Elements of a Good Business Letter Elements of a Good Business Letter Business, as a kind of human communication, Traditionally, the most common form of commercial correspondence is the business letter. Every business letter is written for a specific purpose. Normally, business letters perform three functions. Some are designed to influence readers' attitudes and actions, including sales letters for promoting products or services. Some of them, such as those which give responses to request letters, place orders, or make complaints, are intended to inform. Others are intended to entertain the readers, that is, to establish and retain their goodwill or good relationship with them. Many business letters combine two or three functions. In short, business letters are used to keep business going smoothly, efficiently, and productively. With the rapid development of modern information technology, fax and e-mail are increasingly used by most companies. As variations of the business letter, they will be introduced at the end of this unit. 1. What Is a Good Business Letter? The writing of effective and productive business letters is an essential skill for an individual working for a company. Different business letters about the same issue might bring about different results. Therefore, it is of vital importance to master the skills of business writing. The first step is, needless to say, to know the basic elements of a good business letter. There are the five C's principles for a good business letter, namely, (1) Clarity; (2) Conciseness; (3) Courtesy; (4) Completeness; and (5) Correctness. (1) Clarity Above all, the business letter must be clear and easily understood. If your letter is ambiguous, it might bring trouble to yourself as well as to your reader. While presenting an idea, you need to follow a clear logic. To avoid ambiguity and confusion- the writer should use simple and accurate words, and short and simple sentences where appropriate. (2) Conciseness In an effective business letter, every word, sentence and paragraph count. In other words, your letter should be concise, excluding unnecessary words and complicated business jargons. A wordy letter will waste time on both sides. If necessary, however, conciseness might be Elements of a Good Business Letter sacrificed for courtesy. (3) Courtesy The principle of courtesy requires one to be thoughtful and polite in writing a business letter. If you put yourself in the reader's shoes, considering his or her needs, problems and emotions, your letter will most probably be appreciated. Normally, punctuality is stressed as an important aspect of courtesy in business correspondence. A prompt letter is always more valued than a delayed one. (4) Completeness Like any other letter, a good business letter should be complete, providing all the information and data necessary for a specific issue. If any necessary piece of information is lacking, the reader will have to ask you for clarification, which means that you will have to write another letter. It will not only waste time, energy and money, but also damage the image of your company. (5) Correctness It goes without saying that the business letter should be linguistically correct. Incorrect grammar, improper punctuation, and wrong spelling are not allowed. Besides, the letter should be written in an appropriate style and format. Evidently, a company will leave a very favourable impression on its customers and work with high efficiency if all its business letters are clear, concise, courteous, complete and correct. 2. The Layout of a Business Letter While writing a business letter, you need to follow the conventional, established format. Normally, a business letter, like a formal personal letter, contains the heading, the inside address, the salutation, the body, the closing, and the signature. Occasionally, a letter may also include special notations. Study the following two samples. (Situation-. William Jones, an English man is thinking of purchasing a quantity of commemorative coins that have been advertised in China Today. In order to get mare information about the coins, he has sent a letter to Sales Manager of China National Pearl, Diamond, and Gem Import and Export Corporation. ) Sample 1 26 Cowpepper Road, Jericho Oxford 0X2 6DP England Elements of a Good Business Letter July 9, 2000 Sales Manager China National Pearl, Diamond, and Gem Import and Export Corpora 30 North Dongdan Street Beijing 100020 P. R. China Dear Sir or Madam, It is my pleasure to inform you that I am interested in the gold and silver commemorative coins issued by the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) that you advertised in China Today in May 2000. Please send me a free catalogue of the commemorative coins. I would like to study the detailed information and the prices before sending you an order. Truly yours, William Jones (Situation: Snow Air-Conditioner Co. Ltd. a manufacturer in Sichuan Province is trying to attract foreign investment from a British enterprise called Powermaster Tool