The letter is like an organic being, having a head, body and tail. Business letters, unlike personal letters, have certain formalities to observe. Effective correspondence is the mainstay of any business. Successes and failures in business depend also on effective communication.
Since a good deal of money is involved in business dealings, the correspondence has to be handled with a lot of tact. Everything has to be calculated and complete. Even the stationery used should be of good quality. A shabby letter can spoil company’s image. Be brief and natural, courteous and conversational.
It is discourteous to start a letter with the expression of regret or remorse. Express pleasure in hearing from the other party. After this, go on to the business aspects of the letter, enlisting in different paragraphs the items you want to bring to the reader’s notice.
As in case of personal letters, the main parts of a letter, apart from the text of the message, are: the heading, date, inside address, salutation, close and signature. However, certain variations can be there in different cases. The letter must first make a visual impression as the first impression counts.
The appearance of a letter largely depends on the quality of paper and print, neatness of the fold, the style of lay-out etc. In every good Company neat and efficient clerical attention is paid to the make-up of the letter.
Essential parts of a letter with special emphasis to business letters:
3. Inside address,
5. Body of the letter,
6. Complimentary closure,
7. Signature and designation,
8. Enclosure reference,
9. RS. (Post script)
The letterhead is the printed heading giving the name and address of the company. Generally it occupies about six and a half centimeters of space from top. Use types of moderate size and with a modern face. Simplicity of design is an essential requirement. The letterhead should have only necessary information and that too in a brief form. But, it must have:
(i) Name of the company (ii) Complete address
Nature of business
Telephone number, telegraphic address and email address, if any,
Address of Registered Office and branch office, if any.
Logo of the company, if any
The date should appear on the right hand margin two spaces below the upper margin. The year is written in full as 201*, the date can be written in any of the following ways:-
(i). on the right hand margin e.g.
2nd August, 201*.
August 16, 201*.
On the left-hand side top:
2nd August, 201*.
August 16, 201*.
3. Inside Address
The inside address includes the name and address of the addressee. This is exactly the same address as given on the envelope.
M/s. Universal Book Stall,
Post Box No. 540,
New Delhi – 12.
M/s Universal Book Stall,
Post Box No.540,
New Delhi – 110 012.
A business letter must have the address of the addressee inside too, because, when the copies of such letters are filed, their identification is necessary.
4. Salutation/Attention line:
The salutation is a complimentary term used to begin a letter. A letter addressed to an organisation or a firm begins as under: –
Dear Mr ……………… (Name)
Originality, of course, pays in business correspondence and equally so in business contacts. One is writing to somebody familiar it is preferable to begin the salutation by name e.g., Dear Mr. Sharma,
5. Body of the letter:
A reference line will help the addressee to understand the subject matter of the letter and refer it to the relevant file. This reference line can go below the salutation.
The body of the letter conveys the main message to the person or the firm. If the letter deals with different subjects they should be put in different paragraphs, in the order of importance.
6. Complimentary Close:
The complimentary close should be consistent with the salutation and the content of the letter. It should express regard and respect for the addressee, a good correspondent uses appropriate words. The pairs of salutations and the complimentary closures often used are given below:-
Dear Sir(s)/ Dear Madam
Dear Mr. ………………
Yours truly/ yours faithfully
There are different styles of putting the signatures after the complimentary close. Sometimes the letter is signed by some junior official on behalf of a senior, in that case, “For “is prefixed before the signature. In case of women ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’ is put in the parenthesis. Now a day, however ‘Ms’ is also being used for a woman who does not tell anything about their marital status. The name and designation of the signatory are typed leaving space for signature.
8. Enclosure reference:
Usually the letter is accompanied by some enclosures. It may be a bill, a perform invoice, a copy of previous reference, a self-addressed envelope, a leaflet etc. In such a case it is necessary to mention the number of enclosures so that the dispatcher can check the same at a glance. It also helps the addressee to identify the enclosures expected.
9. P.S. (Postscript)
In case of some important omission, it can be mentioned at the bottom of the letter PS. It should not generally exceed three lines. Sometimes its aim is to get pointed attention of the reader. As it stands at last, it leaves a lasting impression on the leader.
1. Don’t forget that the sale closes on 9th of this month.
2. How is your new venture in Mumbai coming up?
3. I read your latest article in The Hindustan Times and found it quite interesting and enlightening
10. The address on the envelope:
This is invariably the same as the Inside Address. Mr. and Esq., should never be used together. If you have to write Esq., after the name, do not use Mr. Nowadays. However, Esqr. is scarcely used. It is preferable to use Dr. before the name instead of writing M.D. or Ph.D. after the name. Medical professionals, nowadays, write their names by prefixing “Dr.” and suffixing their professional degree.
