the importance of business letter writing;
the principles of effective business letter writing;
how to use appropriate styles and tones in business letter writing;
how to write good-news letters and bad-news letters.
As soon as you take one step up the career ladder your effectiveness depends
on your ability to communicate your thoughts in writing and in speaking.
Discuss the following questions
1) What are the functions of a business letter?
2) What are the main forms being used in business communication?
3) Why is business writing considered to be one of the most important
and valued skills in the business world today?
4) Why is it still necessary to learn how to write business letters when
most business communications are now transmitted by faxes and
Means of Communication
2 The Principles of Effective Business Writing
The Seven “Cs”
A good business letter should be complete,
providing all the information and data
necessary for a specific issue.
Five “Ws” (who, what, where, when and
why) and one “h” (how) should be considered
to verify the completeness of what you write.
An order regarding the name of commodity, specification and quantity
"Cellulose Tape 1/2"x 3yds, with plastic dispenser 700 doz./ditto-but
1/2" x 5 yds, 1 000doz.”
Problem: the second part of the sentence is not clear.
“ditto” here refers to “cellulose tape”, but does it include “with
plastic dispenser”? So it is not clear and complete whether
“cellulose tape 1/2”x 5yds”includes plastic dispenser.
Cellulose Tape 1/2"x 3yds, with plastic dispenser 700 doz. Cellulose Tape
1/2" x 5yds，with plastic dispenser 1000 doz.
Concreteness means being specific, definite and vivid
rather than vague, general and abstract.
Compare the following sentences:
(1) Poor: Please send us your catalogues on tools.
Better: Please send us your catalogues on hand tools. We are
particularly interested in hand tools for use in gardening.
Reason：A large company may have several catalogues concerning
different kinds of tools and is not likely to send all of them.
(2) Poor: All offers by fax are valid for 5 days.
Better: All offers by fax are valid for 5 days inclusive of the
date of dispatch.
Reason：The above sentence does not clearly state or account for
specific 5 days.
You must express yourself clearly to make sure that the message conveys
exactly what you wish to say and is not liable to misunderstanding.
Compare the following sentences:
(1) Poor: As to the steamer sailing from Shanghai to New York, we have
bimonthly direct services.
Better: We have a direct sailing from Shanghai to New York every two
Better: We have two direct sailings every month from Shanghai to New
Better: We have a direct sailing from Shanghai to New York fortnightly.
(2) Poor: We can supply 60 metric tons of the item only.
Better: We can only supply 60 metric tons of the item.
Conciseness means that it must be written in the fewest
Compare the following sentences:
(1)Poor: We have begun to export our machines to foreign
Better: We have begun to export our machines.
(2) Poor: We hereby wish to let you know that we fully
appreciate the confidence you have reposed in our
Better: We appreciate your confidence in our product.
(3) Poor: In compliance with your request, we immediately
contacted our head office in London and now wish
to inform you of the result as follows.
Better: As requested we immediately contacted our head
office in London with the following result.
Courtesy means treating people with respect and friendly human concern.
Business letters must be courteous without being servile, firm and
emphatic when necessary without being rude or aggressive.
Compare the following sentences:
(1) Poor: We are sorry that you misunderstood us.
Better: We are sorry that we didn’t make ourselves clear.
(2) Poor: You are requested to ship the goods we ordered on May
5 without any delay.
Better: Your prompt shipment of the goods we ordered on May
5 will be highly appreciated.
(3) Poor: We have received your letter in which you claimed that ten tea
sets were damaged in shipment.
Better: We have noticed in your letter that a damage to ten tea sets was
found in shipment.
Considerateness means you should be considerate of your reader.
Considerateness emphasizes You-attitude rather than We-attitude.
Compare the following sentences:
“We” attitude “You” attitude
We allow 5% discount for cash You earn a 5% discount when you
payment. pay cash.
(1) a. We do not believe that you will have cause for dissatisfaction. (Negative)
b. We feel sure that you will entirely get satisfies. (Positive)
(2) a. Your order will be delayed for two weeks. ( Negative)
b. Your order will be shipped in two weeks. ( Positive)
Correctness refers to accuracy in style, language and typing.
The writer must make every effort to ensure that the letter is
correct in all respects.
(1) All offers by fax are open for 5 days.
Revise: All offers by fax are open for 5 days inclusive of the day of dispatch.
(2) You ask very short delivery of your order..
