Write the Perfect Business Letter in English

by | Oct 28, 2015 | 4 comments

Write the Perfect Business Letter in English

Let’s get down to business!*

Business letters are still a critical part of doing business around the world. We use them for introductions, sales, proposals and much more.

But every language also has its own special phrases or components that are necessary for a good letter.

Let’s work on helping you to have the most effective and successful letter in English.

*[Let’s get down to business] is a common idiom. It means: Okay, no more small talk or polite talk. It is time to focus on a business discussion or serious matters.

Business letters are also known as formal letters.

As a result, your letter should be formal and appropriate. Business letters are very different than emails, which are more informal and friendly. This means you need to be much more careful about appropriate expressions, grammar, and punctuation.

Today I’ll provide the format or structure you need to use for a business letter PLUS several example expression we use.

But – in addition to the correct format – you should also remember to:

  1. Keep it clear and concise
  2. Keep it correct
  3. Keep it professional

Address and Date

Your business letter needs two addresses (the sender and the recipient) and the date that you write the letter. 

Here is the format you should follow:

Sender’s Name (From)**
Title
Company
Address

Date

Recipient’s Address (To)
Title
Company
Address

**NOTE: If you are using a company letterhead (which includes the company logo and address), you do not need to include all this information. 

Example:

Ms. Samantha Lesley
Founder / CEO
LHT Company
1234 Main Street
Big City, NY 10009

October 25, 2015

Ms. Nasreen Asmar
Human Resources Director
H57 Company
565 Some Avenue
Other City, NY 99900

Salutation / Opening

In all situations, it is best to use the person’s name in the salutation of the letter. If you are not sure, try to do some research to find the name of the contact person. Here are some key rules for salutations:

  • If you do not know the contact person, it is best to stay formal and use a personal title + the full name or the last name.
  • If you are familiar or friendly with the contact person, you can just use the first name.
  • If it is difficult for you to identify the gender of the person based on his or her name, you can simply use the person’s full name.

Example Salutations

Formal:

  • Dear Ms. Samantha Lesley,
  • Dear Mr. Josef Smith,
  • Dear Dr. and Ms. (or Dr. and Mr.) Stevens,
  • Dear Ms. Lesley and Mr. Smith,

Informal:

  • Dear Samantha,
  • Dear Josef,

Formal but unsure of the gender:

  • Dear Samantha Lesley,
  • Dear Josef Smith,

NOTE: It is important to use a person’s name if possible. If you are unable to find a contact name, you can use the following examples but it is not recommended.

  • Dear [Job Title], (for example, Dear Hiring Manager)
  • To whom it may concern, 

Body

The body of your letter should typically be 3-4 paragraphs and everything should fit on one page.

Remember: be concise, be correct and be clear!

In the modern business letter, all the content should be justified to the left side – what does that mean? It means your addresses, date, salutation, body, and conclusion should all line up on the left side of the page.

When you start your next paragraph is should line up on the left and you should include 1 space or line between each paragraph.

When you start your next paragraph it should not have an indented line – that is not used often now.

A typical business letter has three primary paragraphs, which include:

Paragraph 1: Introduction. Include: who are you/who your company is, why are you writing, what is the main point?

Paragraph 2: Body & Details. Support your introduction with the important details or information you want your reader to know. This may be more than one paragraph if necessary.

Paragraph 3: Closing. Summarize your main point and provide your request for action.

Key Expressions for Business Letters

Introduce Yourself/Company
  • I am writing to introduce myself ___
  • I received your contact information from ____ and am writing to introduce myself because ___
  • I read/heard about your company in _____ and would like to introduce myself because __
  • As [insert your job title], I am writing to present [my company] to you because ____
  • I received your contact information from ____ and am writing to introduce [my company] because ___
  • [My company] read/heard about your company in _____ and would like to introduce ourselves because ___

Introduce a Product or Service
  • Our new product/service will be released next month and we are excited to share with you ___
  • This product/service is designed to ___ (include how it will solve a problem the reader has)
  • This product/service will ___ (include how it will solve a problem the reader has)

Refer to Previous Contact
  • To follow up with you after our (phone call, email, letter) on ___
  • In response to your request for ___
  • Thank you for your letter/phone call/email regarding ___

 

Details / Benefits of Your Product or Service
  • I’d like to include a quick story of how [product/service] helped [another company] to ___
  • As a company focused on [insert company goal], I am certain you would appreciate a [product/service] that could ___
  • Some of the key benefits of [your product/service] include ___

Request for Action
  • If you’d like to receive a sample of [product], I’d love to send one to you. You can reach me at ___ (or I will follow-up with you in 3 days by telephone).
  • If you’d like to test this service, I would be happy to work with you and provide you with an overview. To request a sample service, you can contact me at _____.
  • After this letter, I will plan to follow-up with you in 3 days to answer any questions you may have.

Giving Good News
  • I am pleased to inform you that ___
  • You’ll be glad to know that ____
  • We are excited to announce that ___

Giving Bad News
  • I regret to inform you that ___
  • Unfortunately, we are not able to complete that request/fulfill the request due to ____
  • After much consideration, we have decided to ___

Next Steps (Closing)
  • I look forward to working with you on ___ or I look forward to meeting with you on ___
  • We are eager to begin working with you on ___
  • I look forward to your response.
  • We are looking forward to continuing our successful relationship with your company.

Closing

In your closing, use a professional remark and type your full name.

You should then include your handwritten signature (in blue or black ink) between the closing statement and your typed name.

Example Closing

Sincerely,

Samantha Lesley (handwritten signature)

Samantha Lesley (typed name)

Sample Letter

Note: This is not a real business letter. It is simply to be used as an example.

Jean Sollow
Director of Operations
Example Company
1234 Main Street
Big City, NY 10009

October 25, 2015

Ms. Nasreen Asmar
Human Resources Director
H57 Company
565 Some Avenue
Other City, NY 99900

Dear Ms. Asmar,

It was such a pleasure to meet you at [location]. I sincerely appreciate your interest in our work. To better introduce our company, I would like to tell exactly how we can be the answer to H57 Company’s needs in your language strategy improvements among international staff.

At [Example Company] we have streamlined the process of assessing your staff’s language abilities and implementing an easily adapted curriculum to fit the unique needs of your company. In just 5 years, we have served over 3,000 employees in the [City] area. On average, companies experience a 74% improvement in an employee’s target language level with our language services.

I’d like to share more with you regarding what we can do for H57 Company, including some initial strategies we have for you based on our conversation. I intend to follow-up with you in 3 business days to arrange a meeting at your convenience.

I look forward to our next meeting.

Sincerely,

Jean Sollow 

Additional Resources

It is important that your grammar and punctuation also be correct for your business letter.

To help you in your proofreading, here are two great websites to help you:

Now I’d love to hear from you.

Have you ever written a business letter in English? Share your experience! 

  • What advice do you have for someone else writing their first English business letter?
  • What has helped you the most with writing business letters in English? And what is most challenging for you?

Share in the comments section below.
– Annemarie

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