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Free Tips for business letters


Style and punctuation

Business letters can be written in indented or blocked style. Both are acceptable.

We will consider blocked style and open punctuation as standard in this section. These are the most frequent kinds of letters found nowadays.

BLOCKED style means that each line comes right under the other (vertically aligned).

OPEN punctuation means no commas after each line of the addresses or the salutation or complimentary closes.

Remember you must be consistent in style and punctuation all through the letter



1- sender's address
2- date
3- inside or receiver's address
4- attention line
5- salutation
6- body of the letter
7- complimentary close
8- signature

There are some other features of a normal business letter that can be frequently found in addition to the ones mentioned above.

1- letterhead (including the name, address and information about the company)
2- references(indicating what correspondence they refer to or to refer to when replying)
3- date
4- receiver's address
5- attention line
6- salutation
7- body of the letter
8- complimentary close
9- signature
10- p.p. (per pro, i.e. when an assistant signs a letter on behalf of his/her boss. It means for and on behalf of)
11- company position
12- enclosures (if there are any enclosures with the letter,like leaflets or any kind of copies, many companies write Enc. and list these documents at the bottom of the letter).

Most business letters have four parts

1- a salutation
2- an opening
3- the main message
4- the close

1- A salutation

*To address a person whose name or sex you do not know you use Dear Sir or Madam
*When you do not know the name of a man you are writing to, Dear Sir is used.
*If you are addressing a woman whose name you do not know, you use Dear Madam
*If you have chosen open punctuation you do not use a comma after Dear Sir/ Madam
*When you are addressing a company, you begin your letter Dear Sirs
In th USA Dear Gentlemen is often used instead of Dear Sirs

2- An opening

This says why you are writing.For example
*We are writing to enquire about...
*We are writing in connection with...
*We are interested in ...and we would like to know...
If you are answering the letter, you can start:
*We have received your letter of....
*Thank you for your letter of....

3- The main message or body

Your letter should be neither too long nor too short.
The length of your letter will depend on whether the subject of the letter is a simple or a complicated one. You have to decide on the right amount of info to include in your letter.
The reader will not be able to understand the message if you leave out important information. If you include too many details, he may be irritated.
Planning your letter in advance is the best thing to do.
In this way you will be able to decide what to include,in which order and how you are going to express it.
The best way produce a good business letter is to use the KISS formula (keep it short and simple)
The body of most letters can be divided into three paragraphs, though some more may be necessary sometimes.
In our next lesson you can find some examples of words which may unnecessarily complicate the language used in business correspondence.
You should also avoid informal, colloquial language as well as phrasal verbs, idioms and short forms. This kind of vocabulary is considered inappropriate.
To sum up
The language used should be:
*clear but courteous
*simple but formal
The message should:
* be neither too long nor too short
* have a clear sequence
Your key word to success: KISS

4- The close

Here are some ways to end a letter
*I look forward to receiving your reply/order/products
*Looking forward to hearing from you
If you give some information in your letter, you can close
*I hope that this information will help
*Please contact me/let me know if you need any further information
*Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions
You also need to include a complimentary close.

YOURS FAITHFULLY is used if you begin your letter Dear Sirs - Dear Sir - Dear Madam - Dear Sir or Madam i.e. when you do not know the name or sex of the person you are addressing
YOURS SINCERELY is used if the letter begins with a name. Dear Mrs Smith - Dear Mr Jones
YOURS TRULY or TRULY YOURS is used in the USA to close business and formal letters. You do not use these in formal correspondence in the UK.


For the purpose of preparing this free lesson we have used Unit 2,"Parts of a letter", from the following book "Company to Company", student's book. Andrew Littlejohn. Cambridge University Press.1988,1994