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Business Communication - How to Write a Formal Business Letter
Business communication -, how to write a formal business letter, business communication how to write a formal business letter.
Business Communication: How to Write a Formal Business Letter
Lesson 7: how to write a formal business letter.
How to write a formal business letter
Whenever you need to communicate with another company or share important news, business letters can present your message in a classic, polished style. Unlike internal memos, business letters are usually written from one company to another, which is why they’re so formal and structured . However, letters are also quite versatile, as they can be used for official requests, announcements, cover letters, and much more.
Despite the formality, letters can still have a friendly tone , especially because they include brief introductions before getting to the main point. Regardless of the tone you use in your letter, your writing should remain concise, clear, and easy to read.
Watch the video below to learn about formal business letters.
This lesson focuses on American business letters. Letters written in other parts of the world may have minor differences in formatting.
The structure of a business letter
The business letter’s precise structure is crucial to its look and readability. As you write your letter, you can follow the structure below to create an effective document.
- Opening : Include your mailing address, the full date (for example, July 30, 2017), and the recipient’s name, company, and address. Skip one line between your address, the date, and your recipient’s information. Don’t add your address if you’re using letterhead that already contains it.
- Salutation : Address the recipient using “Dear,” along with their title and last name, such as “Dear Mr. Collins” or “Dear Director Kinkade.” If you don’t know the recipient’s gender, use their full name, such as “Dear Taylor Dean.” Finally, be sure to add a colon to the end of the salutation.
- Body : In the first paragraph, introduce yourself and the main point of your letter. Following paragraphs should go into the details of your main point, while your final paragraph should restate the letter’s purpose and provide a call to action, if necessary.
- Closing : Recommended formal closings include “Sincerely” or “Yours truly.” For a more personal closing, consider using “Cordially” or “Best regards.” Regardless of what you choose, add a comma to the end of it.
- Signature : Skip four lines after the closing and type your name. Skip another line and type your job title and company name. If you’re submitting a hard copy, sign your name in the empty space using blue or black ink.
- Enclosures : If you’re including documents with this letter, list them here.
Another important part of the structure is the layout , which determines how the text is formatted. The most common layout for a business letter is known as block format , which keeps all text left-justified and single spaced, except for double spaces between the paragraphs. This layout keeps the letter looking clean and easy to read.
As stated in Business Writing Essentials , revision is a crucial part of writing. Review your letter to keep it concise, and proofread it for spelling and grammar errors. Once you’re finished writing, ask someone to read your letter and give you feedback , as they can spot errors you may have missed. Also make sure any enclosures are attached to your document and that any hard copies are signed.
After revising the content, consider the appearance of your letter. If you’re printing a hard copy, be sure to use quality paper. Also try using letterhead to give your document a more official look.
Example of a business letter
To see this lesson in action, let’s take a look at a polished business letter by reviewing the example below.
This letter looks great! The structure is perfect, and the text is left-justified and single spaced. The body is formal, friendly, and concise, while the salutation and closing look good. It also contains a handwritten signature, which means it’s ready to be submitted as a hard copy.
Knowing how to write a business letter will serve you well throughout your career. Keep practicing and studying it, and you’ll be able to communicate in a classic style.
What this handout is about.
This handout explains principles in business writing that apply to many different situations, from applying for a job to communicating professionally within business relationships. While the examples that are discussed specifically are the application letter and cover letter, this handout also highlights strategies for effective business writing in general.
What is business writing?
Business writing refers to professional communication including genres such as policy recommendations, advertisements, press releases, application letters, emails, and memos. Because business writing can take many forms, business writers often consider their purpose, audience, and relationship dynamics to help them make effective stylistic choices. While norms vary depending on the rhetorical situation of the writer, business writers and audiences tend to value writing that communicates effectively, efficiently, and succinctly.
If you have been assigned a genre of business writing for a class, it may help to think about the strategies business writers employ to both gather and produce knowledge. A business communicator or writer may use the following forms of evidence: statistics, exploration of past trends, examples, analogy, comparison, assessment of risk or consequences, or citation of authoritative figures or sources. Your knowledge of and relationship to your audience will help you choose the types of evidence most appropriate to your situation.
Who is your audience?
To communicate effectively, it is critical to consider your audience, their needs, and how you can address all members of your audience effectively. As you prepare to write, think about the following questions:
- What are your audience’s priorities and expectations?
- What does your audience need to learn from your document?
- How will you grasp the attention of readers when you are competing for their attention?
- How will you help your reader move through your document efficiently? When is it effective to use bulleted lists, visuals, boldface, and section headers to guide your reader’s attention?
- What does your audience most need to know?
- What is your audience expecting? Is your goal to satisfy their expectations, or do you want to surprise them with a new idea?
- How will you communicate about setbacks? When is it appropriate to spin bad information with a positive outlook? How will stakeholders, customers, or employees respond to bad news?
- In general, how can you tailor the organization and style of your writing to address your audience’s considerations and needs?
When answering the last question, don’t overlook the following considerations:
Title. Is it appropriate to address your audience by their first name, or is a salutation needed? Are you addressing someone who prefers to be addressed by a formal title such as Dr. or Professor? If you are writing about a third party, do you know what title and pronouns to use? When the name of the person you’re writing to is unknown, then it is customary to address your letter “To Whom It May Concern.” But this may be impolite if the person’s name is known or easily discovered. You can find more information on titles, names, and pronouns in our handout on Gender-Inclusive Language .
Language . If you’re writing in English, ask yourself: Is English the first language of all your audience members? Are you using idioms or other expressions that might not be clear to someone with a different background in English? For example, are you using expressions that require U.S.-specific cultural knowledge?
Culture . Does your audience have different customs and cultural norms? How might these customs and norms impact the way they receive your message?
