A business letter
You are here
A business letter
In this activity, learners attempt to re-write an inappropriately informal business letter in a more appropriate, formal style.
They then compare their version with a model text, helping them to notice the conventional formulae used in this type of letter, and incorporate some of this new language into another similar letter.
This activity is particularly suitable for higher level Business English students, or adult learners who need to write formal letters in English in real life.
Make enough copies of these worksheets so that each student can have one.
In order to get students thinking about business letters, ask how many reasons they can think of for writing this type of letter. Give a couple of examples, then get students to brainstorm in pairs, before feeding back to the >Find out more about effective writing activities in our teacher development module Engaging with writing – preparing activities.
Sample Request for Payment Letter
30 Silverstone Ave
February 21st, 20—
Mr. Ken Davis
Hanson’s Montessori School
15 Main St.
Our records show that you have an outstanding balance dating back to January, 20—. Your January invoice was for £445.00 and we have yet to receive this payment. Please find a copy of the invoice enclosed.
If this amount has already been paid, please disregard this notice. Otherwise, please forward us the amount owed in full by March 1st, 20—. As our contract indicates, we begin charging 5% interest for any outstanding balances after 30 days.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation. We hope to continue doing business with you in the future.
Enclosure: Invoice #223
Useful vocabulary: records, outstanding balance, invoice, enclosed, disregard, indicates, cooperation
8 Essential Steps to Writing a Business Letter in English
In the 21 st century?
Isn’t business writing all about emails, reports and memos?
Well, business people actually write and read business letters all the time.
You can send a business letter via email (as an attachment or in an email) or as a hard copy (printed on paper).
Business letters are more formal than business emails. They communicate something more official in a business situation.
It is important to write business letters correctly, because the impression you create depends on how you write them.
We will help you write a great business letter in English with fewer mistakes.
Here is a list of eight steps to follow when writing a business letter, along with many valuable tips.
8 Essential Steps to Writing a Business Letter in English
1. Decide what type of letter you need to write
Business letters have a sender and a recipient (person who receives the letter). The sender can be a person or a group (like a company) and the recipient can be another person or group.
Depending on the sender’s reason for writing, there are several types of letters. Have a look at the main types of business letters:
- Letter of complaint: A business letter written by someone (a person or a company) who is dissatisfied with the products or services offered by a company. When writing a letter of complaint, it is important to try to keep a polite tone, even if you are very upset or have a lot of complaints to make.
- Letter of inquiry: This type of letter is written by someone who has questions about the activity of another company. If you are planning to write a letter of inquiry, make sure you try to find out as much information as you can before writing. Then make a checklist with everything else you need to find out about, so that you don’t forget some important points.
- Cover letters: These are written by people who are applying for jobs. They are usually sent together with a resume. A good cover letter can get you a job, but people writing cover letters often make mistakes or try too hard to impress the reader.
- Adjustment letters: These letters are sent as replies to letters of complaint. They can be tricky to write because your reader is usually a dissatisfied customer who is hoping to get the most out of a bad business situation.
- Order letters: This type of business letter is sent to place an order with a company. Order letters need to include correct information, so you need to double-check all figures before sending them. Your language needs to be accurate so that there is no room for mistakes. It is better to use simple and clear language. Long sentences can be ambiguous (uncertain) and difficult to follow.
- Other letters: There may be all sorts of other business situations in which people may be writing letters. For example, a person might write a letter…
- to convince others to buy their products or services.
- to recommend employees for jobs.
- to announce their resignation.
Whatever type of business letter you are writing, read on to find out more tips and specific phrases you can use to sound more professional!
2. Write a short outline
After you have decided what type of letter you are going to write, it is important to stop and think. Write an outline before you start typing. If you don’t do this, you could be wasting a lot of time. At the end, you can easily make minor changes, but big changes are more difficult to make. If you have a good plan, you won’t need to make a lot of time-consuming changes.
So first of all, start gathering all the information you can on the situation you are writing about. If you are writing a letter of complaint, you should know exactly what the problem was and what you hope to achieve as a result of your letter. If you are writing an order letter, remember to gather all the information about the product you need.
Next, write down the main ideas you want to include. You can write down full sentences, or just key words if you are in a hurry. For example, if you are writing a cover letter, your main ideas could look like this:
- What job you are applying for.
- Why you think you would be good for the job/why the company should hire you.
- Why the job would be good for you.
