A business letter is an important form of technical communication. It is different from the usual letters we write in a sense that it appeals to reason rather than emotion. It is written objectively, not subjectively. Moreover, it is highly standardised.
Writers of this kind of letter are the executives, the employees, the jobseekers and anyone desiring to communicate with people other than their own close family relationships in a polite but succinct way. Business letters serve a purpose and that is to get objective results. They are written to formalise an agreement, acknowledge an invitation, or to introduce yourself or the company you work for. From time to time, a college or university student is also called upon to try his hand at this kind of communication.
Elements of a Good Business Letter
A business letter is not meant to entertain its reader. It is written primarily to state a specific purpose or message and eventually, get a reaction or an answer from its receiver. Business means you are serious and so the message you put across should be clearly understood that you mean business.
Business letters are usually sent to people who are busy in their offices. So always remember the seven C's to be mentioned later.
One of the musts in business letter writing is that it should be
(1) CONCISE. It should directly state the purpose of the sender in as few words as possible. With all the paper work in the office, people tend to put aside those letters which will take them more than a few minutes to read. For example, a business executive from a very large firm doesn't have as much patience as a person working abroad who is homesick for word from his or her family. Thus, there is a need for brevity in business letters. Because we are aiming for concise business letters, they are often written in the active voice to minimise superfluous words.
However, there is a big difference between conciseness and abruptness. A business letter should be brief but the writer must also bear in mind the rules or etiquette observed in writing it.
(2) CORDIALITY. Obviously, a warm and friendly business letter produces better results than a stilted, pompous or antagonistic one.
In the writer's effort to be cordial, he must not also forget to be (3) CONVINCING. Conviction is essential in order to make the recipient of the letter believe that the sender is willing and sincere in his desire to do business with the former, or that he is firm in his resolve to carry out the contents of the letter.
A business correspondence that leads its receiver in the dark regarding the point of the letter will only go as far as the nearest trash can - which is why there is need for (4) CLARITY. Remember, you are writing for a specific purpose. State it in simple and familiar words. Do not use highly technical or pompous words. Start your letter by stating your objective for writing.
Then, you should also include some minor details necessary to achieve the purpose of the letter. For example, it is not enough that you indicate what position you are vying for in an application letter. What good would it do if you just say that you're applying for a particular position in a company without mentioning your qualifications? In other words, (5) COMPLETENESS is also very important.
However, due to the fact that big companies receive numerous letters, not to mention application letters, the big bosses sometimes just scan the contents of the letter. They don't always read letters thoroughly. Hence, it is absolutely necessary for business writers to observe correct format, correct grammar, correct spelling and correct punctuation for easy reading.
If a personnel manager scans an application letter and just by glancing it, he sees something wrong, he'll just put it under the pile of letters, or much worse, he'll discard it at once. Business letters represent the individual writer themselves and/or the companies who sent them. This is the reason why (6) CORRECTNESS in writing business letters should be emphasised.
A correct business letter is one which is typewritten or computer-encoded on a plain, white bond paper measuring 8 1/2 x 11 inches with 1 inch margin on all sides. Observe symmetry when writing the contents: the whole body should neither be too high or too low as to exceed the 1 inch margin. It should cover the center page of the paper or should focus on the middle eye level. A correct business letter also means free of erasures. Spelling, grammar, punctuation and form should always be checked and double-checked before being sent. Aside from checking your grammar, your letter must also stay focused and (7) COHERENT on one subject.
These seven C's must always go together when writing a business letter and none should be neglected or overlooked if we wish to convey to the reader that we mean business.