Once you understand your purpose and your audience, you can begin to consider more specific elements, like organization and style.
What is your purpose?
To get a better sense of how the purpose of your writing will impact your style, it can be useful to look at existing messages and documents from the organization with the following questions in mind:
- What type of document is it (e.g. email, cover letter, social media post, memo, etc.)?
- What is the general length of the document?
- How is the document organized?
- How long are the paragraphs or sections?
How is business writing organized?
A common organizational pattern used across genres in business writing is OABC: Opening, Agenda, Body, and Closing. While the exact content of your opening, agenda, body, and closing may change depending on your context, here is the overall purpose of each component of the OABC pattern:
- Opening: This section introduces the reader to the purpose of your document or the subject matter you’ll be discussing. It lets them know why you are communicating with them and why the information is important to your reader.
- Agenda: This section lets the reader know, more or less, what to expect from the rest of the message. You can think of it like a roadmap for your document.
- Body: This section is where you make your main points and communicate your overall message to the reader. This section is often the longest part of a business document.
- Closing: Here, you reiterate the main points for the reader and include any follow-up actions or recommendations as necessary. In most cases, you may request a meeting to discuss your ideas further.
What style considerations are common in business writing?
Business writers tend to prioritize clear and concise communication. When writing in business, carefully considering the following style elements, along with your purpose and audience, can help you communicate more effectively:
Active voice. One skill in business writing is how to tactfully take ownership or distribute blame for certain actions. Active voice refers to a sentence structure that places the actor of the sentence as its grammatical subject. In general, active voice comes across as clearer, more direct, and more concise than passive voice, which are all elements of good business writing. However, the passive voice can be a useful tool in legally-sensitive writing, because the passive voice can convey what has occurred without naming names.
Jargon. Generally, your audience will prefer plain, straightforward language over jargon, because it allows them to read your writing quickly without misunderstandings. However, you may encounter what looks like jargon. Ask yourself if this language may be functioning as shorthand or whether it’s helping establish expectations or norms in business relationships. Understanding your audience and why they may choose to either use or avoid jargon will help you determine what is most appropriate for your own writing.
Tone. While business writing should be clear and concise, “concise” does not necessarily mean “blunt.” As you write, think about how your relationship to the reader and about how your audience may interpret your tone. Consider the following examples:
Nobody liked your project idea, so we are not going to give you any funding. After carefully reviewing this proposal, we have decided to prioritize other projects this quarter.
While the first example may be more direct, you will likely notice that the second sentence is more diplomatic and respectful than the first version, which is unnecessarily harsh and likely to provoke a negative reaction.
If you are wondering how your audience will respond to your writing, it may also be helpful to have a disinterested reader provide you with their impression of your message and tone after reading the document. What is the take-home message? Does any language stand out as surprising, confusing, or inappropriate? Where is the writing more or less persuasive? If you would like more ideas, see our handout on getting feedback .
There are many circumstances in which business writing is your opportunity to make a first impression, such as in a cover letter. In these scenarios, attention detail is especially important. A useful strategy for revising a piece of business writing is to use the acronym CLOUD: Coherence, Length, Organization, Unity, and Development. Contemplating each of these elements can help you to think about how each section communicates your ideas to your audience and how the sections work together to emphasize the most important parts of your message.
Going through the CLOUD acronym, you can ask yourself questions like:
- How coherent is each individual component of your document?
- Does each component follow length guidelines (if provided) or otherwise convey your message concisely? Our handout on conciseness gives 7 common writing patterns that make writing less concise that you may want to keep in mind when writing for business.
- Is the information clearly organized ?
- How unified is the message conveyed by all of the components taken together?
- Are your ideas fully- developed , or might your reader find themselves with any important questions?
As you answer these questions and start revising, revisiting your purpose, audience, style, and structure can help you address the concerns you’ve identified through CLOUD. Once you’ve considered these elements, soliciting feedback from another person can help you ensure your draft is clear and your ideas are fully-developed . Proofreading can help you identify errors and assess the tone of your document, while reading your draft aloud lets you hear your words and estimate your own tone.
Examples of business writing
Now that you’re ready to start writing, you may want to see some examples of business writing to guide your drafting process. Below, you can learn more about and see examples of two business writing contexts: cover letters for applications and cover letters for sending information. For more examples, explore the University Career Services’ Resumes and Letters portal .
Cover letters for applications
Maybe you have been asked to write an application cover letter for a job or a scholarship. This type of cover letter is used to introduce yourself and explain why you are qualified for a given opportunity, and your objective is to catch the reader’s attention and convince them that you are a qualified candidate for the job. Although this type of letter has some unique considerations and conventions, it still follows the OABC organization pattern and is generally 3-4 paragraphs in length.
- Opening: In the opening section of your letter, indicate your reason for writing. This generally includes mentioning the job title (if applicable) and how you heard about the position. Be specific about how you learned of the job.
- Agenda: In a cover letter, your agenda section sets the stage for a discussion of your qualifications by first summarizing your interest in the position, company, or organization. What sets you apart from your competitors? Why are you interested in working in this particular position or company? This section may be combined with the first paragraph.
- Body: This is where you highlight your qualifications for the job including your work experience, activities that show your leadership skills, and your educational background. If you are applying for a specific job, include any information pertinent to the position that is not included in your resume. You might also identify other ways you are a good fit for the company or position, such as specialized skills you have acquired. Illustrate how the experiences and skills from your resume qualify you for the job rather than merely repeating information as it is presented in your resume.
- Closing: Now that you have demonstrated your interest and fit to the reader, it is time to request an interview and, if necessary, refer them to your resume. State how you can be reached and include your contact information for follow-up. Be sure to close the letter by thanking the reader for their time and consideration before typing and printing your salutation and name.