- When you are available for an interview.
If you know the main ideas, you know how many paragraphs you are going to write. Remember to have only one main idea in a paragraph. This will help the reader follow your points more easily, and your letter will be structured and logical. Your reader will also be happy (and you want to keep your reader happy) if your ideas are nicely connected. Remember to use connectors to make transitions within and between paragraphs.
3. Use the right layout and salutation
Business letters have quite strict rules when it comes to layout (format and order). You need to include the sender’s and the recipient’s addresses and follow some simple rules:
- Start with the sender’s address. You can write it in the top right or left corner. Don’t include your name or title because these will appear at the end of your letter.
- Leave an empty line and write the date just below the sender’s address. If you are writing to a company in the United States, remember to use the American date format: month, date, year.
- Leave another empty line and write the recipient’s title, name, position and address. Pay attention to titles. We use Mr. for men, Miss for unmarried women, Ms. for women we are not sure are married and Mrs. for married women. It is always safest to just use Ms. for women. Here is an example:
14 Bridge Street
Baviera, California 92908
Ms. Jane Smith
Customer Care Manager
Chapman and Litt
711-2980 Nulla Street
Mankato, Mississippi 96522
- Start the letter with the right salutation, depending on whether you know the recipient and how well you know them. In American English, we use a colon after salutations in formal business letters. In British English, we use a comma. Here are some examples:
Dear Ms. Smith: (If you know the recipient’s name.)
Dear Jane: (If you know the recipient quite well and call each other by your first names.)
Dear Sir or Madam: (If you don’t know the recipient’s name.)
To Whom It May Concern: (If you don’t have a specific person to whom you are writing. It is a bit more general than “Dear Sir or Madam.” It is best to try to find a contact person when writing a business letter.)
- Close the letter appropriately, depending on the salutation you used at the beginning:
(Dear Ms. Smith:) Yours sincerely / Sincerely / Sincerely yours,
(Dear Jane:) Best / Best regards / Kind regards,
(Dear Sir or Madam: / To Whom It May Concern:) Yours faithfully / Faithfully / Faithfully yours,
- Sign your name if you are sending a hard copy and then write your name (your title is optional) and your position:
[Ms.] Rebecca Smith
Director of Acquisitions
4. Use appropriate vocabulary for the type of letter you are writing
Depending on the type of business letter you are writing, you can choose to use some of the sentences and phrases suggested below.
- Letters of complaint:
I am writing to complain about…
I am writing to draw your attention to…
I recently purchased … from your company.
Not only…(did the product arrive late), but…(it was faulty as well)
As you can imagine, I was quite disappointed/upset when…
I suggest that I get a full refund.
I feel entitled to a refund.
I would be grateful if you could give me a refund.
I would appreciate it if you could replace the product.
I look forward to receiving a prompt reply.
- Letters of inquiry:
I am writing to inquire about…
Would you be kind enough to provide me with some information about…
I would be appreciative if you could help me find out…
Could you tell me whether…
I would also be interested in…
I am writing to apply for the position of…
I am writing in response to your advertisement…
I would like to apply for the position of…
I am particularly interested in this job because…
As you can see from my resume,…
As you will notice in my resume,…
I am currently employed by…
I am keen to pursue a career in…, because…
My main strengths are…
I would be available for an interview starting…
Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
- Adjustment letters:
Please accept our apologies for…
We sincerely apologize for…
The mistake was apparently due to…
We are currently working on…
To prevent this from happening again,…
We understand how upset you must have been when…, but unfortunately…
We would like to place an order for…
We look forward to receiving your offer for…
Could you please confirm the prices for…
We are looking forward to your confirmation.
5. Check your spelling
When writing a business letter, perfect spelling is essential. If possible, use spell check to make sure your spelling is correct.
If you are writing a business letter as part of an exam, try to avoid spelling mistakes. You can simply replace words that you are not confident about with other words. For example, if you are not sure how to spell occur, you can use happen instead.
Another useful thing to do, especially if you are writing a cover letter or if you are trying to impress your reader, is to consider whether they use American or British spelling. There are a lot of words that are spelled differently, so it may be useful to have a look at this site which gives you the main differences.
6. Check your grammar
Grammar mistakes are a bit trickier. Of course, the safest route is to learn the rules and practice them as much as possible. You can use grammar books or online exercises or both, depending on what you find more convenient.
