What is a Business Letter?
Business Letters are an important part of written communication. You can call it a life-breath of any business. These are exchanged with the parties like suppliers, customers, banks, insurance agencies, and government departments for different purposes. These letters can take the form of:
- Inquiries and Replies
- Quotations, Estimates, and Tender Notices
- Orders and Letters
- Circular Letters
- Letter requesting payments
- Sales letters
- Complaints and Replies
- Goodwill letters
- Correspondence with banks, insurance agencies or public authorities
To become effective and influential it has to conform to a minimum standard of letter writing in terms of language, content, length, structure, tone, impact, purpose, context, and so forth. One must create business letters in such a way that leaves the right impression on the person to whom the letter is posted.
Parts of a Business Letter
There are different parts of a business – Outside, Inside, Left, Right, Top, Bottom, Middle, First Page, Second Page, , Enclosures and Annexures. And every part of the business letter has its own importance and place with regard to letter writing.
So, we are heading to the different parts of the business letters along with their characteristics:
Letterhead discloses the name of the firm. Also, it states the type of business. For example: is it a bank or a trading concern, a transport agency or a real estate firm, etc.
There are many firms which not just mention the name of their firm. But also add their tagline along with the business name on the letterhead. Besides, they also provide the form of the business such as public limited, private limited, or government undertaking.
Moreover, you can also find the relevant details like:
- Date of establishment,
- Address of Head office
- Telephone number,
- Email ID
All of these details are given at the top. Along with the logo of the firm. One must note that the letterhead’s design, color, and quality can create a lasting impression on the party concerned.
To explicitly trace the letter to its source and context. In the case of large businesses with respect to operations and customer base. It is pertinent to categorize the activities into different regions and functions. Reference details may include abbreviations, letters, and numbers.
It facilitates the letter writer and any other person to understand the context of writing letters. And it becomes easier to relate it and give a specific reply. Further, it also helps the receiver to determine the actual source and contest, to respond accordingly.
It comes after the reference line and it explicitly states the date, month, and year of the letter. The suitable way of indicating the date is DDMMYYYY because of its clarity.
One must note that the sequence of date month and year differs from one country to another. Also, a letter without any date is considered meaningless. So every writer must write the date on which the letter is written. Apart from that ante-date and post-date letters are also in vogue.
Ante-date letters are written prior to the actual date, whereas a post date letter is when the date written on the letter falls after writing the letter.
Inside Address implies the addressee or the receiver of the letter to whom the letter is addressed. The addressee can be an individual, functionary, group, or organization. So, a name or a designation can be used as an addressee.
The inside address does not require providing a complete postal address because that is added outside. Hence, it contains a name/designation, department, and office. It is typed after leaving a three-line space from the reference number line.
One must note that if we use the name of a person as an addressee, the initials, name, and surname should be mentioned carefully.
If the name is spelled correctly, to get the right response from the reader or addressee.
One must be more careful when the letter is addressed to dignitaries like:
For these appropriate titles like His Highness, His Holiness should be used.
It is placed on the right side of the inside address. It is pertinent in case the addressee of the letter is a department, a group, or a firm. Its aim is to draw the attention of the person concerned about the contents of the letter.
One should take note that, the attention line is not used in case the letter is addressed to a specific person. It is written as Kind attention of Mr… This is to ensure that the letter reaches the specific person whose response is needed.
Salutation is necessary for every letter to relate the letter to the receiver. It goes like this…
Dear Sir or Dear Ma’am as the case may be.
Moreover, if the addressee of the letter is an organization or group we use the plural for i.e. Dear Sirs. However, when the position or status of the addressee is high, we omit the word ‘Dear’. And directly use the word Sir or Madam to show respect.
The subject is the essence of a formal business letter. It is clearly specified at the center of the letter in bold. This is to pull the attention of the reader to the subject. However, it should not be lengthy, i.e. brevity is ensured by keeping the short. This also enables the reader to identify how important are the contents of the letter for him.
One who has expertise in writing a letter knows very well, the way to state the subject to grab the attention of the reader. Also, there is no need of writing the word ‘Subject’ while writing the subject line.
The message is the main body of the letter which contains an opening line and the content which is to be conveyed to the reader. The entire message is divided into various paragraphs in a sequential order to define the thoughts of the writer. Also, the paragraphs are drafted in a manner that includes related thoughts and facts.
Further, the message starts with an introduction and acknowledgment. And if there is any previous correspondence, the opening line can cover that too. Subsequent paragraphs may cover the message related to the matter specifically. It is the most important part of communication and the only reason for writing a business letter.
In addition, the message’s length would rely upon the details that the writer would like to cover. However, it is the lengthiest part of the letter. And so it must be written in an accurate, appealing, and impressive manner. But at the same time, it should be complete, convincing, clear, and courteous.
It plays an important role in the letter. Basically, it concludes the entire message and focuses on the action needed on the reader’s part.
The complimentary closing line follows the message and is written prior to the signature. It could be Your’s faithfully, Yours Sincerely.
In all the business letters you will find a signature at the end. It is used to make it more authentic. That is to say, a letter that does not bears any signature is not given much weightage. There are instances when the addressee does not act upon the unsigned letters. In fact, in many official letters, you may find the designation of the person signing the letter, just after the signature.
When there is any document like invoice, copy of bill, cheque, receipt, and so on. It is enclosed with the letter under the heading ‘Encl’. This is to ensure that the reader is aware of the document attached to the letter and locate and review them. If no enclosures are sent, this should be indicated by writing ‘Nil’ under the head.
Copy Marking (Endorsement)
Sometimes it becomes pertinent to send extra copies to the receivers apart from the original receiver. This is because some more persons may be involved or related to the matter concerned. And the sender wants all of them to know about the matter. Hence, the needed number of copies are printed and sent to all the parties in different envelopes.
If the sender wants the main receiver to know about it, he can do so by writing ‘Copy to’ or ‘CC, i.e. Carbon Copy’
The alternative term for postscript is P.S. It is an afterthought. This is used to re-emphasize a specific point in the message. It appears at the end as an additional remark and is placed after the signature and designation.
Apart from these, there are also continuation pages, outside addresses, envelopes, and window covers. These are also parts of a business letter which is required to keep the letter elegant.