Two sample letters of application are presented below. The first letter (Sample #1) is by a recent college graduate responding to a local newspaper article about the company’s plan to build a new computer center. The writer is not applying for a specific job opening but describes the position he seeks. The second letter (Sample #2) is from a college senior who does not specify where she learned of the opening because she is uncertain whether a position is available.
6123 Farrington Road Apt. B11 Chapel Hill, NC 27514
January 11, 2020
Taylor, Inc. 694 Rockstar Lane Durham, NC 27708
Dear Human Resources Director:
I just read an article in the News and Observer about Taylor’s new computer center just north of Durham. I would like to apply for a position as an entry-level programmer at the center.
I understand that Taylor produces both in-house and customer documentation. My technical writing skills, as described in the enclosed resume, are well suited to your company. I am a recent graduate of DeVry Institute of Technology in Atlanta with an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science. In addition to having taken a broad range of courses, I served as a computer consultant at the college’s computer center where I helped train users to work with new systems.
I will be happy to meet with you at your convenience and discuss how my education and experience match your needs. You can reach me at (919) 233-1552 or at [email protected] . Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
6123 Farrington Road Apt. G11 Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Dear Ms. LaMonica Jones:
I am seeking a position in your engineering department where I may use my training in computer sciences to solve Taylor’s engineering problems. I would like to be a part of the department that developed the Internet Selection System but am unsure whether you have a current opening.
I expect to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from North Carolina State University in May and by that time will have completed the Computer Systems Engineering Program. Since September 2019 I have been participating, through the University, in the Professional Training Program at Computer Systems International in Raleigh. In the program I was assigned to several staff sections as an apprentice. Most recently, I have been a programmer trainee in the Engineering Department and have gained a great deal of experience in computer applications. Details of the academic courses I have taken are included in the enclosed resume.
If there is a position open at Taylor Inc., please let me know whom I should contact for further information. I look forward to hearing from you soon. I may be reached at my office (919-866-4000, ext. 232) or via email ( [email protected] ). Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Cover letters for sending information
Some cover letters simply provide a record of the transmittal of information—say, sending your resume to a recruiter or submitting your project for a class—and may even take the form of an email. Although they are short, to-the-point, and often only one or two brief paragraphs in length, these messages still follow the basic guidelines of business writing by using the OABC organization pattern in a more condensed format:
- Opening: Briefly explain what you are sending and why.
- Agenda: In an optional second paragraph, you might include a summary of the information you are sending as an agenda for your reader. A letter accompanying a proposal, for example, might point out sections in the proposal that might be of particular interest to the reader.
- Body: You could then go on to present a key point or two explaining why your firm is the best one for the job.
- Closing: You might end your letter with acknowledgements, offer additional assistance, or express the hope that the material will fulfill its purpose.
The following are examples of these kinds of cover letters. The first letter (Sample #1) is brief and to the point. The second letter (Sample #2) is slightly more detailed because it touches on the manner in which the information was gathered.
Your Company Logo and Contact Information
Brian Eno, Chief Engineer Carolina Chemical Products 3434 Pond View Lane Durham, NC 27708
Dear Mr. Eno:
Enclosed is the final report, which we send with Eastern’s Permission, on our installment of pollution control equipment at Eastern Chemical Company,. Please call me at (919) 962-7710 or email me at the address below if I can answer any questions.
Nora Cassidy Technical Services Manager [email protected]
Brian Eno, Chief Engineer Ecology Systems, Inc. 8458 Obstructed View Lane Durham, NC 27708
Enclosed is the report estimating our power consumption for the year as requested by John Brenan, Vice President, on September 4.
The report is the result of several meetings with Jamie Anson, Manager of Plant Operations, and her staff and an extensive survey of all our employees. The survey was delayed by the transfer of key staff in Building A. We believe, however, that the report will provide the information you need to furnish us with a cost estimate for the installation of your Mark II Energy Saving System.
We would like to thank Billy Budd of ESI for his assistance in preparing the survey. If you need more information, please let me know.
Sincerely, Nora Cassidy New Projects Office [email protected]
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Baker, William H., and Matthew J. Baker. 2015. Writing & Speaking for Business , 4th ed. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Academic Publishing.
Covey, Stephen. 2002. Style Guide for Business and Technical Writing , 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Franklin Covey.
Locker, Kitty, and Donna Kienzer. 2012. Business and Administrative Communication , 10th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
O’Hara, Carolyn. 2014. “How to Improve Your Business Writing.” Harvard Business Review , 20 Nov. 2014. https://hbr.org/2014/11/how-to-improve-your-business-writing .
United States Government. 2011. “Federal Plain Language Guideline.” Plain Language, March 2011. https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/ .
University of North Carolina Writing Program. 2019. The Tar Heel Writing Guide , rev. ed. Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Writing Program.
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7. COMMON DOCUMENT TYPES
7.1 Correspondence: Text Messages, Emails, Memos, and Letters
Text messaging, emailing, and posting on social media in a professional context requires that you be familiar with “netiquette,” or proper etiquette for using the internet. We have all heard the news stories about people who have been fired and companies that have been boycotted for making offensive or inappropriate social media posts . People have even gone to prison for illegal use of private messaging . The digital world may seem like a free-for-all, “wild wild west” with no clear rules or regulations; however, this is clearly a dangerous perspective for a professional to take, as the consequences for breaking tacit rules, expectations, and guidelines for professional communications can be very costly.
The way that you represent yourself in writing carries significant weight. Writing in an online environment requires tact, skill, and an awareness that what you write may be there for a very long time and may be seen by people you never considered as your intended audience. From text messages to memos to letters, from business proposals to press releases, your written business communication represents you and your company: your goal is to make it clear, concise, constructive, and professional.