Revise: You require prompt delivery of your order.
(3) The goods supplied are exactly equal to the sample.
Revise: The goods supplied are similar in quality to the sample.
1.3 The Style and Tone of Business Letter Writing
Style and tone can be considered as two sides of the
same coin. Style is made up of words and sentences that a
writer chooses in order to produce a desired response in the
readers. Tone refers to the unwritten or unspoken message
that comes across in your communications – the message
“between the lines”
The essential qualities of a good business letter are
sincerity, simplicity and clarity.
1. Use conversational style
The best way to write a business letter is to make it conform as closely
as possible to spoken English.
Alexander L. Sheff
Dear Mr. Jones,
Thank you for your letter of March 12, in which you promised immediate
shipment of the brass couplings we ordered on March 6.
This shipment is several days overdue, and our working is being held up.
Could you please look up into this and see what you can do about getting
these couplings to us as soon as possible. We know you will do your best.
2. Avoid the archaic language of business
Such expressions as “we beg to acknowledge”, “take the liberty of”
“acknowledge receipt of”, “your esteemed favour to hand” are considered
to be the archaic language of business. The tone is cold and out of date. A
good writer should take care to give up such stale expressions.
We beg to acknowledge receipt of your favour of the 26th inst. With regard
to the estimate and plans required for the erection of a bungalow on the vacant
site in close proximity to the Argosy Theatre, and shall have pleasure in
arranging for our architect to call on you with a view to a discussion of the
matter on Friday next, the 3rd pro. at three o’clock, which we trust will meet
your convenience. In the meantime, we enclose herewith plans of a type of
bungalow we can recommend, and beg to remain,
Thank you for your letter of 26 February requesting
an estimate and plans for erecting a bungalow on
the vacant site near the Argosy Theatre. We will
arrange for our architect to call to discuss the
matter next Friday, 3 March, at 3 o’clock if
convenient to you. Meanwhile we enclose plans for
a bungalow we recommend.
3. Use positive language and avoid anger
People enjoy and react favorably to positive
messages. A positive tone builds the reader’s
confidence in the writer’s ability to solve
problems and strengthen personal and business
relationships. Positive words emphasize the
pleasure aspects of the letter goals and tend to
put the reader in the right frame of mind. They
also create the goodwill atmosphere readers
seek in most letters.
1.4 Good-news Letters and Bad-news Letters
Business letters are broadly categorized by their purpose as follows:
(1) Neutral or good-new letters conveying positive messages such as:
agreeing to a request
introducing your company
(2) Bad-news letters conveying disappointing or upsetting messages such as:
refusing credit, adjustment or supply
declining an offer, a request or an application
(3) Persuasive letters conveying messages aimed to convince the reader to:
pay an account
buy a product
support a project
accept a proposal
How to write good-news letters?
The general structure for a message conveying positive information:
Present the most important information in the positive way;
Specify the who, what, where and how related to the action you are
going to take;
Close the letter confidently and politely.
Dear Mr. Jones,
I am very pleased to enclose our check for USD 8 000, which is our financial
aid to your Earth Protection Program. I would appreciate your sending us a
receipt for the money at your earliest convenience.
This financial aid shows our increased support for your research. I believe
that this aid, together with the financial support from your other benefactors, will
help your future research for protecting our earth.
We are always ready to help you when necessary.
How to write bad news letters?
No news is good news, the old saying goes. But sometimes bad news is
unavoidable. Rather than blurt it out in the first paragraph, which is likely
to anger the reader and prevent an objective reading of the rest of your
letter, break up your bad news into chunks. With a strategy for each
paragraph, follow these basic steps to make the best of a bad situation.
● Open the letter with a courteous greeting;
● Explain the relevant situation because the more the reader
understands the reasons, the less likely he will think that the
decision is unfair;
● Present the bad news, which should be the logical and natural
outcome of the explanation;
● Close with a positive paragraph or sentence.
Your "buffer" paragraph--do not give the "bad news"
Sample letter in the opening paragraph.
Dear Mr. Anderson
Thank you for your letter of September 15. We appreciate your inquiry
concerning your Benson 500 motorcycle. We want to satisfy our customers
with high-quality products and service.
Explain WHY before you tell or infer the bad news that the guarantee will not cover the repair.
