Four Considerations of a Business Letter
The four areas you must take into consideration for each business letter are listed below. If you do not consider each one of them, your letter will be ineffective.
Every piece of writing from the business letter to the novel revolves around a subject. Luckily, in the business world the subject is usually specific. Quite often it is supplied for you by someone else, such as a boss or colleague, or demanded by a situation such as hiring or congratulating an employee.
Its a fact: The more specific your subject, the easier it is to write your letter. For example, lets say that you need to request information about an order that did not arrive when it should have.
If you are in charge of the account, writing the letter is easy. If you are not in charge of the account, it is harder for you to write the letter than it is for the person who knows all the particulars.
Regardless of the situation, stick to one or two subjects in your letter. Including more than two subjects clouds your message. Write another letter if you have more than two subjects.
This area is tricky because you may not know your audience. If you do, you can tailor your letter to that audience. Many times, however, your audience is larger than you expect. Your letter may be addressed to Terry Smith but may be read by several other people in Terrys firm to receive the action you wish. If you are
unsure of your audience, assume they are educated, reasonable people until you find out otherwise. Dont assume they have as much knowledge of the subject of your letter as you do, or you may overgeneralize or forget to include important details.
Many letters are sent with a specific subject and audience in mind but are not clear in their purpose.
Know why you are sending the letter. Is the letter to inform? Is it to request information? Is it to offer congratulations?
Condolences? Is it to get the recipient to act on a request? All of these are very different purposes. You have probably received a letter that, after reading it, left you confused because you didnt know exactly what it said. The purpose was not clear.
Now you are ready to be concerned with HOW you are going to write the letter. The first three areas can be determined in a matter of minutes if you are familiar with the ideas that need to be communicated. The fourth area style and organization takes more time.
The basic organization for the body of a business letter follows.
Part 1 of Body: State your purpose.
Part 2 of Body: Explain what you want to happen or explain the information you have.
Part 3 of Body: Request a dated action, conclude or thank the reader for his response.
Notice that these are parts or sections rather than paragraphs. In some cases, particularly Part 2, the parts may consist of more than one paragraph. Lets take a look at each of these parts.
Part 1 of the Body
Get right to the point in the first sentence of the letter. When you read a novel, you expect to have background information before the story ever starts. When you read a business letter, you expect to be told immediately what will happen. Remember, your reader doesnt have any more time to wade through a long letter than you do. This part is usually a short paragraph. Anything too long will cause the reader to lose patience.
Part 2 of the Body
This is the bread and butter of the letter. It explains the information you are giving, or it explains what you want the recipient to do. It doesnt need to be elaborate, but it does need to include all of the information the recipient needs. If you have a lot of information, break it into short paragraphs, make a list or refer to an attachment. Underlining essential information is one way to highlight key points for your reader.
Your letter should be organized to help the recipient understand what to know or what to do.
Part 3 of the Body
This, like the first part, is usually a short paragraph. In writing classes, its called the clincher not a bad way to remember its function. Depending on the purpose of your letter, it will do one of three things.
1. Conclude. In an informational letter, this allows you to point out the most important item or draw all your key points into one statement.
2. Request action. In letters that require a response, such as collection letters, you define the action you want the recipient to take. In this part, you tell the reader what to do and when to do it. Being vague gets vague results. Be specific.
3. Thank the reader. In some letters, this part is simply a thank you for the recipients attention, response or concern.
In many ways, the method of writing a business letter is like the rule of thumb for giving a speech: Tell them what youre going to talk about. Talk about it. Then tell them what you talked about.