By Terry Corbell
19 Best Practices for Writing Professional Business Letters
Knowing how to write an impressive business letter is imperative for maximum career success.
By writing with professionalism, you’re leaving a lasting positive impression and you’re enhancing your chances for strong results.
Here’s how to write a professional business letter:
Of course, professionals use business letterhead (8 ½ inches by 11 inches).
If you don’t have company or personalized stationary, then you must remember to type your contact information either centered at the top of the page or under your signature.
Top professionals often use their own personalized monarch or executive letterhead (7.25 inches by 10.5 inches).
2. Business-like font and size
Readability is important. So choose a generally accepted business font and size. Typically, Times New Roman or Arial in size 12 is widely accepted.
If you’re writing to a conservative person and business, Times New Roman is best.
3. Plan the components
Plan your letter by writing a list of the details you need to include in your correspondence. This will serve as your checklist so you don’t inadvertently forget something.
Make sure every point is focused — relevant and germane to the topic.
4. Use an economy of words
You’ll increase your odds that your letter will be read and acted upon, if you write succinctly. Avoid unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
In most cases, a one-page letter is best.
5. Professional wording
Don’t use annoying buzzwords, incorrect idioms, or poor English grammar.
When in doubt for business formality, avoid using contractions.
Without appearing to be servile or gushing, decide whether to compliment the person or company.
Don’t use an arrogant tone; try to be positive. You’ll also convey an unprofessional tone if you write long sentences or write unnecessary sentences.
Avoid using exclamation points. That means no emotional verbiage, especially anger.
Be mindful of your image. When in doubt, try to imagine how your letter would look to readers if your letter were printed in a newspaper article.
7. Addressing the letter
Margin-wise, make sure you send a properly spaced letter.
Depending on the length of the letter, an inch or so under the date on the left, list the recipient’s name.
On the following lines, list the person’s title, company name and then the person’s address.
8. Salutation or greeting
The main thing to remember is to show respect for the person. Below the recipient’s address, double space down to insert a salutation such as “Dear … :” Address the person with formality, “Dear Mr. … “ or “Dear Ms. …”.
If you’ve had a lot of contact with the person and typically refer to the personal by the first name, it’s probably OK to do so in your letter.
9. Block style
For easier reading, it’s preferable to structure the paragraphs aligned to the left with no indentation.
10. Highlight the subject matter
For important letters, it’s best to indicate the subject or purpose. You can abbreviate the word “regarding” with “RE:” above your salutation that contains the person’s name.
Or, you can write the purpose of your letter in the center of the page just above the first paragraph.
“You glance at an e-mail. You give more attention to a real letter.”
11. First paragraph
Indicate why you’re writing the letter.
12. Giving criticism
If the letter is intended to criticize the recipient, be assertive with specificity, not aggressive.
To show objectivity, offer a compliment for what the person or company is doing well. (For examples, see the recommended techniques in How to Get Great Service from Dysfunctional Vendors.)
13. Avoiding starting paragraphs in first-person
To create a professional first impression, your first sentence in every paragraph should avoid using the pronoun “I”.
You want the recipients to know the letter is all about them and what you want to achieve, not about you.
14. Structure your salient points
After writing the purpose, your next two or three paragraphs should contain your main points. Bullet them if necessary.
If you have more than a few, it’s best to indent and number the paragraphs for easier discussion and referencing.
15. Call to action
Be very clear. Whether you’re trying to sell something or wanting to fix a problem, always include a polite call-to-action as a follow-up on your purpose for writing the letter.
While you’re at it in your call-to-action, follow it by preventing buyer’s remorse such as “You will be very pleased … ”
16. Express gratitude
If it’s a sales or solicitation letter or if it’s otherwise appropriate you can express appreciation, such as “Thank you for your consideration.”
For formal letters, use the words Sincerely, Yours truly or Yours sincerely.
If you are on friendly terms and know the person well, you can use Best regards, Cordially or Yours respectfully.
Proof read the entire letter. Verify you’re spelling names and words correctly. Check the details, any addresses, telephone numbers or e-mail addresses for accuracy.
19. Before mailing, put the letter aside
Re-read your letter and look to see if it needs editing. Be absolutely certain you’re focused in your writing by using an economy of words, a polite tone and call-to-action.
From the Coach’s Corner, for more business-writing tips:
11 Tips to Succeed in Your Career with Effective Writing — Whether you want to write as an author like Mark Twain or to generate content to market your business, effective writing requires two attributes: Dedication and passion. Here’s how to succeed.
25 Best Practices for Better Business Writing — If you want to accelerate your career or turbo-charge your business, one of your priorities should be good communication. Good writing is necessary in a myriad of ways, including letters, advertising copy and presentations. A lack of writing skills will hold you back or even hurt your career.
Spelling Tips to Enhance Your Communication Skills — Good communication skills start with using proper grammar and spelling. They’re central for your career growth. People who communicate stand head and shoulders above their peers.
Are You Struggling to Write Great Cover Letters for a Job? — If you want to write a cover letter that will entice employers to consider you, there are several precautions to take. Otherwise, you risk sending a letter that employers won’t want to read. Here are seven strategies.
Thank You Notes Are Vital After Job Interviews – 12 Best Tips — There’s a common thread among people who win jobs after they interview with decision-makers. Winning applicants promptly send well-written thank you notes. Here’s how …
Business Etiquette Dos and Don’ts – Sending Holiday Cards — One of the best investments for your business relationships is to send holiday cards. It’s an excellent way to stay in touch and to show gratitude in your business relationships. But you must do it right.
“You glance at an e-mail. You give more attention to a real letter.”
Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.