The Benson Bike Shop carries a one-year warrantee on all parts and labor
under normal usage. Page 6 of your owner's manual states that 2-cycle
engine oil and unleaded gasoline must be used for the warrantee to be in
effect. Our inspection of you motorcycle engine showed that 10W30 oil had
been used, along with leaded gasoline. The use of incorrect oil and
gasoline has caused the problems you are experiencing.
Always try to tell what you CAN do to help solve the problem
Our skilled technicians can repair your motorcycle engine at the usual
rate. The repairs are guaranteed for 90 days. We are confident that we can
restore your engine to excellent working condition, and we would be happy
to answer any maintenance questions you may have.
End with your CALL FOR ACTION and a positive statement.
Please call our repair center at 425-564-7889 to tell us if you would like
us to proceed with the repairs. As soon as your engine is repaired you will
be able to enjoy riding your Benson 500 once again.
1. Fill in the blanks with the words and phrases given in the box. Change
the forms where necessary.
drawn-out project rapport compromise
maximize to the point in sb’s shoes contribute to
put forward inclusive of set down bound to
verify portray lose out repose
prompt demand entitle two sides of the same coin
(1) One advantage of the telephone is that it ________ a live voice, a real person,
who can both listen and respond to a situation.
(2) Parties mutually agree to submit to arbitration in the hope of avoiding
___________ public clashes in the courts.
in inclusive of
(3) All the prices quoted hereinafter are _____________ your 2% commission.
(4) Some people believe that freedom of enterprises is the most efficient way of
____________ economic growth.
(5) There must be trust from both sides in order to create a new working _______.
(6) The call is made because someone has a request or problem. So you should get
to the point
___________ just as quickly as you would in a business letter.
(7) A prompt order will certainly ________ the buyer to get early delivery which
will benefit him a great deal.
(8) You’d better ________ your priorities before the start of each day's work.
(9) It is _________ that the importer open the relative L/C one month before the
(10) Having been doing business with Mr. Brown for many years, we _______ repose
complete confidence in his honesty.
(11) At the meeting yesterday many suggestive countermeasures
were put forward
(12) We understand that the appearance of the package ___________ greatly to
the sale if consumer goods.
(13) He has had so much trouble recently that we ought to be grateful we are not
in his shoes
(14) Any discussion of this matter is _________ cause a lot of arguments.
(15) It seems that they are not ready to ___________ on prices.
two sides of the same coin
(16) Dreams and reality, like success and failure, are_____________________.
(17) The accounts must ___________ before the end of this month.
(18) With confidence we can _______ the finer points of our personality in such
a way that the places where we do lack are never highlighted.
(19) In face of competition from the transnational companies, small firms are
bound to ________.
(20) Prompted by the desire to conclude the transaction with you, we are
prepared to cut down the quoted price by 3%.
2. Revise the sentences by following the writing principles you have
(1) You failed to enclose your check in the envelope.
The envelope we received did not have a check in it.
(2) We want to have your confirmation on this point quickly.
Your prompt confirmation on this point would be appreciated.
(3) We shall be able to deliver the goods shortly.
You will be pleased to hear that you will soon be able to receive the goods.
(4) We would be very pleased to get your kind information on your
Please send us information on your product.
(5) We can not offer you any refunds because the goods you returned are
dirty and unusable.
You could obtain a refund if the goods you returned had remained clean and usable.
(6) We hereby wish to let you know that we fully appreciate the confidence you
have reposed in our products.
We appreciate your confidence in our products.
(7) We wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to you for your kind cooperation.
Thank you for your cooperation.
(8) It is encouraging and inspiring to note that sales which are reported right now
have increased this month.
Sales have increased; the figures are encouraging.
(9) Have you come to a decision regarding the installation of the machine?
Have you decided to install the machine?
(10) Samples will be sent and offers will be made upon receipt of your specific
Samples will be sent and offers made upon receipt of your specific enquiries.
(11) We wish to confirm our order we placed with you yesterday.
We wish to confirm our order we placed with you on 8 May.
(12) The items you ordered will be arriving soon.
You will receive your order 466 for Electric Fans in about 20 days.
We shipped the goods by sea this morning.
(13) All offers by fax are valid for five days.
All offers by fax are valid for five days inclusive of the date of dispatch.
(14) You must cut down your price by 10%; otherwise we will place our orders
We would suggest that you should cut down your price by 10%;
otherwise we have no alternative but to place our orders elsewhere.