We create personal pages, post messages, and interact via online technologies as a normal part of our careers, but how we conduct ourselves can leave a lasting image, literally. The photograph you posted on your Instagram page may have been seen by your potential employer, or that insensitive remark in a Facebook post may come back to haunt you later.
Following several guidelines for online postings, as detailed below, can help you avoid embarrassment later:
- Avoid assumptions about your readers; remember that culture influences communication style and practices
- Familiarize yourself with policies on Acceptable Use of IT Resources at your organization.
- Remember there is a person behind the words; ask for clarification before making judgment
- Check your tone before you publish; avoid jokes, sarcasm, and irony as these can often be misinterpreted and get “lost in translation” in the online environment
- Respond to people using their names
- Remember that culture, age, and gender can play a part in how people communicate
- Remain authentic and expect the same of others
- Remember that people may not reply immediately. People participate in different ways, some just by reading the communication rather than jumping into it.
- Be judicious and diplomatic; what you say online may be difficult or even impossible to retract later.
- Consider your responsibility to the group and to the working environment
- Agree on ground rules for text communication (formal or informal; seek clarification whenever needed) if you are working collaboratively
- Accept and forgive mistakes
- Seek clarification before reacting; what you heard is not always what was said
- Ask your supervisor for guidance.*
- Quote the original author if you are responding with a specific point made by someone else
- Ask the author of an email for permission before forwarding the communication.
* Sometimes, online behaviour can appear so disrespectful and even hostile that it requires attention and follow up. In this case, let your supervisor know right away so that the right resources can be called upon to help.
For further information on netiquette, check out the following links:
- Business Insider: Email etiquette rules every professional needs to know
- LinkedIn: Email etiquette: Setting the tone for your professional communication
Whatever digital device you use, written communication in the form of brief messages, or texting, has become a common way to connect. It is useful for short exchanges, and is a convenient way to stay connected with others when talking on the phone would be cumbersome. Texting is not useful for long or complicated messages, and careful consideration should be given to the audience.
When texting, always consider your audience and your company, and choose words, terms, or abbreviations that will deliver your message appropriately and effectively.
If your work situation allows or requires you to communicate via text messages, keep the following tips in mind:
- Know your recipient: “? % dsct” may be an understandable way to ask a close associate what the proper discount is to offer a certain customer, but if you are writing a text to your boss, it might be wiser to write, “what % discount does Murray get on $1K order?”
- Anticipate unintentional misinterpretation: texting often uses symbols and codes to represent thoughts, ideas, and emotions. Given the complexity of communication, and the useful but limited tool of texting, be aware of its limitation and prevent misinterpretation with brief messages.
- Use appropriately: contacting someone too frequently can border on harassment. Texting is a tool. Use it when appropriate but don’t abuse it.
- Don’t text and drive: research shows that the likelihood of an accident increases dramatically if the driver is texting behind the wheel.  Being in an accident while conducting company business would reflect poorly on your judgment as well as on your employer.
Email is familiar to most students and workers. In business, it has largely replaced print hard copy letters for external (outside the company) correspondence, and in many cases, it has taken the place of memos for internal (within the company) communication. 
Email can be very useful for messages that have slightly more content than a text message, but it is still best used for fairly brief messages. Many businesses use automated emails to acknowledge communications from the public, or to remind associates that periodic reports or payments are due. You may also be assigned to “populate” a form email in which standard paragraphs are used but you choose from a menu of sentences to make the wording suitable for a particular transaction.
Emails may be informal in personal contexts, but business communication requires attention to detail, awareness that your email reflects you and your company, and a professional tone so that it may be forwarded to any third party if needed. Email often serves to exchange information within organizations. Although email may have an informal feel, remember that when used for business, it needs to convey professionalism and respect. Never write or send anything that you wouldn’t want read in public or in front of your company president.
As with all writing, professional communications require attention to the specific writing context, and it may surprise you that even elements of form can indicate a writer’s strong understanding of audience and purpose. The principles explained here apply to the educational context as well; use them when communicating with your instructors and classroom peers.
Open with a proper salutation: proper salutations demonstrate respect and avoid mix-ups in case a message is accidentally sent to the wrong recipient. For example, use a salutation like “Dear Ms. X” (external) or “Hi Barry” (internal).
Include a clear, brief, and specific subject line: this helps the recipient understand the essence of the message. For example, “Proposal attached” or “Electrical specs for project Y.”
Close with a signature: identify yourself by creating a signature block that automatically contains your name and business contact information.
Avoid abbreviations: an email is not a text message, and the audience may not find your wit cause to ROTFLOL (roll on the floor laughing out loud).
Be brief: omit unnecessary words.
Use a good format: divide your message into brief paragraphs for ease of reading. A good email should get to the point and conclude in three small paragraphs or fewer.
Reread, revise, and review: catch and correct spelling and grammar mistakes before you press “send.” It will take more time and effort to undo the problems caused by a hasty, poorly-written email than to take the time to get it right the first time.
Reply promptly: watch out for an emotional response—never reply in anger—but make a habit of replying to all emails within twenty-four hours, even if only to say that you will provide the requested information in forty-eight or seventy-two hours.
Use “Reply All” sparingly: do not send your reply to everyone who received the initial email unless your message absolutely needs to be read by the entire group.
Avoid using all caps: capital letters are used on the Internet to communicate emphatic emotion or “yelling” and can be considered rude.
Test links: if you include a link, test it to make sure it works.
Email ahead of time if you are going to attach large files: audio and visual files are often quite large; be careful to avoid exceeding the recipient’s mailbox limit or triggering the spam filter.
Give feedback or follow up: if you don’t get a response in twenty-four hours, email or call. Spam filters may have intercepted your message, so your recipient may never have received it.
Tip : add the address of the recipient last (after you have written and proofread your message) to avoid sending prematurely. This will give you time to do a last review of what you’ve written, make sure links work, make sure you’ve added the attachment, etc ., before adding the sender’s address and hitting send.
