Business Letters


1. Business writing is like any other writing in that it requires prewriting, writing, and revising.

A. In prewriting, you need to decide what kind of letter you are writing (purpose), to whom (audience), and what you need to say (content).

B. In the writing stage, you shape the letter into its proper form.

C. Revising is rewriting so that the letter has sounder content, structure, and mechanics.


2. All business writing should meet these six aspects:  tone, audience, accessibility, accuracy, format, and appearance.

A. Tone is the attitude that the writer has toward her or his subject.

1. The tone of a business letter should be businesslike, no nonsense, formal.

2. You want to sound as if you are someone who can get the job done and whom the readers should take seriously.

3. Do not be chatty or informal in a business letter, but donít be coldly distant either.

B. Audience is the individual who will read the letter.

1. If you can picture an individual, you will write less distant and more approachable in content.

2. You will also be more specific in content if you can picture a human reading the letter.

3. You will understand better what the reader needs to know.

C. Accessibility in a letter is attained by peeling away anything that could interfere with the message.

1. Keep sentences short and direct.

2. Use familiar language rather than jargon.

a. NEVER use slang.

b. NEVER use swear words.

3. Avoid including information that is irrelevant to the subject.

D. Accuracy means that the information must be correct.

1. Never purposefully give misinformation.

2. Check numbers, names, dates, etc., carefully.

3. Letters are legal documents.

E. Format refers to the specific structure of the letter.

1. Follow the format exactly since readers always know where to find particular information in a particular part of a letter.

2. See format.

F. Appearance has to do with neatness.

1. Letters should be free of errors and corrections.

2. There should be no smudges, blotches, etc., on letters.

3. Use good paper.

4. A business letter is never handwritten.


3. Use the correct paper when writing a letter.

A. Use 20 to 24-pound bond paper that folds cleanly, prints out clearly, and works in most business machines.

B. Use 8.5 by 11 inch paper since itís the standard size and files easily.

C. Use off-white (white if off-white isnít available) paper since it is seen as more serious.

1. Off-white is also easier on the eyes.

2. Any colored paper is associated with advertisements or more informal writing.

D. Always make sure that paper matches in weight, size, and color.

E. Fold the letter into thirds with the top folded over the bottom.


4. Address the envelope according to U. S. Postal Service envelope guidelines.

A. Put your return address in the upper left-hand corner.

1. Include your name, business affiliation (if applicable), and mailing address.

2. Use normal capitalization.

B. Put the mailing address in the center of the envelope, 3 inches from the top.

1. Use all-capital letters for everything in the address.

2. Include the receiverís name, business affiliation, mailing address, city, state, and zip code.

3. Use Zip code abbreviations for states.

4. If possible, use the Zip+4 code.

C. If you are sending international mail, put the countryís name alone at the bottom of the address.

D. Sample envelope

Text Box: Alvin Lofler
Physics Department
University of Alegria
Cale, CO 81223-5455
CORINTH WA 98414-6455









Complaint letter

Letter to the editor or government official

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