BUSINESS LETTER WRITING 1

I. BUSINESS LETTER WRITING

Communications is the life blood of any business. A good lot of business is done by means of means of correspondence. Daily thousands of letters, as silent and reliable salesmen, more out and move in to accomplish their ends. Letters (a) establish contact between two parties separated by long distance (b) provide written evidences of what pass on between persons resulting in contractual relationship and (c) serve as a cheap mode of communication.

II. SPECIAL ATTENTION AND IN A PARTICULAR STYLE

Being different from personal letters, business letters are to be written with special attention and in a particular style. The following may be considered for the purpose.

1. Choose the right word to convey the proper meaning of that to express.
2. Choose the simple word to make the letter easily understandable. The tendency to use more complicated and round methods of expression or words with idiomatic sense should be avoided.
3. Use adjectives and adverbs sparingly i.e. they must be used only when they are essential and contribute something to the meaning of the statement.
4. Avoid unnecessary prepositional phrases and simplify the language.
5. Avoid exaggerations — As in the commercial advertisement, common mistake in business letter writing is to exaggerate things in order to produce a striking effect. This is alright in advertisement but not desirable in letters.
6. Avoid foreign phrases and idioms which are used commonly in current English. They need have no place in Business English.

III. STRUCTURE OF THE BUSINESS LETTER

A business letter consists of eight parts:

1. Heading
2. Date
3. Reference number
4. Inside address
5. Salutation
6. Body of the letter — consisting of
a. Introductory paragraph
b. The message
c. Closing paragraph
7. Complimentary close or subscription
8. Writer’s signature and designation

IV. THE LAYOUT OF A BUSINESS LETTER

The spacing which must be observed in a letter:

1. Heading — The name of the organization is printed at the top of the letter and the address at the right hand side. It may also give particulars such as description of the business, telephone number, telegraphic addresses of its branches and the address of his head office.
2. Date — The date is typed next to the address at the right side of the letter. There are three ways of denoting the date:
a. English style — Englishmen generally write the date as 23rd October, 2002.
b. American style — October 23, 2002.
c. Oxford University Press style — 23 October, 2002.
In the English style, the date is written in the order of day, month and year. In the American style it is in the order of month, day and year. The Oxford style is similar to the English except that the day is not followed by the suffixes. In all the three types, a comma is placed before the year and a full stop after the year.
3. Reference number — Reference numbers are often quoted at the left hand side of the letter but on the same line of the date. The reference may take a variety of forms. It may serve identify either the department or the section of a department from where letter was written or it may refer to the file in which the correspondence is to be found. It is also common that the reference consists of the initials of the person dictating the letter and the typist. The reference enables the original writer to identify the particular member of the staff who had dealt with the letter. Failure to quote a given reference causes much inconvenience and surely it is discourteous.
4. Inside Address — This is the address of the person to whom letter is directed. It is typed from the left hand margin with three spacing below the reference line. This inside address is useful to the writer. Normally copies of such letters are filed for future reference. Without the inside address, we can not identify the address at that time. It may be either in the indented form or in the block form. In the indented form, each line is indented five or more spaces to the right of the first letter of the preceding line. In the block form each line starts at the margin and punctuation is omitted wherever it is not necessary. The former form is commonly used in England and the latter in the U.S.A. But there should be consistency in the use of any one particular form. Students are advised to follow block form consistently in all letters. The address should be correctly punctuated. Commas should be placed after the firm’s made, after the door number and after the name of the street. A full stop should be put after the name of the city. Inside address need not be written on a post card since outside address appears just on the other side
5. The salutation — The salutation is the complimentary greeting with which the writer begins this letter. This appears just three line spacing below the inside address below the inside address, close to the left hand margin. The form of salutation depends upon the writer’s relationship with his correspondent. The salutation ‘Sir” is commonly used in all governmental correspondence and in a very formal business letter. For ordinary business purposes, Dear Sir or Dear Madam is used for addressing a single person; Dear Sirs for addressing two or more. Salutations are not used for office memoranda. Like formal invitations they are written in the third person.
6. Message — The message refers to the information to be conveyed to the addressee. Hence, this is a most important part of the letter. This should be written in clear and concise English with correct paragraphing and punctuation. Commas and question marks should be used sparingly to have exactness of meaning and to avoid ambiguity. Typing of the message begins to clear the line spacing below the salutation. Paragraphs are similarly spaced. The body of the business letter usually consists of the following three parts.

a. Opening paragraph
b. Main communication
c. Concluding paragraph

The various subjects dealt with should be treated in the order of their importance and a separate paragraph should be devoted to each subject.

7. Subscription — This consists of words expressing the regard of the writer towards his correspondent. It is simply a polite way of concluding a letter. It should always be consistent with the salutation. It should agree with the salutation not only in number and warding, but also in style. It is typed in two line spacing below the last line of the body. The most commonly used subscription is “Yours faithfully”. “Yours sincerely” is used in business letters only when the writer is well acquainted with the person addressed. In some cases, depending upon the intimacy between the writer and his correspondent an expression such as “Yours very truly” may be used.
8. Writer’s signature and Designation — It is the last part of the letter and is place after the complimentary close. It is the signature of the writer or the name of the firm or company which is represented. Those who cannot sign legibly should have their names typed below their signatures. Signatures on commercial letter vary according to the authority of the person signing the letter.