A business letter is a formal type of communication targeted to a specific group or individual, and have a distinct and concise function. Basically, a business letter is any form of a formal letter sent to or received by a business. Typically in writing, the relationship between the parties involved dictates the overall style of the letter. Business letters are chiefly used when writing from a business corporation to another, or for communication between the customers and such organizations, clients, and other third parties.
There are various reasons for writing a business letter. To mention but a few, it could serve to order supplies from the supplier; as a means to request another party to dispense certain information or take a specific course of action; or even to provide a direct reply to a request. Despite this being a digital era, business letters are still highly prevalent due to their formal nature, confidentiality, as well as the ability to provide permanent records. To properly appreciate the aspects of writing a business letter, it is important to identify the type of business letter being written. The various types of business letters include letters of resignation, complaint, and recommendation, resume cover letters inter alia. The structure of the letter is such that the date comes first, followed by the sender’s address then the inside address. Subsequently, what follows is the salutations, then the body text/body of the letter, which essentially states the reason for writing the letter. A polite closing known as the complimentary close comes after the body text, with the signature finalizing the letter provided there aren’t any enclosures.
13 Mistakes to Avoid
The formal nature of a business letter demands that its quality be pristine. If the principal objective is to attain success, it is important to understand how to write effectively and evade common mistakes. I will outline 13 mistakes to avoid when writing a formal business letter, in order to ensure a well written, properly structured document.
1. Never overlook the reader
The reader should be the priority. The information contained in the letter should be tailored to suit the reader. The document should be structured according to the type of information required by the reader and detailed enough so as not to leave the aforesaid with any queries. Writing a business letter requires one to identify the primary message to be conveyed and put it across in the manner a reader desires.
2. Don’t be lazy to proofread
Even the most honest mistakes can be presumed careless as they paint a picture of a certain form of indifference. Petty mistakes such as typos or grammatical errors raise questions as to your ability to be keen and thorough. Clients want to feel safe, satisfied that their interests will be addressed in a comprehensive manner by someone who will dot the T’s and cross the I’s. Thus proofreading the letter and ensuring it lacks any typos or misspellings goes a long way in validating the content.
3. Use of casual language: Think again!
In writing a business letter, only formal language is acceptable. The nature of a business letter precludes it from many forms, everyday writing and speech, which is primarily informal language. Thus a business letter should utilize business English, which is not only official but also respectful.
4. Over excessive use of jargon
To better capture the readers, business letters need not contain a bombardment of jargon that would render the letter hard to comprehend. Readers desire familiarity, and can better digest content in which they can apprehend, other than one which contains so many complicated terms that they feel put down. Thus, any foreign terms need to be expounded. Consequently, the message would be direct and, as a result, better received and understood.
5. Don’t use informal salutations and conclusion
To reiterate again, a business letter should be a formal document. However, a common mistake is the use of casual greeting as well as closings. The most appropriate greeting in writing a business letter is the very formal-Dear, with the addressee’s name coming afterward. As regards the closing, sincerely, it is the most suitable closing as it portrays professionalism, a key component of a business letter.
6. Using incorrect structure/format (Very common)
Being a formal letter, a business letter is written in a specific format. It adheres to a specific structure. The business letter begins first with the date, followed by the sender’s address then the content. This is better expounded in the offset. To guard against the possibility of using the wrong format, it is advisable to use a business letter template as a guide.
7. Long and intricate sentences
The message should be clear and to the point. The use of long, complicated sentences only serves to bore and confuse the reader whose attention was divided anyway. A short and straightforward message captures the reader and prevents the reader from revising each paragraph just to grasp the message.
8. Mediocre preparation
Before commencing the body of the letter, it is important to classify the information. An assessment should be carried out to realize exactly that which is fundamental and that which is non-essential. Without proper planning and preparation, these two pieces of information would collide, resulting in a scrambled content, ultimately causing a distorted message.
9. Overwriting (It’s a letter, not an essay)
As mentioned earlier, the reader’s attention is divided. The more the content, the more disheartening it is to read, and the more likely the reader will skim through it rather than adequately peruse through the letter. A short and to the point approach should be taken in the writing of business letters as this ensures the message is conveyed in a timely and concise manner. Additionally, too much text changes the overall outlook of the document, which doesn’t appeal to the reader. Keeping it short adds value aesthetically.
10. Ignorance of acronyms and abbreviations
Despite some abbreviations and acronyms being common knowledge, it should not be presumed that the reader is familiar with them. Clarity not only facilitates a better understanding but also promotes delight in the content.
Vague statements are often prone to misinterpretation. To guard against this, it’s important to wherever possible, quantify statements. Specificity is crucial.
12. Lack of an impression
To effectively capture the reader, one must pay fine detail to two key parts of a letter, the introduction and conclusion. A business letter sample must contain a powerful introduction and a good conclusion. A commanding introduction will draw the reader to the message being put across whilst a good conclusion serves to leave a lasting impression.
13. Using a template? Remove sample content
To be clear, using a template is not wrong, per se. However, it is seemingly common for people to forget to remove the templates sample information. This creates confusion in the document due to mismatching pieces of information. The only remedy against this faux pas is diligence or the failure to use a template.