The Business Letter

Letters should be as short as possible, without imitating telegrams, of course. By planning the letter, and then writing down the main topics to be discussed, the letter can be better arranged, and only what is absolutely necessary will be included and put in the right place in the letter.

When writing to two or more departments in a company, it is better to write two or more short letters addressed to the attention of the corresponding departments rather than to write a long letter dealing with many different subjects.

The advantage of doing this is that each matter will be attended to at the same time, whereas, if the two or three matters had been discussed in one letter, the letter will remain on the desk of the first person who had to read it and will go on to the next department after the first department has finished with it. It might also happen that it never gets to the second department but goes to the file and the letter is not completely attended to.

The parts of a business letter are :

1) Letterhead
2) Date Line
3) Inside Address
4) Attention Line
5) Reference or Subject Line
6) Salutation
7) Body
8) Complimentary close
9) Signature
10) Identification initial
11) Enclosures

1) The Letterhead, consists of the company’s name, address, telephone number and other pertinent information. It is usually printed on the company’s stationery. If letterhead stationery is not available, type the heading information.

2) The Date Line, should be put halfway between the letterhead and the inside address. Abbreviations such as 14/07/2000 should be avoided. If the letterhead states the name of the city of the writer, do not give it on the date line.

3) The Inside Address, express street and building numbers, use a hyphen : 10-12 Avenue. If the name of a street is a number, spell out the number : 40 Twenty-Second Street. When writing to the U.S., state the zip code.

4) The Attention Line - If the writer wants his letter to reach a particular person within the company, he may use the attention line. Attention : Mr. J. Morris or Mrs. Jung. It is placed between the inside address and the salutation.

5) Reference or Subject - It is a good practice to mention the subject of the letter in a noticeable way. For this purpose the reference line is used, typed before the salutation line.

6) Salutation - It is typed two or three spaces before the body. The forms are as follows :

Most formal : Sir (in addressing a member of the diplomatic, military or naval corps, and editor, governor, mayor or a president).
Formal : Dear Sir.
Less formal : Dear Mr. Smith.
Friendly : My dear Smith, Dear Charles.

Use Gentlemen or Dear Sirs in writing to a company. However, if the Attention Line includes the name of an executive in the company, it is common to use : Dear Mr. ....

7) Body

8) Complimentary close - There must be agreement between the tone of the letter and the complimentary close.

Formal : Yours truly, yours very truly.
Less formal : Sincerely yours, cordially yours.

9) Signature - The penned signature should appear between the complimentary close and the typewritten signature. The name of the company may follow the complimentary close. The typewritten signature may be followed by the title of the person who dictated the letter or his department within the company.

Very truly yours,


John Smith
Export Department

10) Identification Initials - The initials of the person who has dictated the letter followed by the initials of the stenographer should be typed at the left margin of the letter, four spaces below the signature line (JS/sg).

11) Enclosures - Whenever enclosures are to be made, the word “Enclosure” or its abbreviation “Enc” or “Encl” is typed immediately below the identification initials. Sometimes the mater enclosed is identified.

Check Encl. (enclosures : one check)
Encl. : 2 com. inv. (enclosures : 2 commercial invoices)

12) The second page of the letter - The additional sheet should be the same quality, color and size as the first sheet, but without the letterhead or the inside address. The first line should contain the name of the addressee, the number of the page and the date.

13) Post-script - When necessary, it should be place below the last line of the letter and the abbreviation P.S. may be used at the beginning of the post-script.

The placement style of the letter

There are four styles for the placement of the letter on the sheet of paper : Block style, Semi-block style, Indented style and Extreme block style.

block style block style block style block style
Block Semi Block Indented Extreme Block

1) Block style – It is the most common style in English correspondence. The inside address, the salutation, the attention and subject lines, and the paragraphs of the body are arranged in block form; that is, all of the are typed right from the very left margin.

2) Semi-block style – It is similar to the block form, except that the first line of each paragraph of the body is indented 5 to 10 spaces.

3) Indented style – The body of the letter is similar to the semi-block style; that is, the first lines are indented. Each line of the inside address is indented 5 to 10 spaces to the right of the line above it. This style is losing in popularity.

4) Extreme block style – All typed lines start from the left margin, including the date and signature. The advantage of using this form is that the typist does not have to use the tabulator key, and thus, a saving of time is obtained.