Corporation. At present, Snow has decided to invite the Investment Director of Powermaster for a field investigation. So the General Manager of Snow has sent a letter to him.) Sample 2 Snow Air-Conditioner Co., Ltd. 6 Shengli South Road, Yongchuan Sichuan Province 632160 China Tel: 086814-883888 Fax: 086814-883887 August 30, 2000 Elements of a Good Business Letter Mr. David Parks Investment Director Powermaster Tools Corporation 3 Winnall Manor Road Winnall, Winchester Hampshire S098 4HJ U. K. Dear Mr. Parks, Thank you very much for your letter of July 9, 2000. We have discussed your proposal and decided to invite you to come to our company for investigation with a view of joint venture. We are convinced that after the field trip you will be more confident about our cooperation in the future. When you decide when to make the trip, please inform us of your schedule so that we can reserve a hotel room for you. Enclosed are a map of Yongchuan City and a map of our company, which might be helpful to you. Looking forward to meeting you in Yongchuan City. Yours sincerely, Li Xiangnan General Manager Encl. Elements of a Good Business Letter Sample 1 is written by an individual to a company. On the plain stationery, the writer provides his own heading- his address and the date when the letter is written, as he would do in a formal personal letter. The heading may also be placed at the right-hand upper corner. Sample 2 is written on a letterhead stationery, where the heading, the address of the writer is printed, and the date of the letter is written at the top centre of the space below the address. Also, Sample 2 contains an enclosure notation, which indicates the relevant material enclosed with the letter. The two examples have the same format. Now let us study them in greater detail. 2.1 Heading As we have learned, the heading is often omitted in an informal personal letter, but is typed or hand-written in a formal personal letter. The heading of a business letter is like that of a formal personal letter. It normally consists of the letterhead and the date line. The letterhead, different from that of a personal letter, is professionally designed and printed on the stationery of most companies not merely to save the writer some time, but also to convey a favourable image of the company concerned. The letterhead contains the name of the company, printed in big letters, plus the full address of the company, typed in small letters. Many letterheads also include the telephone number, the fax number, and the e-mail address of the company. The date line is just below the letterhead. The date may be written on the left, in centre, or on the right. Look at the following examples: Sample 1 > Ya De Industrial Corporation 6 Jiefang Rd. (S), Dezhou Shandong Prov. 253006 China Tel: 086534-2641318 Fax: 086534-2641317 E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org January 14, 2001 Sample 2 > Rabo Robeco Bank (Switzerland) Ltd. 16 chemin des Coquelicots, Case Postal, CH-1212 Geneva 15, Switzerland Fax: (41) 22-341-1392 Elements of a Good Business Letter 4 May, 2000 Sample 3 > Shell International Ltd. Shell Centre, London SE1 7NA UK. Aug. 2, 2000 Sample 4 3 Xili Road, Jinshui District Zhengzhou, Henan 450000 January 3, 2001 Sample 5 WANG LANTING 219 Chengzhan Road Xiaogan Hubei Province 432100 P. R. China E-mail; email@example.com 21 December, 2000 Sample 6 LUTZER PRESSER 43 Hinhede Walk #07-01 Southaven 1 Singapore 587973 July 21, 2000 2.2 The Inside Address As we know, the inside address, that is, the receiver's address, is normally omitted in an Elements of a Good Business Letter informal personal letter, but written beneath the heading, flush at the left, in a formal personal letter. The inside address of a business letter is like that of a formal personal letter. It directs to a certain company, a particular department of the company or an individual, and it normally includes the name of the receiver, the street address, the name of the city and the postal code. If the letter is sent to another country, the name of the country must be written. Make sure that the inside address is identical with the address on the envelope. Normally, titles of the receivers, such as "Mr.", "Ms-", "Mrs.". "Miss", "Messrs" and "Mines", are used for the sake of courtesy. Nowadays, concealing the marital status of a woman, "Ms." tends to be more frequently used than "Mrs." and "Miss". The inside address often includes the receiver's job title, such as "Manager", "CEO" (Chief Executive Officer), or "President". On the stationery, the inside address is usually typed flush at the left below the heading. For example: 69 Yutuo Road Lhasa, Tibet 851000 People's Republic of China 28 February 2001 Mr. Henry Jones Asian Institute of Management 123 Paseo de Roxas, Legaspi Village 1260 Makati City Philippines The Philippines 2.3 The Salutation The salutation in a business letter, like that in a personal letter, performs the same function as the greeting "Hello" when you meet the person. In form, the salutation begins the