The sample email below demonstrates the principles listed above.
From: Steve Jobs <[email protected]>
To: Human Resources Division <[email protected]>
Date: September 12, 2015
Subject: Safe Zone Training
Please consider signing up for the next available Safe Zone workshop offered by the College. As you know, our department is working toward increasing the number of Safe Zone volunteers in our area, and I hope several of you may be available for the next workshop scheduled for Friday, October 9.
For more information on the Safe Zone program, please visit http://www.cocc.edu/multicultural/safe-zone-training/
Please let me know if you will attend.
Steve Jobs CEO Apple Computing [email protected]
Memoranda, or memos , are one of the most versatile document forms used in professional settings. Memos are “in house” documents (sent within an organization) to pass along or request information, outline policies, present short reports, and propose ideas. While they are often used to inform, they can also be persuasive documents. A company or institution typically has its own “in house” style or template that is used for documents such as letters and memos.
Figure 7.1.1 shows a sample of one particular “in house” memo style (the style we might use for memo assignments written for this class), with annotations pointing out various relevant features. Note that “in house” formats may vary. The main formatted portions of a memo are the Logo or Letterhead (optional), the Header Block, and the Message. The attached Memos PowerPoint reviews some of these features in detail.
Memo Header Block
The Header Block appears at the top left side of your memo, directly underneath the word MEMO or MEMORANDUM in large, bold, capitalized letters. This section contains detailed information on the recipient, sender, and purpose. It includes the following lines:
- TO: give the recipient’s full name, and position or title within the organization
- FROM : include the sender’s (your) full name and position or title
- DATE : include the full date on which you sent the memo
- SUBJECT or RE : write a brief phrase that concisely describes the main content of your memo.
Place a horizontal line under your header block, and place your message below.
The length of a memo can range from a few short sentences to a multi-page report that includes figures, tables, and appendices. Whatever the length, there is a straightforward organizational principal you should follow. Organize the content of your memo so that it answers the following questions for the reader:
- Opening: Why am I reading this?
- Details: What do I need to know?
- Closing: What am I expected to do now?
Memos are generally very direct and concise. There is no need to start with general introductions before getting to your point. Your readers are colleagues within the same organization, and are likely familiar with the context in which you are writing. The opening sentences of the memo’s message should make it clear to the reader whether they have to read this entire memo and why (if the memo is informing me about an elevator that’s out of service in a building I never enter, then I don’t really have to read any further).
The middle section of the message should give all of the information needed to adequately inform the readers and fulfill the purpose of the memo. Start with the most general information, and then add the more specific facts and details. Make sure there is enough detail to support your purpose, but don’t overwhelm your readers with unnecessary details or information that is already well known to them.
The final part of the message indicates what, if any, action is required or requested of the readers. If you are asking your readers to do something, be as courteous as possible, and try to indicate how this action will also benefit them.
For more information on writing memos, check out the memo page on the the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University: Parts of a Memo .
Letters are brief messages sent to recipients that are often outside the organization. They are often printed on letterhead paper that represents the business or organization, and are generally limited to one or two pages. While email and text messages may be used more frequently today, the business letter remains a common form of written communication. It can serve to introduce you to a potential employer, announce a product or service, or even serve to communicate feelings and emotions (compliant letters, for example).
There are many types of letters, and many adaptations in terms of form and content, but this chapter presents the 7 key elements of a traditional block-style letter. Letters may serve to introduce your skills and qualifications to prospective employers (cover letter), deliver important or specific information, provide documentation of an event or decision, or introduce an attached report or long document (letter of transmittal). Figure 7.1.2 shows a letter of transmittal meant to introduce a technical report to its recipient. Here is a downloadable pdf version: Sample Letter of Transmittal of the image below.
A typical letter has 7 main parts:
- Letterhead/logo : Sender’s name and return address
- The heading: names the recipient, often including address and date
- Salutation : “Dear ______ ” use the recipient’s name, if known.
- The introduction : establishes the overall purpose of the letter
- The body : articulates the details of the message
- The conclusion: restates the main point and may include a call to action
- The signature line: sometimes includes the contact information
Keep in mind that letters represent you and your company in your absence. In order to communicate effectively and project a positive image, remember that
- your language should be clear, concise, specific, and respectful
- each word should contribute to your purpose
- each paragraph should focus on one idea
- the parts of the letter should form a complete message
- the letter should be free of errors.
Letters with Specific Purposes
There are many possible reasons you might write a letter in a professional context. Here is a list of the most common kinds of letters:
Transmittal Letters: when you send a report or some other document, such as a resumé, to an external audience, send it with a cover letter that briefly explains the purpose of the enclosed document and a brief summary. Click the link to download a Letter of Transmittal Template (.docx) .
Letters of Inquiry: you may want to request information about a company or organization such as whether they anticipate job openings in the near future or whether they fund grant proposals from non-profit groups. In this case, you would send a letter of inquiry, asking for additional information. As with most business letters, keep your request brief, introducing yourself in the opening paragraph and then clearly stating your purpose and/or request in the second paragraph. If you need very specific information, consider placing your requests in list form for clarity. Conclude in a friendly way that shows appreciation for the help you will receive.
Follow-up Letters: any time you have made a request of someone, write a follow-up letter expressing your appreciation for the time your letter-recipient has taken to respond to your needs or consider your job application. If you have had a job interview, the follow-up letter thanking the interviewer for his/her time is especially important for demonstrating your professionalism and attention to detail.
Letters within the professional context may take on many other purposes, such as communicating with suppliers, contractors, partner organizations, clients, government agencies, and so on. For additional examples of professional letters, take a look at the sample letters provided by David McMurrey in his online textbook on technical writing: Online Technical Writing: Examples, Cases & Models .
