How to write a business letter – Be concise, accurate and make your point simply

A simple guide to effective business letter writing

There are no great mysteries to business letter writing – just a few simple rules. Be accurate, be concise, hammer your point home and make it look good.

To be accurate you must make sure of your facts. The first and most obvious is have you described yourself and your business properly? Does your letterhead give your business name, address, phone number and email? When you sign at the bottom, do you give your title as well as your name? Not just your signature, but also your name, typed out and legible? These are important as the reader of the letter will want to respond to you, and you must give them all the information they need to contact you in the manner they find most appropriate. Remember that the way that they, not you, find most appropriate.

The second set of facts you must get straight is who are you actually writing to? The manager? The boss? Don’t do this. Phone up the company and ask for the name of the person you need. Check at least twice to make sure that you have the name and address spelt correctly. In a large company it might take you a few minutes to find out exactly who you want to send the letter to. It is worth taking the time to do this correctly. Large companies employ purchasing managers, people who spend all of their time looking for people to supply the corporation. They are delighted to receive new offers; it is the very lifeblood of their work. Getting your letter onto the correct desk is 90 % of selling to such large companies.

To be concise you must think about what it is that you want to say. Long rambling letters covering pages of print do not work. You do not need to cover every possible eventuality in a letter. That is what contracts are for. Simply state what you want. If you want to sell something, say, “I want to supply you with…” If you want to introduce a new product, say “I want to introduce a new product…” If you want to buy something, say, “I want to buy your product …”

To hammer your point home take a little trick from the New Testament. Start by detailing what you are going to tell them. Then tell them what you are telling them. Then tell them what you have told them. In the first sentence tell them that you want to introduce them to your new product x, the new way to do y, which saves money/is more convenient/raises productivity/helps the environment. Then, in the second sentence or paragraph, tell them why product x is the new way to do y. It saves money/is more convenient/raises productivity/helps the environment. In the third sentence or paragraph tell them that now they know that product x is the new way to do y, you are certain that they will want some as they are interested in saving money/greater convenience/ raising productivity/helping the environment.

Finally, make it look good. You do not have to use fancy fonts, italics or anything like that. Limit yourself to three point sizes at most and only one font. Spread the text out so that it covers the page. Do not have a few lines up at the top of the page and a great blank expanse at the bottom. If your letter runs into the second page then increase the spacing so that there are more than just a few lines on that second page.

Make sure you spell and grammar check at least twice.

Remember, businesses exist to do business. They are actively looking for people with whom they can buy and sell. A letter detailing what you want to do with them, written in simple and clear language, is exactly what they are looking for every working day of the year. Get that letter to the correct person and 90% of the job is done.

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