is an outline of the various steps that will teach you how to write a business letter.
The first thing to know is the Purpose of this letter. Why are you writing this letter? Is it to advertise / communicate a new business opportunity? Is this a complaint letter? Is this letter a part of an ongoing communication with another organization or person? The main idea is to know why you are writing this letter. This makes sure that you don't digress from the reason why you are communicating with an organization or a person in the first place. And, you can write the content of the letter accordingly. Once the purpose has been established, one can begin writing.
To and From Details
Like every typical letter, the letter should contain your or your organization's name and address, and the date on the top right-hand corner. Often, when letters are sent by post, they are sent on company stationery. This may usually contain these details. In this case, it is not required to repeat the obvious.
This rule is pretty relaxed in e-mail communications for business reasons. However, most business e-mails carry a Signature of the organization in an image format at the end of the mail, which contains the name, address, logo of the company, and the details of the sender, such as his designation and contact details.
Every letter begins with a Salutation. This is the greeting within the letter. This greeting can be "Dear Sir or Madam" if you do not know the name of the person with whom you are in the process of establishing a communication. If you know the name, then begin with a "Dear Mr./Ms./Mrs. Last-Name". In case the business relationship between you and the other person is on a first-name basis, use the first name.
The next part is the Reference. In typical letters sent between organizations or letters sent by post, there is often an alphanumeric reference number. This can be an organization's internal reference number. While replying to a letter, it is important therefore, to quote the reference number of
the letter you had received. You can quote this reference in the body of the letter in the form "With reference to your letter, ref num ABCD/03/07. " or "This is with reference to your letter, ref num ABCD/03/07, dated 12th March, 2007. ". Your organization's internal reference number can also be quoted before the salutation part of the letter.
In business e-mails, this reference is often quoted in the 'Subject' part of the e-mail, and is often a statement or a phrase such as "Re: Business Proposal."
The Main Content
Then we come to the important part of the letter, which is The Body of the Letter. This is the actual communication that you are sending out. Keeping in mind the purpose of the letter, state the reason for the communication within the first paragraph of the letter body. Then in the subsequent paragraphs, you can write more. Be sure that the language used is formal and that your points are stated clearly, and concisely.
The next aspect to consider is Enclosures. If you are attaching any documents along with the letter, please mention that at the end of the letter, after the Closing, in the format: "Encl:" followed by the list of the documents.
In an e-mail, you can mention this in the first paragraph of the Body of the Letter itself in the format: "Please find attached. ".
In this section, you create a platform for further interaction with statements such as "Looking forward to hearing from you", and "Please feel free to contact us with any queries, comments, or suggestions" or "Thanks for your help", or "Looking forward to meeting you. ".
After this section, you move to the Closing of the Letter. A simple, "Yours Sincerely", or a "Sincerely" should be followed by your signature, name, and designation.
The general trend is that the formality of language is comparatively more relaxed while communicating via e-mails.
Remember, the purpose of any communication is to convey a thought or an idea or something to another person. It is useful, therefore, to make sure you know what you are writing about and that you convey it in such a manner that the other person will understand what you have to say. Thus it is important to communicate in a way that avoids any confusion, and clearly conveys your thoughts.