Information in this chapter was adapted from the following source: “ Professional Communications ” chapter in Technical Writing by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, Michele DeSilva. This source is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Figure 7.1.1 image description:
Design features of a 1-page memorandum.
- The logo or letterhead is at the top of the page and centred or right-aligned (in this case, it is the University of Victoria letterhead).
- “Memorandum” appears at the top of the page left-aligned in large, bold font.
- The header block (which appears under the “Memorandum” heading) includes a “to,” “from,” “date,” and “subject” in a vertical list. Those values are aligned vertically for readability.
- A dividing line separates the header block from the message.
- The message begins by answering, “Why am I reading this?”
- The body of the message gives the details: (“What do I need to know?”)
- There is a table that is nicely formatted. (The table has a caption above the table in bold and italics, column headers are bold and centred, and text is left aligned.)
- A closing paragraph summarizes and indicates what (if any) action is expected of the reader (Answering, “What would you like me to do now?”)
- The text of this document uses an appropriate serif body font (Times New Roman)
- There is also a signature (optional)
[Return to Figure 7.1.1]
- [Texting image]. [Online]. Available: https://www.flickr.com/photos/13604571@N02/2094946972. CC BY-NC 2.0 . ↵
- "Deadly distraction: Texting while driving, twice as risky as drunk driving, should be banned," Houston Chronicle, Sept 23, 2009 [Online]. Available: http://www.chron.com/opinion/editorials/article/Deadly-distraction-Texting-while-driving-should-1592397.php ↵ ↵
- [Email icon]. [Online]. Available: https://www.iconfinder.com/icons/4417125/%40_email_envelope_letter_icon. Free for commercial use . ↵
- M. Guffey, Essentials of Business Communication (7th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008. ↵
7.1 Correspondence: Text Messages, Emails, Memos, and Letters by Suzan Last is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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- Meaning And Importance Of Business Correspondence
What is Business Correspondence?
Whenever the topic of business correspondence surfaces, the most important question is what is business correspondence. The meaning of correspondence is a letter. Anyone associated with any business expresses themselves in terms of business correspondence. The importance of business correspondence is immense in any business. They can express their ideas, question or raise concerns about any aspect of the company through business correspondences. Business correspondences do not only refer to individual letters but also the letters exchanged between the companies or organizations. It can be a letter of complaint, an inquiry letter, a letter to any supplier, an application letter for jobs, etc.
Business Correspondence Letter
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Whenever we need to contact any person, we send them letters or texts. A similar approach is followed in businesses as well. Such a kind of communication in business is called business correspondence. Business correspondence can be defined as the means of expressing in terms of business.
The letters written during such business transactions are called business correspondence letters. Such written documentation is required since no one can remember all the details of the business for the entire length of the business. Therefore, they prefer to write down the details, which is known as business correspondence.
Why do we need a Business Correspondence Letter?
For the smooth running of any business, business correspondence is necessary. The utmost importance of business correspondence is that it eases reaching out and communication between different parties. For any business deal, meeting delegates in person might be a hectic task. Therefore, it is better to exchange correspondences in this regard. Business correspondence meaning lies in helping and achieving the goal of the company. Some of the company goals achieved through business correspondences are:
Maintaining a Cordial Relationship with all Parties
Running a business is a tedious task. There are so many aspects of any business that the business owners hardly find any extra time to interact with the clients and the associated parties on a personal basis. In general, as a business grows, it is impossible to reach out to all the parties in person. Under such circumstances, it is necessary to communicate through business correspondence. Such a means of communication in terms of business correspondences helps to strengthen the business relationship. Modern business correspondences like PDF can also be shared amongst the parties. Such activities improve internal communication and make them precise and clear. Maintaining a good relationship with all associated parties is considered the prime importance of business correspondence.
Proofs of Evidence
Documentation of all important communications is necessary for keeping track of the growth of relations between different parties. It is important to maintain all these documents as proof of such communication so that the business owners can revert to them whenever needed as references. Moreover, such documents can be used to file lawsuits against those parties who will not act as per the terms and conditions allowed in the correspondences.
Create and Maintain a Positive Image
For any business to thrive, it is imperative to generate goodwill amongst the parties. Having every conversation in the record creates a professional impression that is appreciated by all parties. The company must accept all letters related to inquiries, complaints, suggestions and feedback related to the services of the company. Such approaches by the company help to generate and maintain the goodwill of the company.
Convenient and Inexpensive
Business correspondences are considered to be the most convenient and cheapest form of business communication. It only requires an exchange of letters amongst the parties.
Any kind of business communication is considered between two parties. It can be between two business partners, the employer and the employee and the sellers and the buyers. The language used in these business correspondences, like the advanced business correspondence PDF, is logical, concise and formal. Such an approach helps to do away with any kind of ambiguity and is considered to be acceptable and followable by all parties. The precise nature of the letters outlines the importance of business correspondence.
Assists in Business Expansion
Having formal correspondences related to the business ensures that the business can reach all its targets. Therefore, it allows the business to expand and set newer goals for them. Through such business correspondences, novel information about the market for any specific product can be obtained. Business correspondences can also be used to spread the news of business expansion.
Different Types of Business Correspondence
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There are different types of business correspondence letters. The types and functions of business correspondence include:
Internal Correspondence- The exchange of information in the form of correspondence between different individuals, departments, sectors or branches of the same company.
External Correspondence- It exists between two individuals but not from the same company. It can be between the producer and the suppliers, collaborators, etc.
Routine Correspondence- Business correspondences made routinely are called routine correspondences. These include order, inquiries, replies, acknowledgements, etc.
Sales Correspondence- It is related to the sales of the company. These include sale reports, sale letters, confirmation of orders, invoices, etc.
