The formalities of the business letter are a topic fraught with contention and could easily fill a whole book. There are many formats available and a lot of “rules” you can follow. But there are some basic ideas that apply across the board.
- Whether you choose to use block style or indented, be consistent throughout.
- Your name (or your company’s name) and address, either typed or in the letterhead.
- The full date, spelled out.
- Name and address of the person and/or company to whom you are writing.
- Salutation, followed by a colon.
- Body of the letter, no more than four paragraphs.
- Complimentary close and signature.
- Your first paragraph should state briefly and clearly why you are writing. “I am writing to follow up on our meeting of Friday, April 2.”
- The next paragraph (or at most two) is the most important part of the letter. It should expand on the purpose stated in the first paragraph, adding details, background information, desired outcome, and whatever else is necessary to get your point across—but no more.
- The final paragraph should restate your purpose and tell your reader—politely, of course—what the next step in your interaction will be. “I will call you at your office next Wednesday, April 5, at 11:00 a.m.”
Proofread and edit.
Impeccable spelling and grammar are crucial in business communications. A lack thereof makes you appear careless. At the very least, ask a friend to look over your letter. Cut extraneous or irrelevant information, or Submit your document for professional proofreading and editing.