Another thing you can do is to know your grammar weak spots. For instance, do you tend to forget adding s for the third-person singular when using the present simple? Or do you overuse the? Then it is time to double-check for these mistakes.
Finally, here is a list of common grammar mistakes people make in English. Make sure you understand why they are mistakes, so that you don’t make them yourself!
Mistake: Your a valued customer and we’d like to apologize for the inconvenience we’ve caused you.
Correct: You’re a valued customer and we’d like to apologize for the inconvenience we’ve caused you.
Correct: Your interest is important to us.
Explanation: Your is used to express possession. You’re = You are.
Mistake: Its important that we get a reply as soon as possible.
Correct: It’s important that we get a reply as soon as possible.
Correct: We did not receive the email and its attachment.
Explanation: Its is used to express possession. It’s = It is.
- Possessive nouns
Mistake: The employee’s lack of motivation stems from their low salaries.
Correct: The employees’ lack of motivation stems from their low salaries.
Explanation: With singular nouns, we add ‘s to express possession. With plural nouns ending in s, we just add ‘.
- Present simple vs. present continuous
Mistake: I am working with kids and I love my job.
Correct: I work with kids and I love my job.
Correct: I am working with these kids while their teacher is on maternity leave.
Explanation: We use the present simple to refer to permanent, general actions, such as one’s job. We use the present continuous with temporary actions.
- Present perfect vs. past
Mistake: I have read your cover letter when you sent it.
Correct: I read your cover letter when you sent it.
Correct: I have read your cover letter and would like to follow up with you.
Explanation: We use the present perfect for actions that happened in the past and still have an impact on the present. We use the past for actions that happened in the past, when the speaker knows when they happened.
Mistake: Our profits are lower then last year.
Correct: Our profits are lower than last year.
Correct: We analyzed your request and then we contacted you.
Explanation: We use than to form comparisons and then to refer to when something happened.
Do not worry if this seems challenging. English grammar is complex, and even native English speakers have difficulty with grammar sometimes. To ensure that your business writing is free from grammar mistakes, you may want to use Grammarly. This is a grammar-checking tool that will highlight mistakes and suggest corrections for you.
It is not 100% perfect, and it may still miss errors that a human being would see.
If you are going to be sending out very important business letters, then it is worthwhile to invest in professional proofreading services. After all, you want your writing to be perfect when you are sending a business letter to your entire company, to a potential employer or to your most valuable clients.
In these situations, we recommend that you seek the help of Proofreading Services, an online team of professional editors with tons of knowledge and experience—they offer combined proofreading and editing for over 5,000 clients in 93 countries. Just be sure to give them the secret password: FLUENTU15. This code entitles you to 15% off at ProofreadingServices.com!
7. Check your punctuation
It is so difficult to focus on different types of mistakes all at once—spelling, grammar and punctuation. So try to make time to proofread your letter a separate time for punctuation mistakes.
Here are some of the most frequent punctuation mistakes to watch out for:
Mistake: We tried emailing them but there was no reply.
Correct: We tried emailing them, but there was no reply.
Explanation: If you are not sure whether to use a comma or not, try splitting the sentence into smaller bits: We tried emailing them. There was no reply. It works, right? If you are still not sure, try saying the sentence out loud. If you are pausing a little, you should probably use a comma.
- Using exclamation marks or emoticons
Mistake: I was extremely upset when I received a faulty product!
Correct: I was extremely upset when I received a faulty product.
Explanation: Exclamation marks and emoticons make your writing rather informal, so you should avoid them when writing business letters.
- Using too many or not enough spaces
Mistake: I haven’t applied for a job before , but I’ll give it a try now . I’m not sure if I’m qualified, though.
Correct: I haven’t applied for a job before, but I’ll give it a try now. I’m not sure if I’m qualified, though.
Explanation: When typing, we only use one space after commas or periods and no space before them.
8. Format your letter
Leave formatting for the end; it is less time consuming. Most business letters use a block format, and are left-justified and single-spaced. You should use double spacing between paragraphs to make it clear where a paragraph ends and where another one begins. The most common font is Times New Roman 12, but Arial also works just fine.
That’s it! Business letters are less complicated once you follow these easy steps.
Remember that, whether you know your reader or not, writing business letters in a “friendly” way means writing them in a “professional” way.
For those of you who are very dedicated to improving your English writing skills, we recommend that you go take a look at the courses and books by Inklyo. These have been designed to teach English students how to improve their writing, and they might be just what you need to keep moving forward!