letter. It is typed flush with the left margin below the inside address. In a very formal letter, you always need to address the reader with his/her surname, such as "Dear Mr. Jones", "Dear Ms. Davis", "Dear Mrs. Schommer". If you have a close relationship with the receiver, you can use his or her first name such as "Dear Claire" or "Dear Bill". For example: Mr. Henry Jones Elements of a Good Business Letter Asian institute of Management 123 Paseo de Roxas, Legaspi Village 1260 Makati City Philippines The Philippines Dear Mr. Jones/ Dear Henry, If you do not know the name and the gender of the receiver, you may use "Dear Sir or Madam". In a letter that is reproduced and sent to many persons such as a promotion letter, you can write "Gentlemen", "Dear Sir Madam". "Dear User", "Dear Reader", or "Dear Customers". When you write to a company and hope the letter will be delivered to a particular person or department, you can use the attention line. In this case, you should not write a person's name in the inside address. The attention is normally typed between the inside address and the salutation, as shown in the following example: Zaozhuang Oriental Electric Appliances Co. , Ltd. 89 Qingtan Road, Zaozhuang Tel: 086632-3394455 Shandong 277101 China Fax: 086632-3394456 April 3. 2000 Cargolux Airlines International S, A. Units 615-616, North Tower Concordia Plaza, 1 Science Museum Tsimshatsui East Kowloo, Hong Kong Attention: Marketing Manager Dear Sir/Madam, 2.4 The Body of the Letter The body is the most important part of a business letter. It contains the message you want to pass to your reader. While writing the body of the letter, you should follow a few basic principles. Write clearly and to the point; Be sincere, polite and thoughtful; Elements of a Good Business Letter Use an appropriate tone and style; Write naturally and avoid jargons; Make sure you make no grammatical mistakes Normally, the first paragraph discusses any previous communication or introduces the issue you are going to write about. Besides, it intends to establish or deepen a friendly relationship with the receiver. For example: (1) Thank you for your letter of December 12, 1999. (2) We are pleased to receive your letter dated 3 January 2000. (3) It is our pleasure to inform you that.... (4) Please be informed that.... The middle section of the body is where you provide the most important information. Here, you should demonstrate all the facts that the receiver needs to know, or supply reasons for which a business transaction is conducted, etc. In this part, the ideas must be logically presented in one or more paragraphs. This section normally ends with a statement that the receiver should take an action or what action the writer may take. The body of the business letter often ends with a simple paragraph that consists of one or two simple sentences. The following are among the most frequently used ones. (1) we look forward to hearing from you. (2) If we can be of further help, please do not hesitate to contact us.: (3) Once again, we thank you for your kind cooperation, (4) We apologise again for the mistake. 2.5 The Complimentary Closing The complimentary closing is a courteous way of bringing a letter to an end. It must agree in tone with the salutation. If you use the formal salutation like "Gentlemen" or "Dear Sir", you should use a formal complimentary closing such as "Yours very truly". If your salutation is "Dear Ms. Jones" or "Dear Mr. Parks", you had better use a semi-formal closing such as "Sincerely yours". When only the first name of the receiver is used in the salutation, like "Dear Kate", or "Dear Adam", you need to use an informal closing such as "Yours". For example: Salutation Elements of a Good Business Letter Complimentary Closing Very truly yours, Yours very truly. Formal Dear Sir/Madam, Very sincerely yours, Very cordially yours, Sincerely yours, Cordially Semi-formal Dear Mr. /Mrs. /Miss x x yours, Yours sincerely, Sincerely, Cordially, Semi-formal Dear Linda, Yours truly, Yours, Normally, the formal and semi-formal closings are used interchangeably. "Yours sincerely" and "Sincerely yours" are preferred by many people. If you write to a superior in a formal letter, you should use "Yours respectfully" or "Respectfully yours" as a complimentary closing. 2.6 The Signature Signing your name is a very important way of personalising a business letter. You should sign your name in full and intelligible script. Normally, your signature is followed by your typed name and job title. For example: Elements of a Good Business Letter Very sincerely, Chief Executive Officer Kate Rogers (Signature) Kate Rogers Yours sincerely. Graeme Sparks (Signature) Graeme Sparks 2.7 Special Notations The business letter may contain one or more special notations, which contain useful data. There are five kinds of special notations: (1) reference initials; (2) enclosure notations; (3) carbon copy notations; (4) mailing and classification notations; and (5) postscripts. 