Personalized Correspondence- Such letters contain emotional inputs. Letter of recommendation, request, or congratulatory letters are examples of personalized correspondence.
Circular Correspondence- business correspondences that are issued in common for a large number of people are called circulars. These include notices, tenders, news, announcements, etc.
The first three types of business correspondence are major. More information on the business correspondence can be obtained through business correspondence and report writing PDF free download.
FAQs on Meaning And Importance Of Business Correspondence
1. What is the effective means of writing a formal paragraph for a Business Correspondence Letter?
In any business correspondence PDF, special emphasis is provided in writing the paragraphs. It has four essential components- coherence, unity, topic sentence and development. The topic highlights the primary idea of the paragraph. It is supported by the details. Coherence and unity must be exhibited in the details mentioned in the paragraph. The details must be linked logically with all supporting examples. All this information will effectively develop the theme of the paragraph. The paragraph will set the tone of the entire business correspondence. Therefore, special importance must be provided to the construction of the paragraphs for an effective business letter.
2. What does business correspondence mean?
According to the general business correspondence meaning, it is a letter used for communication in a business. It can be a personalized talk between clients, or the employer or the employee, a routine conveyance of day to day reports or even a formal talk communicated internally or externally. It is important to maintain a formal outlook on all business correspondence letters, be it a modern business correspondence PDF. Such approaches help to maintain a record, give a formal look, and be in the goodwill of all the clients who prefer to do business with such approaches. They can also be used as evidence against any unlawful acts by any collaborating parties in the future.
3. What is the importance of business correspondence?
There are numerous reasons why business correspondence is required. The first reason is to maintain stable relationships with clients and communication between all parties, to keep the documented evidence required so as to take reference whenever necessary, to have communication between all parties the method of business correspondence is the most effective and cheap one. It also helps to create a positive image and retain it. All these factors help a business to thrive and prosper in the most convenient and effective way. Thus, this is why a business needs business correspondence.
4. From where can I get the notes for the meaning and importance of business correspondence?
The students can get the notes for the meaning and Importance of business correspondence via Vedantu.com, your one-stop for everything academic. These notes are simple and easy to read to make sure that you understand each and every point in detail without any problem. The notes are prepared in an easy manner for the convenience of each student by our expert teachers for your better performance. These notes help you to keep your progress to reach the peak. So for a better future join the Vedantu community today!
5. Explain how a business correspondence letter helps in maintaining cordial relationships with all parties?
The students must understand that the business correspondence letter helps in maintaining cordial relationships with all parties by making the intentions between client and business providers clear with no miscommunication from both sides. To maintain a business and engage with every individual client is a tedious task and thus, using business correspondence comes in handy. This ensures that the primary need for any business is being completed, which is to maintain a good rapport with all parties or clients and vice versa.
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Business Correspondence: Meaning and Importance
Written communication is essential for conveying information to key stakeholders in your business. Business writing can involve the correspondence between the business and the client, different businesses, and within the business.
Every day, businesses use some form of written communication to pass messages to the appropriate stakeholders.
The challenge with business writing is that many business owners, executives, and even employees do not know how to write a clear business letter that effectively communicates their message.
Clear business writing is essential for eliminating misunderstandings. That said, business writing is no easy task, especially if you are a non-native English speaker.
This article teaches you the essentials of effective business correspondence, including helpful tips for clear, error-free, and professional business correspondence.
Let’s get started.
Meaning of Business Correspondence
Business correspondence is any form of communication in the business world that conveys a message between or within an organization.
A business person writes or receives letters during his day-to-day activities in his business place. It can be complaint letters, inquiry letters, job application letters, formal business letters, or other written communication letters.
Business correspondence covers all forms of written communication that emanate from business relationships between business partners or via internal communication within the organization.
Essentially, business correspondence is usually issued in the form of letters. It presents the individual in any business communication the unique opportunity to express themselves and seek clarity on issues bothering them about the organization.
In businesses, written communication serves as an effective communication medium. The strength of this medium is that information gets exchanged without affecting the professional relationships between and within organizations.
Importance of Business Correspondence
Business correspondence offers numerous benefits to your business communication, especially the ease of reaching and communicating within and outside your organization's structure.
Face-to-face communication is not always possible, and this is where your business correspondence comes in to aid effectual communication.
1. Helps in Maintaining a Proper Relationship
Sometimes it would seem difficult for your business or organization to get in touch with a particular person or another organization when needed. If this is often the case, it might cost your business or organization dearly.
In this case, a business correspondence would suffice as the best measure to salvage such situations as it helps to maintain a proper relationship among all relevant parties.
Business correspondence is an effective tool for strengthening your business. By improving the internal communication of your business, your business communication becomes more apparent and precise.
2. Serves as Evidence
Business correspondence is a way of helping your business keep records of all its activities. These written records can serve as evidence when needed, just like any other written form of communication.
3. Creates and Maintains Goodwill
A business correspondence assists in creating and maintaining goodwill and proper relationships between your business and its customers.
No matter how negative it may be, business correspondence in inquiry letters, complaint letters, suggestions, or feedback is used to help your organization grow and maintain goodwill.
The idea is to see above all the negatives and look for specific areas of complaints that your organization needs to work on to offer better products and services to your customers.
4. Cheap and Convenient
Business correspondence is usually very cheap and convenient to use as a mode of communication. It saves you valuable resources in terms of time and money that other modes of communication do not.
This mode of communication is very convenient for businesses to incorporate as it requires no new structure to be built before being used.
5. Formal Communication
A business correspondence serves as a formal communication between two parties, and its language is that of a formal and logical one.
With a business correspondence, doubts and issues on the minds of persons involved in your business are subdued as the language conveyed makes your business more acceptable to others.
6. Helps in the Expansion of Your Business
Business correspondence can help your organization achieve its organizational goals as it affords no room for wastage of resources, allowing your business to expand faster.
