Tips to Writing Business Letters
All businesses, no matter the size, require a great deal of written communication. Business letters represent you and your company. Hence, if properly written, they can improve your efficiency and boost you and your business’ reputation.
Business letters are written to transmit information to someone else. To be effective, it must be correct and complete. The text should also be written in such manner that the recipient would easily understand what you would want to convey.
Business letters may come in simple form such as memos, letters of inquiry, and letters of response; or they may be as complex as business reports and proposals. Yet, whatever the form, your letter must be subjected to careful scrutiny before transmittal. Remember that your writing will reflect on you and your company.
Many written communications are exchanged when doing business. However, it is sad to note that a lot of business managers or even owners have little or no experience in writing. Although they graduated from business courses, their college programs neglect business letter writing skills in favor of other skills.
The following are tips for writing business letters:
• State the correct name and title of the recipient. Make sure you research on this, so you could spell the recipient’s name accurately. There is nothing more embarrassing than giving a letter with an incorrect name or title. Avoid using “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom it may concern”. (as this may give the impression that yours is a form letter, and shows you are too lazy to find out who to address a letter to). As much as possible, personalize your letter.
• Use your company letterheads. Business letters must always be written on the company letterhead. It shows formality, and already contains information such as your address, contact number, trademark, or logo. Furthermore, using the company letterhead will reassure the recipient that the letter is indeed an official correspondence from your company.
• Be prompt. Keep in mind that it is impolite to keep other people waiting. Send out reply letters no more than forty-eight hours upon receipt of request or inquiry. Otherwise, your tardiness will be interpreted as lack of interest.
• Be concise. Use the fewest words possible without sacrificing clarity and completeness of meaning. Your letter should contain only necessary words. Use words sparingly (for example, instead of saying, “at this point in time,” just say “now”). Also an additional tip: there is no need to send letters for everyday business correspondence that go over one page. Time is money, so unless you’re working on a project proposal or writing up the results of a project, stick to one page.
• Be complete. State all the information necessary for the recipient to perform an action in your favor. Your letter should answer all her/his questions regarding your product or service.
• Be professional. Always use formal language. Do not use slang or colloquial speech (for example, use “We are going to look into the matter,” not “We’re gonna look into the matter”). Avoid derogatory remarks about your competitors; these are completely unnecessary, useless, and irrelevant, even in a marketing proposal.
• Take care in using “we” and “I”. Note that if you use the word “we” in a business letter, it may be interpreted as committing the company to what you have written. It is safer to use “I” if you are expressing a personal opinion.
• Be organized. Make sure there is a logical flow in your writing. Avoid randomly writing down what just comes to mind. Try to see if there is a natural sequence or grouping you can follow. It can be chronological, in order of importance, etc.
• Proofread. Check for grammar (“Our company have had business…”) and typographical errors (“the innntended beneficiary”). Do not rely solely on your word processors’ spell checker. It often happens that spelling is correct, but the wrong word was used (for example, “we’ve bin through this before…”). Even if you have good writing skills, take time to spot all errors in your letter. Some would judge you harshly, and might not even forgive you for errors you commit in writing!
• Enclose a return postage or a stamped, self-addressed envelope. If you think you would benefit a lot from the reply to your letter, make sure you do not give the recipient any reason not to answer it.
• If in doubt, hire a professional writer. If you believe that you have neither the time nor the inclination to write and that the letter is of critical importance, then it is time to delegate it to an expert. There are excellent writers out there who can do great jobs. However, this does not exempt you from knowing the basic elements of a good business letter. You must know how to evaluate the writer’s output, to know if it is indeed of high quality.
Knowledge of effective business writing is one of the most useful skills to acquire. It will enhance both your productivity and professional standing. Taking the time to learn how to do it properly is one of the best investments you can make; it will certainly pay huge dividends in just a short time.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.
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