2.7.1 The Reference Initials In business transactions, the person who signs the letter, or writes the letter may not be the one who types it. In this case, reference initials may be used. The signer's initials come first, in all capital letters, followed by a slash or colon and then the typist's initials in capital letters or lowercase letters. These initials are typed at the left bottom below the signature. For instance, if the letter is written and signed by Martha Rogers, the Chief Executive Officer, and typed by her secretary Linda White, the reference initials will be like this: Yours sincerely, Martha Rogers Elements of a Good Business Letter Chief Executive Officer MR/lw The reference initials may also be typed as "MR: Iw" or "MR/LW". If the signer is Tony Ducket, the writer Jerry Brawner, and the typist Holly Nguyen, the reference initials will be "TD/jb/hn" or "TD: jb: hn". 2.7.2 The Enclosure Notation The enclosure notation is used to remind the reader that some material besides the letter itself is enclosed in the envelope. It may be shortened as "Enc." or "Encl".If two or more things are enclosed, you may indicate precisely what they are. The enclosure notation is normally placed below reference initials. For example: Enclosure Enc Encl. Enclosures (3) Enclosures: Contract Map of the factory Catalogue of products Elements of a Good Business Letter 2.7.3 The Carbon Copy Notation From time to time, it is necessary to send a copy of the letter to people or departments other than the receiver. In this case, the carbon copy notation is used to indicate to whom the copy is sent. The initials of "carbon copy" in capital letters or in lowercase letters followed by a colon is used and typed below the enclosure notation (if any) at the left bottom- For example: CC: Mrs. Cynthia Stech Mr. Larry Bumpass cc: Human Resources Department cc: Mr. Robin Waldergrave 2.7.4 The Mailing and Classification Notation Occasionally, a business letter could be about a critical issue and the writer does not want anyone other than the receiver to read it. In this case, the writer may write "Confidential" beneath the date line. If a business letter requires special treatment by the post office, the words "Registered" or "Special delivery" may be written both on the stationery and the envelope. "Registered" can be written either beneath the dateline or beneath the reference initials. For example: April 1 , 2000 Confidential Registered Elements of a Good Business Letter RS:js Encl. Registered 2.7.5 The Postscript If you want to add something after finishing the letter or to bring something to the attention of the receiver, you may use a postscript. Normally, a postscript is indicated by "P. S. " one space beneath the notation if any. For example: LT/wt/po CC: Mr. George Stern P. S. We will increase the price of the portable recorder from $ 123 to $ 145 in June. The following is an example with all those special notations: Tianjin Red Sun Industrial Co., Ltd. 47 Dongma Road, Nankai District Tianjin 300090 China E-mail: redsun@chinapages. com Tel: +86-22-27250987 Fax: +86-22-27250988 4 March, 2000 Jane Williams Purchasing Manager Cezanne Appliance Manufacturer Pombliere 73602 Moutiers, France Elements of a Good Business Letter Dear :Ms Williams I am glad to tell you that we have found another potential user. A customer of Shenyang, Liaoning Province would like to try your heat exchanger. If this customer is satisfied with the prodcut, it could help us to penetrate into the big market in Northeast China, a highly important industrial base in this country. As you know, Japanese and American heat exchangers are very competitive, both in quality and in price. This customer offers us a good opportunity by agreeing to use your product on a trial basis, as a result of my special effort. If possible, please supply three free heat exchangers, according to the specification indicated in the form enclosed. I am looking forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, (Signature) Wei Chengli International Business Manager WC/qy Cc: Mr. Feng Wexing Encl. Registered P. S. Mr. Gao You is going to visit your company next month. 3 Addressing the Envelope Many companies use professionally designed envelopes with the return address printed at the left top. The envelope helps to convey the image of a company. If you use such an envelope, you should just add your name above the return address. If you use a plain envelope, you need to write your name and address at the left top. Use single space and block style. The receiver's Elements of a Good Business Letter name and address are always placed in the centre of the envelope. You must make sure that they are identical with the inside address on the stationery. The stamp should be attached at the right top, and the mail classification beneath the stamp. Basically, the addressing of the envelope for a business letter is the same as that for a personal letter. Occasionally, attention is typed on the envelope of a business letter. Below are two samples: Sample 1 Li Xiangnan, General Manager Snow Air-Conditioner