Types of Business Correspondence
There are many types of business correspondence available for you to choose from as they all have their essential unique functions depending on what works best for your organization.
Here are the popular types of business correspondence.
1. Internal Correspondence
Internal correspondence refers to the flow of information between individuals, departments, branches, and units within the same company.
This business correspondence type can either be formal as promotion letters or memorandum, printed on paper, or informal as an instruction from a top stakeholder to a lower ranking stakeholder, usually issued through emails.
2. External Correspondence
External correspondence is formal communication between two organizations or an organization and its clients. Any correspondence outside an organization falls under this business correspondence type.
This business correspondence type is usually issued to customers and suppliers, government departments, existing and prospective clients, and other organizations outside your own.
3. Routine Correspondence
Routine correspondence is made based on a predetermined routine and does not deviate from this set routine throughout its implementation.
Usually, business correspondence for inquiries, orders, replies, invitations, acknowledgments, and appointment letters are typical examples of routine correspondence.
This business correspondence type is identified by how its correspondence occurs routinely in a well-structured manner.
4. Sales Correspondence
Sales correspondence is a type of correspondence that pertains to the sales operations of your business. It is not just specific to just the sales of a product or service as it stretches out to encompass many other activities.
Delivery letters, marketing letters, invoices, discount letters, and statements of accounts are some famous examples of sales correspondence.
5. Personalized Correspondence
Among all the types of business correspondence, personalized correspondence is the only type based on physical and emotional factors that provide a sense of attachment and belonging to both parties at each end of the correspondence.
Letters of request, recommendation, gratitude and congratulation, letter of introduction, and granting and refusing terms are all notable examples of this type of business correspondence.
When your business wants to convey an ordinary matter or main idea to a large audience, circulars are your go-to business correspondence, among other types of business correspondence.
Notice of tenders, change of contact information, change of address, the opening of a new branch, or launching of a new product or service all falls under scenarios where circulars are usually issued.
Writing in English: 5 Simple Tips for Clear, Professional Business Correspondence
When creating business correspondence, there are some things you need to be mindful of to give your business correspondence an authentic and professional look.
Here are five simple tips for precise and professional business correspondence.
1. Consider the Type of Business Correspondence You Intend to Write
You need to go back and consider the peculiarity of the situation at your organization and reach a conclusion on whether a note, an email, a memo, or a letter would best pass across the message you want to share to the receiver of your business correspondent.
A note is usually written in a hurry when the letter's receiver urgently needs the information in writing. Notes allow for abbreviations and informal punctuations as it is written in a relaxed and friendly manner.
Emails are a great medium for business communication as they are swift and can be easily sent or forwarded to multiple people at a time.
When you are confident that the reader will see the message in time, an email is better suited to convey information than a note, as there is no guarantee when the recipient will get the news.
Memos are written to instruct employees and make announcements on new policies that need to be adhered to by all employees.
Although memos are sent out on paper or as attachments in emails, they differ. In emails, messages are sent to a large audience depending on the closeness of employees in the company.
Business letters are conveyed across different organizations and tend to be formal communication in a positive tone as they are permanently written records.
If you want to respond to a note, email, or letter, you must regard the subject line in the same manner and tone of the message. A business letter can be a cover letter for business materials or important documents.
2. Be Polite
Being polite borders down on choosing the right tone and replying similarly . You need to have the reader in mind when writing your business correspondence.
Generally, the relationship you share with the recipient would determine the tone you would use in replying to their actual message. If you are unsure what tone to use, opt for a neutral tone, as being too formal is better than not being less formal.
Notes are addressed to just one person, and since they are short and detailed, you can start your message with just the name of the person, followed by a brief reason why you are writing the note.
Emails, business letters, and memos are more formal documents and require a subject, be it the recipient's e-mail address or a good subject line.
If you do not have a formal relationship with the recipient, you can either use ‘Dear Mr or Dear Sir’ to address the recipient if he is a man, and for memos, ‘Dear All’ would do the trick.
3. Plan and Stick to It
Writing does not afford you the luxury of time during oral communication, which is why you need a writing plan to save your reader's time.
In the main body of your business correspondence, separate your main ideas into distinct paragraphs.
The first paragraph of your business correspondence should detail why you are issuing the post. It is essential to ensure the recipient knows what awaits them in the mail.
In the closing paragraph, you round up your message and thank the recipient for their time. If there is a need for a response, ask the recipient to do so within the shortest possible time.
4. End on a Positive Note
Even if your message is a complaint, you must keep it formal and polite. Pissing your reader off is not the best way of getting a response from them, as you are likely to be ignored.
If your message is for someone you have a prior relationship with that you addressed at the start of your message by their name, kind regards, respectfully yours and best wishes are suitable end notations for your correspondence.
For formal business correspondence from the onset, yours sincerely or yours faithfully followed by your name and position, and your signature block is a positive way of ending your post.
After the closing paragraph, type your name, job title, company name, and signature.
5. Cross Check for Mistakes and Errors
After writing your business correspondence, you need to proofread and be on the lookout for spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation errors to ensure your post is free from all grammatical blunders.
Using a spell-checking tool to cross-check all your spellings is particularly helpful as spelling mistakes can discredit you in the eyes of the reader.
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Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.
Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.
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Identification. Kindly read and analyze the statements below and identify whether it requires a common competency or core competency. Write A if it is a common competency and B if it is a core competency. Write your answer in the space provided.
1.Writing business correspondence.
2.Preparing income statement
3.Designing for packaging and labelling.
4.. Relating with staff and co-workers.
5.Managing quality customer service.
6.Giving solution to a problem.
7.Coordinating with channel of distribution.
8. Negotiating with suppliers.
9.Adopting to work environment.
10.Able to operate computer system and applications.
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