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Business Letters

Tue, Jul 13, 2010

General Management

Even though letters might be sent via email versus snail mail these days, strong letter writing is still a key business skill. Whether you’re an admin or a CEO, the ability to write a clear, concise business letter is a necessary function in business.  

Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph of an effective business letter introduces your company and the reason for the letter. If you’re writing to someone who is a referral, mention the common connecion you share. If it’s someone you’ve done business with in the past, mention a previous encounter. In one sentence, summarize why you are writing the letter.

Body Paragraph

This is the meat of the effective business letter.  It’s typically 3-5 sentences; each sentence provides a supporting argument. For example, if you’re writing a thank you letter to a donor, you could provide 3 ways that their donation will help your institution. If you’re trying to court a new sales customer, you could give 3 areas where your company ranks higher than its competitors.

Use simple, direct language.  Don’t forget to leave white space in between paragraphs to make it easier to read. Microsoft Word will show you the readability stats for the document. These include words per sentence, sentences per paragraph, and overall Flesh-Kincaid reading level. To give you a comparison, most newspapers publish at a 6th grade reading level.

Closing paragraph

The closing paragraph is the summary of an effective business letter. Restate your main reason for writing. ‘As you can see, our company has a long history of selling Product X at the best value point.’Â  Set a plan for follow-up, such as calling in one week to make sure they received the letter or mailing additional information. Say thank you and that you look forward to continued business with them. Courtesy is key in effective business communications.

Sample Business Letter

July 13, 2010

Jane Jones

Customer Service Manager

Widgets Express

123 Main Street

Any City, USA 45678

Dear Ms. Jones,

It was such a pleasure meeting you at the widget trade show last week. You may recall that my company, Widgets Express offers fulfillment services to companies like yours.

How many times have you lost precious minutes trying to locate a misplaced order or satisfy an angry customer? Widgets Express handles all ordering and customer service needs.  As your partner, we offer a streamlined, online ordering system, 24-7 on-call support, and ten years of customer service expertise. Unlike large, impersonal fulfillment houses, we create targeted business plans for each client, based on quarterly face-to-face meetings. At Widgets Express, happy companies are our goal.

I would love to show you some client testimonials and further discuss how we can improve your business processes. I will call your office next week to set up a meeting. Thank you for your time and I look forward to a successful partnership.

Sincerely,

Sarah Smith

Sales Director

Your business communications are the face of your company. People will remember you by what you write, so be sure to make it crisp and clear.  Before hitting the send button or sealing that envelope, have a co-worker, two if you can, read the business letter. If you can get someone who isn’t in your department to help, that’s even better. If the letter is understandable to an outsider, it should be understandable to your client.

For more information on writing a business letter, please see these resources:

Business Letter Basics

Recommended opening and closing lines

Online Writing Lab

By Danielle Bullen . Danielle is a writer and a resident of the Philadelphia area. Danielle can be reached at Daniellebullen@comcast.net.

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