Business Letters: Ten Tips
To Begin With
1. Start from the end. Decide what the result of your letter
ought to be. List things you’d like to say and review them.
Remove those not supporting the main idea. Good letters
have a strong sense of purpose.
2. Get to the point early. Don’t delay. State your main cause in
the first paragraph.
3. Put yourself in the reader’s place. If the letter came to you,
how would you respond? Be pleasant, try to turn negative
statements into positive ones.
No Business Jargon
1. Say it plainly. Phrases like “in compliance with your
request,” and “enclosed herewith” are stilted and
unnecessary. Write as naturally as you speak.
2. Clear the deadwood. Cut out words, sentences, even
paragraphs that don’t contribute. Work hard to simplify
3. Use active verbs. Passive voice can be weak and confusing.
“A decision has been made by the committee” is inferior to
“The committee has decided.” Passive voice also indicates
evasiveness. “The order has been misplaced” rather than “I
misplaced your order.”
4. Be human. Your letter should read like a conversation. Use
pronouns like I, you, we.
1. Never write in anger. Anger will evaporate; a letter won’t.
Think of how you can be upbeat and courteous while getting
the point across.
2. End with an “action step.” The end of the letter should
suggest your reader’s next move, or your next move. Close
with “sincerely,” and your name, followed by your signature.
3. Be professional. The most well-written letter can’t survive
bad presentation. Use a clear, logical format for your letter;
avoid fancy fonts. A crowded page distracts from your
Sample Business Letter
Dear Ms. O’Neil:
I am writing you directly about recent delayed deliveries. Because
of the delay, my company was unable to meet our deadlines, and
our customers were disappointed over the holidays.
Your company has always been reliable, and I will assume that
these recent delays are due to some unavoidable circumstances.
We wish to continue our relationship with you, and so we hope—
obviously—that these problems are temporary and will be solved
soon. In the future, could you please communicate with us, by
phone, fax, or email, that there will be a delay. We would greatly
In the future, could you notify when your shipments go out? We
will then acknowledge your message. Thank you, and we expect to
hear from you soon.