Whenever you are in doubt, have another look at the eight steps above, and keep on writing!
And One More Thing…
Want to sound like a native English speaker, from your letters to your emails to your presentations? Then you’ll love FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like inspiring talks, movie trailers, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.
FluentU has a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.
More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.
To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”
An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”
Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.
All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try out this one-of-a-kind language learning program!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.
Paperwork. Collecting payments and settling accounts. A formal letter. Personnel records etc in Business English
Business English Training | Topic: Modern Business Letters in English 1
Designed to help you to choose the correct words when writing a business letter in English. We use examples from real business letters to ensure that you get the most current (up-to-date) examples available. Remember, most modern business letters are semi-formal, so most of the examples below are as well.
(Choose the best response for each one)
CONTACT US: bes (at) learnenglishfeelgood (dot) com
35 Formal / Business Letter Format Templates & Examples
Are you used to writing informal emails and letters? Then, a formal business letter format may sound foreign to you. Since all business letters are not formal, a formal business letter is written for a formal purpose only. It can either be a recommendation letter, complaint letter or an invitation letter. When business letters are written for official reasons, they can be considered as formal business letters.
Scroll down to download 35 formal / business letter templates
Business letter writing is a major thrust area of communication. With the new communication model, the ultimate goal of nations to cut across linguistic, national, and cultural barriers and promote free global trade has, making the letter an essential business tool. That being said, business letters can be written by managers to employees, along with customers and clients. If you want to know more about a formal letter format, keep reading this article.
What is a Formal Letter?
A formal letter is a type of communication between a company and an individual or between individuals and companies, such as contactors, clients, customers and other outside parties. Formal letters are not like personal letters; they have a more formal tone, writing style and focus on conciseness and concreteness. This is why they are also called formal business letters. However, the tone of the letter can greatly vary, depending upon the type of business letter. Generally, a business letter is written for sales efforts, resolving issues and considerations, and relationship building.
Moreover, depending upon the recipient, their tones may vary from informational, persuasive, motivational or promotional. Normally, they have a clear objective and purpose as they are targeted towards specific groups or individuals. Used in our daily lives, a formal business letter format has become really essential to businesses in specific. Let’s find out more about its importance in the next section.
Business Letter Format Example
Why is a Formal Letter So Important?
With the growing need of business letters nowadays, businesses require business letter formats too. Several sample business letters are available online for users to download. If you are still in doubt regarding business letters, here is why the formal letters are so important and the functions they serve;
- Acts as a Representative: A formal letter conveys your message and communicates it to the other party; hence, they act as a representative for the organization. Also, it is an inexpensive representative for a personal visit.
- Subjects Linked with Business: Since a formal letter conveys business concerns and matters, it only provides information which is connected and linked to your business.
- Valuable Evidence: The business letter helps you in writing things for a specific transaction, serving as a legal purpose and valuable evidence for the transaction.
- Reference to Future Transaction: Along with valuable proof, a formal business letter format is also a reference material for future transactions between individuals and organizations.
- Sustains Goodwill: When an agreement between two parties is in writing, either in a formal letter format or a business email format, there are very less chances of disputes among them. Hence, this sustains goodwill and friendliness between both parties.
- Motivates People: A business letter format encourages and motivates everyone in the business to perform better.
- Expands Business: When information about the services and products get updated through a business letter sent to the clients and customers, every organization expands and promotes its business.
Formal Letter Format
9 Secrets to Writing a Formal Letters
Prior to writing a business letter, organizations or individuals decide what to communicate and the steps in communicating the message. However, as mentioned above, a formal business letter does not require you to use an informal tone, such as contractions and slang terms. This is why there are certain writing principles to help you choose the right words, sentences, and syntax for our business letters. If you want to explore the nine secrets to writing a formal business letter, then read the elements below;
The first thing all writers must keep in mind before writing a business letter is to be correct in their communication. In order to be correct, you need to bear the following principles in mind;
- You need to choose the correct form or level of language.
- You also need to include accurate figures, words, and facts.
- You need to incorporate acceptable writing mechanics.
- You need to use a similar tone and avoid switching from first to second person or even third person in the letter. The entire letter must sound like it is in sync.
- You should also change up the structure of the sentences in order to prevent them from sounding similar.
- Along with these elements, there should be proper punctuation, grammar, spelling and paragraphing present.