The address on the envelope should be typed or neatly written leaving a space of about 4 c.m. on the top. This space can be used for franking the postage mark or affixing the postage stamps.
The address should be broken into 3 or 4 lines:
i). The name and designation of the chief executive e.g., Proprietor, Partner, Manager, Managing Director etc., of the firm/office should be followed by the name of the business organization.
ii) Locality, Street, Road etc.
iii) Name of the town/city preferably in bold letters.
iv) Name of the state and pin code e.g.
The Sales Manager, M/s. Leader engineering works, 46, Darya Ganj, New Delhi -11 00 02.
Mr. James T Sobers, Divisional Manager, 125, Esplanade Road, (W.B.). Different parts of the address like designation, name of the street etc., should preferably be used in separate lines.
Streamline your letter
Some General Guidelines:
1. Gone are the days when the business letters were written in hand. These days’ business letters are generally typewritten or computer generated. Handwritten letters can be illegible and thus hamper business dealings. Moreover, they create a bad impression on the receiver.
2. The typist should be efficient. Care should be taken to type letters and correctly. Erasers should be avoided. If a letter has too many corrections it should be re-typed. If done on a computer, it can easily be edited. The stationery should be handled with clean hands and it should be ensured that poor quality paper is not used for letters.
3. The typewriter should be kept clean and should have a good ribbon. A good typist is one who sees to it that: –
i) the type is clean;
ii) The touch is even;
iii) The eraser’s impressions are un noticeable;
iv) There is absence of ‘strike over’s’;
v) There are no ink/pencil corrections;
vi) Alignment of capital letters with small letters is correct;
vii) Spacing of the typed area on paper is correct;
viii) Spacing between words and lines is correct;
ix) In case of Electric or Electronic Typewriter, most of the above are automatically taken care of. A word processor or a Computer has innumerable options and facilities to edit, and manipulate a letter or document. In the latest software like MS Office, most of these are menu driven in the system itself.
Forms of indentions
A letter may be typed or indented in three different ways.
1. Block or Straight Edge Form:
This is the most common one practiced throughout the world. The introductory address, salutation, body paragraphs and complimentary close, begin at the left-hand margin. Single spacing is used with double spacing between paragraphs not indented.
2. Indented Form:
The inside address and subsequently each paragraphs are indented to the same distance from the margin. Single or double spacing may be used between the lines.
3. Semi-block or Combination Form:
This form is also quite popular. The inside address is in block form and not indented-while the body of the letter is arranged in indented paragraphs.
May 12, 201* / 12th May, 201*
M/s. Jugal Kishore & Sons,
This letter is in full block form. Every line including the date and the complimentary close e at the left hand margin. Since there is no indention, this form takes the shortest time to type t is useful where correspondence is large. It is the latest in styles of lay-out and is now universe popular.
November 18, 201*
M/s. Mehta & Company, Green Avenue, Calcutta.
This is the indented form which is now out of date. The inside address is indented and each paragraph begins five spaces away from the margin.
Although the appearance is good, time is wasted because of indentions.
10 September, 201*
M/s. Sehgal & Sons, M/s. Industrial Town, Jullundur City.
This is the semi-block form and is quite common in correspondence. Here, the date, complimentary close and signature are written on the right-hand side. It is a modification over the modern Block Form.
Summary of a good business letter:
A good business letter is one which can:
1. Sell Goods,
2. Revive old clients/customers,
3. Secure new customers and business,
4. Convince customers,
5. Stimulate dealers,
6. Create goodwill,
7. Collect bad debts,
8. Adjust complaints,
9. Open up new outlets,
10. Influence the balance sheet.
Other points to be remembered:
I. Investment In correspondence for business pays in the long run.
II. A good letter, like a seasoned diplomat, fetches goodwill and business.
III. In correspondence, promptness is a must; it avoids delays in business activities.
IV. Try to understand all implications of assurances/commitments given in your letter.
V. Business calls for action at the right time. Learn to cash it at the proper moment.
VI. Every letter should be well-written, well-typed, and well-set. The stationery used should be the best that the company can afford.
VII. The language of the letter can do wonders. Be selective in the choice of words and phrases. A good style and expression can make the letter a treat for its reader.