(15) We have received your letter of May 1st and it contained a complete set of
We have received your letter of May 1st containing a complete set of
(16) We cannot understand why you have had trouble with these articles.
We presume that there must be some reasons for your having trouble
with these articles.
(17) Your counter-offer was rejected.
I am afraid that your counter-offer was not acceptable.
(18) Enclosed herewith please find two copies of catalogue and a price list.
We enclose two copies of catalogue and a price list.
(19) Revisions were made to the proposal after all facts had been taken into
We revised the proposal after considering all facts.
(20) We hope you won’t be dissatisfied with the new range of our electronic
We are sure you will be satisfied with the new range of our electronic products.
3. Revise the following letter with the emphasis on You-attitude.
May I express my thanks for the account that you recently opened with our
store. We are pleased to furnish a wide variety of products for the home or
We trust you will take full advantage of our store services, for we have the
largest stock in the city. Also we make deliveries of our customers’
purchases free of charge within thirty miles of our store.
We always like to receive visits from our customers, but we also take orders
by phone. Our Customer Service Department aims to fill every order within
the same day we receive it.
We welcome you to St. Johnson’s. If we can be of additional service in any
manner, please call on us.
Thank you for the account you recently opened with our store. Furnishing you with a
wide variety of products for the home or individual is a pleasure.
You will find 40 departments at St. Johnson’s stocked with a variety of quality items.
Our courteous sales clerks are here to assist you in selecting the merchandise that best
meets your needs.
If you prefer to shop within the comfort of your home, instead of coming to the store,
you need only to phone HA 3-5678 and ask for Personal Shopping Service. A Personal
Shopper will gladly take your order for any number of items, and see the goods you
order reach you by store delivery within 24 hours of your order.
You are always welcome at St. Johnson’s. Please call on us whenever you need
4. Revise the following letter with the main points
below to make it concise and to the point.
The main points of the letter:
Due to the prolonged cold weather, the demand for
electric blankets has been exceptional;
Further suppliers are expected in ten days’ time;
If the order is allowed to stand, prompt delivery will
then be made;
It is regretted that delivery cannot be made at once.
We are in receipt of your order of the 18th instant, and have pleasure in
informing you that the order you have placed with us will receive our best
attention, and that the electric blankets you require will be delivered to you as
soon as we are in a position to supply them.
We are, however, very sorry to say that our stock of these blankets is at the
moment very depleted, and owing to the prolonged cold weather and the
resulting demand we have been informed by the manufacturers that they are
unlikely to be able to supply us with a further stock for another ten days or so.
We are extremely sorry not be able to satisfy your requirements
immediately, but we assure you that we always do everything we possibly can
to see that your orders are met promptly. Should you find yourself unable to
obtain elsewhere the blankets you need, or if you are able to wait for them until
the end of the month, you will perhaps be good enough to inform us.
Once again expressing our regret at being unable to fulfill your order on this
occasion with our usual promptness, and trusting you will continue to favour
us with your continued custom.
We thank your for your order of the 18th January, but very
much regret that, because of the exceptional demand for
electric blankets due to the prolonged cold spell, we are
at present out of stock of the make you ordered. The
manufactures, however, have promised us a further supply by
the end of this month, and if you could wait until then we
would ensure the prompt delivery of the goods you require.
We are indeed very sorry that we cannot meet your present
5. Rearrange and improve the letter to make it more acceptable.
We are sorry to say that the price for your cigarette lighters is too
high for us to work on. So it is a pity we cannot place an order for your
We have received a quotation from a German company and they
quoted us a price approximately 15% lower than that of yours. We
admit that the quality of their products does not measure up to that of
yours, but the price gap between yours and theirs is too wide for us to
Although we are keen to do business with you, we regret that we
cannot accept your offer or even meet you half way.
Sorry again for the rejection. We wish you can sell your high-priced
lighters to other importers successfully.
Thank you for your letter of (date).
While appreciating the quality of your cigarette lighters, we find
that your price is too high for us to accept. We have received a
quotation from a German company and they quoted us a price
approximately 15% lower than that of yours. We are of the opinion
that the quality of their products does not measure up to that of
yours, but the gap in price shouldn’t be so big. To accept your
present quotation would mean a heavy loss to us, not to speak of
We would, however, very much like to place further orders with you
if you could bring down your prices by 12%. Otherwise we can only
switch our requirements to our suppliers.
As the market is declining, we recommend your immediate acceptance
of our requirement.