Business people are really very busy and they just do not want to deal with the hassle of reading the unnecessary details or lengthy messages. Also, a person is not considered a good writer if they do not write concise, specific and meaningful sentences. A person should not waste their money and time to type such wordy messages. Conciseness ensures comprehensibility and understandability in the message. If you want to be a good writer and achieve conciseness in your message, you need to follow the rules below;
- You should avoid clichés and hackneyed expressions.
- You should include only relevant facts and figures, along with mentioning the source.
- You should avoid and ignore unnecessary wordy expressions and repetition.
- You also need to organize the message efficiently and logically.
Clarity is concerned with the business message being very clear, correct, concise, concrete, and considerate. Here are the tips to achieving these elements;
- You should choose familiar, short, pithy and conversational words.
- You should divide each and every paragraph properly and keep the sentence structure in mind.
- You need to choose and put proper punctuation to make the writing clearer.
- You need to include visual aids, graphs, tables, and illustrations wherever necessary. This can actually make the message more understandable and readable.
Next in the list comes completeness. The message written, either in a email or a business letter, must bring the desirable results. Including every single detail such as the reader’s needs and wants, one should be able to understand needs, attitudes, background, viewpoints, and emotions to know the extent of information. Here are the specific guidelines for ensuring completeness;
- Your message must be able to answer all the questions the way they are asked.
- Along with answering the questions, you will have to give some additional information if it is necessary.
- You must ensure to answer all 5 W’s along with the other essentials. The five W’s include:
A formal business letter must include definite, specific, unambiguous and vivid information. If you want to lead to correctness, here are the guidelines for you to follow;
- You need to use specific facts and figures. Also, you must avoid words like soon, quick, few etc.
- You need to choose action verbs in an active voice.
- The message must have very clear and vivid image building words. In order to achieve this, you can use concrete words and a figurative language.
Next in the list comes the consideration aspect. It refers to empathy, attitude, understanding and the touch of human nature. When you write a message keeping the recipient in mind, then it means that you are taking them into consideration. When focusing on consideration, you should try to imagine the desires, emotions, problems, circumstances, and possible reaction to the request. If you wish to achieve consideration, you need to go through the following;
- You should always use a first person tone, such as emphasize on you more than I or
- You should keep in mind that your message should convey the truth.
- You should shed light on the positive and pleasant aspects instead of the negative ones.
- You should offer a valuable service to the reader.
Being courteous is also an essential part of writing a business letter. Also, there is a slogan, “Everyone gains where courtesy reigns”. This perfectly suits the subject of courtesy and is an age old slogan for courtesy. In business writing, courtesy is more advantageous and important. When you write in a courteous manner, you are likely to improve your relationship and strengthen them, making new partners in business. Actually, being courteous is the best way to build goodwill.
If you want your letter to sound courteous, then check out the ways below;
- You need to be very tactful, appreciative, and thoughtful.
- You should avoid expressions that cause distress, trouble, and disparage among the parties.
- You should answer all your mails promptly.
- You should also apologize candidly, in case of a mistake. Do not be egoistic.
We might behave courteously in our normal routine life but when the circumstances are unpleasant, we may not be so courteous. Instead, we go all crazy and write discourteously. But in business relationships, you need to understand that these irritating situations are actually a test of your courtesy. So, always ensure to stay calm and be courteous in writing formal letters.
In writing a formal letter, you need to show confidence in yourself, in your message as well as in your reader. Showing confidence in a letter means you have to use an optimistic tone to neglect the negative issues. Also, confidence in communication creates a positive tone. When you believe in yourself, confidence in the letter becomes apparent.
Along with the other elements mentioned above, you also need to show your reader that you are positive, decisive, straightforward and most importantly, confident, instead of dubious and diffident. You should avoid using phrases like I hope, why not, if, I trust etc. Instead, use and formulate sentences in the message that accomplish the business objective.
9. Conversational Tone
A good letter is one which feels like the reader is talking to someone. The tone should be conversational, comfortable, natural, inconspicuous, and unpretentious. Business letters are not like dissertations; therefore, using a conversational tone makes the writer quite empathic. Avoid using business jargons and legalese, such as please, beg to state that, beg to advice etc. To write a letter having a conversational tone, you should do the following;
- You should use very good vocabulary.
- You should use proper syntax.
- You need to be very straight forward and professional.
- You should keep the paragraphs as small as possible.
- You should also avo >Business Letter Templates