Co., Ltd. STAMP 6 South Shengli Road, Yongchuan Sichuan Province 632160 China Registered Mr. David Parks Investment Director Powermaster Tools Corporation 3 Winnall Manor Road Winnall. Wichester Hampshire SO98 4HJ U. K. Sample 2 William Jones 26 Cowpepper Road, Jericho STAMP Oxford 0X2 6DP England Sales Manager China National Pearl, Diamond, and Gem Import and Export Corporation 30 North Dongdan Street Beijing 100020 P. R. China By Air Elements of a Good Business Letter 4 Telefax and E-mail As ordinary business letters often take a long time to reach the receivers, many firms resort to telefax or e-mail daily communication to enhance their efficiency. Some companies design their own formats for telefax. Normally, the telefax contains a box between the heading and the date line. The box includes such items as the heading, the name and the fax number of the receiver, attention, carbon copy notation, plus the name, the phone number, the fax number, and e-mail address. The rest of the fax, including the salutation, the message, the complimentary closing, the identification of the writer, is the same as that in a business letter. For example: (Situation: Arctic Ltd. , a Finnish firm is a regular supplier of Huida Refrigerator Ltd. , a Chinese manufacturer. The following is one of the faxes Huida has received from Arctic:) Sample 1 Arctic P.O.B. 23 02425 Vantaa, Finland Fax Transmission To: Huida Refrigerator Ltd. Fax; 086899-8201170 Att: Mr Zhang Shun Phone: 086899-8201177P From: Arctic/Laura Phone: +358-9-502333 CC: E-mail;firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 12June,2000 Elements of a Good Business Letter Dear Mr. Zhang, We regret to inform you that the P. 0 X200086 will be delayed for two weeks, as the raw materials have been out of stock. We would keep you informed when there is news. We apologise for this delayed delivery. Sincerely yours Arctic Ltd Laura Nuka Sales Assistant With the rapid development of the internet ,e-mail is increasingly used in business transactions Compared with the traditional business letterer e-mail is much more efficient and economical .An e-mail message sent from one of then can reach another in seconds, while a business letter may take days or even longer .In addition, it saves money for paper and postage. In practice, e- mail is bringing about efficiency revolution in business. However ,the e-mail message used in business letter .The main parts of an e-mail message are roughly the same as those of a business letter .To be specific ,the salutation the body of the letter ,the complimentary closing and the identification of the writer are the same ,What is special about the e-mail is its addresses .Look at the samples: (Situation :East Asia Semi-Conductor Ltd ,is not capable of providing what a Canadian manufacturer requires .Now Henry Lager ,Marketing Assistant of East Asia Semi-Conductor Limited sends to the latter a message as below:) I. Choose the right terms in the box to label the parts of the following business letter. salutation main paragraph sender's address letterhead signature job title introductory paragraph receiver's address reference initials (typed) signature closing date Elements of a Good Business Letter The BMA Group Pty. Ltd. P. 0. Box 5168 West Chatswood NSW 1515 Australia Tel. 612 9884 8499 Fax: 612 9884-8399 November 12, 2000 Mr. Zhang Chuanren Chief Executive Officer Great Wall Plastic Ltd. 20 Xiongguan Road (West) Jiayuguan, Gansu 735100 China Dear Mr Zhang, We are delighted to receive your letter of 31 October 2000. Encouraged by the policy regarding the development of west China, we have been seeking for a partner for joint venture and planning to set up a number of chains in Gansu Province. We are considering sending two representatives to your company for the negotiation at the beginning of December 2000. Thank you for your kind cooperation. Thomas Sparks President TS/sr II. Write special notations. 1. A letter is signed by Mara Fillmore and typed by her assistant Richard Gardner. 2. A copy of the letter is sent to Mrs. Susan Gass, who is not the addressee. 3. After finishing the main body of a letter, you have something to add. Elements of a Good Business Letter 4. A resume is enclosed with the letter. 5. This is registered mail. 6. A letter is signed by Luo Tianshui, written by Xie Yuanwei and typed by Chen Lan. 7. There are four documents enclosed in the envelop. 8. The copy of the letter will be sent to Finance Department and Personnel Department. 9. You mark a letter as confidential. 10. The letter will be posted by special delivery. III. Fill in special notations in the following letter. 1. Indicate that the letter is signed by the sales manager Feng Liwen, and typed by his assistant Huang Lanmei: 2. TWO copies of the letter is sent to President, Mr. Wang Hanwei, and General Manager, Ms Zhang Xiao; 3. A tentative schedule is enclosed; 4. The letter will be registered; 5. You want to add to the letter a statement: "We will arrange you a tour to Yellow Mount after your visit to our corporation".