Tips on Writing a Friendly Business Letter

Every business letter is of course unique and everyone needs to write those annoying little suckers. By following my few simple tips, you can make your letters really stand out.

  • Don't abbreviate. Ever.
  • Set a tone for your letter that conveys your message. Does it need to be so formal? Can you use a few conjunctions? Is it friendly, polite, serious, full of bad news? Know before you begin what you need to say and then use the words to convey this message.
    For example, a letter that begins with:
    will have a very different tone than one that begins with:
    I am happy to report
  • Just be yourself. This is the most important rule I'm giving you. Don't be someone you aren't. 
  • Don't promise things you can't do.
  • Don't ask questions that you know the answer to.
  • Say what you want and get out.
  • Read it over. Read it again. Read it one more time. Read it out loud at least once.
  • Spell check.
  • Print it and read it one more time.
  • Have someone you trust read it once.
Sounds like a lot of work, but it should be a lot of work. If a letter is required, it's important, take the time it deserves and do it right.

Let's take a quick peek at the layout.

Address info
Date (no abbreviations)

To/Attention/Dear, (use proper title and spell names properly. Double check)

Introduction should quickly tell the reader why YOU are writing them. How does the reader know you and what do you want? Are you responding to something you read or a phone conversation? This is the time to be specific. Don't use your name, it's at the end. Don't use your title it's at the end. Just the specifics.
In response to our telephone conversation on January 13th, I'm sending you the list you required for the project titled, "How to Build a Store in Four Days".
I am customer #783627, and I am requesting a refund on item #89988 which I purchased on January 15th at said store.
The core or body of your letter should give a little more details. Why? When? How? Benefits? Whatever you want to say is said here professionally, once, and clearly. Have someone else read it to make sure they understand what you want to say. No more than two or three paragraphs. Be polite. Be honest. Imagine  you're reading this letter. How does it make you feel?

Closure is two paragraphs that are very short. A simple invite welcoming them to respond and a thank-you. Don't try to be fancy or creative in this part. Nothing ruins a perfectly professional letter than someone saying, dynamically yours at the end. Yuck. Just say thank you and get the heck out of there.

Feel free to contact me any time with any questions or concerns you may have.
Finish with all your contact information including your name and full title. (don't abbreviate- did I mention this already? I can't stress it enough, it makes you look lazy.The reader might not even notice it, but what if their subconscious does?)

Now. These are my tips, but I welcome more. Please, feel free to add your thoughts. How do you make your business letters shine?

And here are a few other links to help you in your letter writing. Of course, they don't take the same approach I do:
For the outline and formats: Purdue OWL: Basic Business LettersHUNTER COLLEGE
For what tone or words to use: Letter Writing GuideBusiness Letter Writing Basics

Have fun and happy writings!!


Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Is it okay to abbreviate Street or Avenue?

Richard said...

This is a different kind of post, but it's certainly a part of our writing life. Thanks for the info. I would never have thought of reading it out loud or having someone else read it before sending it out, but that is good advice. Maybe query letters, which are (and I never thought of it before)business letters would benefit from that type of treatment.

Tanya Reimer said...

Hey Michael, I would add in the 4 extra letters.

Richard, reading out loud really does help work through stumbling sentences and just helps you hear your thoughts.

Victoria Lindstrom said...

Thanks, Tanya. When all else fails, I have my husband check it - he has business experience. I tend to be too formal. Take care!

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

Good post, Tanya. I am going to print this one and give it to my boss. :-)

Shallee said...

Great tips on the more professional side of writing! (Not that fiction writing isn't a professional pursuit, know what I mean.)

DUTA said...

Helpful advice!
I usually read out written stuff before sending it, especially if it happens to be in english which is not my native language.

Valentina Hepburn said...

Great advice, Tanya. There's nothing I hate more than receiving a business letter with errors or one that hasn't been thought out properly. I'm a bit of a curmudgeon for that. And also, get the name of the person you're sending it to right, correct spelling, initial everything. It really annoys me when people spell my name incorrectly. (So there). I feel better now!

Vicki Tremper said...

Great tips, thanks! Some of these tips would also come in handy in emails.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

This was great, Tanya. I like the idea of reading it out loud. It's what we are advised to do in our WIPs, so it makes sense in a business letter, too, although I wouldn't have thought of it.

Now -- iIf you would just come over here, now, and write my query letters for me, I would be so appreciative . . . . :-)

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Anders Sundstedt said...

Thank you for the helpful information in this post.


Akira Dania said...

Well, I would say that it's important to always address your letter to a specific person while writing professional letters and use her name. If you cannot find out the name of the person, you should at least address the letter to a position title.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

That's an excellent point Akira! Most important. And getting the name right helps. Thanks.