Business Letters Definition

Business letters are formal letters used for business-to-business, business-to-client, or client-to-business correspondence. There are a number of elements to a business letter.

1.      Date & Sender’s Address

o    The first line of a business letter should be the date the letter was written or completed. Directly underneath the date is the sender’s address. Do not include the sender’s name here. Sometimes the sender’s address is listed on a letterhead, in which case the address should not be repeated under the date.

Recipient’s Address

o    If known, the recipient’s address should include the name of the person to whom the letter is directed. You should also include a title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr.) in front of the name. If you are including the country with the address, capitalize the country name.

o    The salutation should be the same as the name written with the recipient’s address, followed by a colon. It is fine to only use the first name if you personally know the person and you typically refer to her by her first name. If you do not know the recipient’s name, it is fine to use the salutation, “To Whom it May Concern.”


o    The body of the letter should be formally written. Use single-spaced lines, except between paragraphs, where a double-spaced line should be inserted. The closing paragraph should summarize what was previously stated throughout the letter.


o    To close the letter, insert a phrase such as “Thank you” or “Best regards,” followed by a comma. Insert four lines between the closing and sender’s name. This space will be used for your signature once the letter is printed.

Types of Business Letters

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There are a number of types of business letters in English. Accomplished speakers of English also need to be able to write the following types of business letters to be successful in business. Begin with a clear understanding of business letter writing basics. Once you’ve understood basic layout styles, standard phrases, salutation and endings, continue to improve your business letter writing skills by learning to write the following types of business letters.

Making An Inquiry

Make an inquiry when you are requesting more information about a product or service. This type of business letter tends to include specific information such as product type, as well as asking for further details in the form of brochures, catalogs, telephone contact, etc. Making inquiries can also help you keep up on your competition!

Sales Letters

Sales Letters are used to introduce new products to new customers and past clients. It’s important to outline an important problem that needs to be solved and provide the solution in sales letters. This example letter provides an outline, as well as important phrases to use when sending out a wide variety of sales letters.

Replying to an Inquiry

Replying to inquiries are one of the most important business letters that you write. Customers who make inquiries are interested in specific information, and are excellent business prospects. Learn how to thank the customers, provide as much information as possible, as well as make a call to action for a positive outcome.

Account Terms and Conditions

When a new customer opens an account it is essential to inform them of account terms and conditions. If you run a small business, it is common to provide these terms and conditions in the form of a letter. This guide provides a clear example on which you can base your own business letters providing account terms and conditions.

Letters of Acknowledgment

For legal purposes letters of acknowledgment are often requested. These letters are also referred to as letters of receipt and tend to be rather formal and short. These two examples letters will provide you with a template to use in your own work and can be easily adapted for a number of purposes.

Placing an Order

As a business person, you will often place an order – especially if you have a large supply chain for your product. This example business letter provides an outline to make sure your order placement is clear so that you receive exactly what you order.

Making a Claim

Unfortunately, from time to time it is necessary tomake a claim against unsatisfactory work. This example business letter provides a strong example of a claim letter and includes important phrases to express your dissatisfaction and future expectations when making a claim.

Adjusting a Claim

Even the best business may make a mistake from time to time. In this case, you may be called upon to adjust a claim. This type of business letter provides an example to send to unsatisfied customers making sure that you address their specific concerns, as well as retain them as future customers.

Cover Letters

Cover letters are extremely important when applying for a new position. Cover letters should include a short introduction, highlight the most important information in your resume and elicit a positive response from your prospective employer. These two examples of cover letters are part of a larger section on the site providing all the information you will need on taking an interview in English during your job search

  • The Heading (The Retern Address) or Letterhead – Companies usually use printed paper where heading or letterhead is specially designed at the top of the sheet. It bears all the necessary information about the organisation’s identity.
  • Date – Date of writing. The month should be fully spelled out and the year written with all four digits October 12, 2005
    (12 October 2005 – UK style). The date is aligned with the return address. The number of the date is pronounced as an ordinal figure, though the endings stndrdth, are often omitted in writing. The article before the number of the day is pronounced but not written. In the body of the letter, however, the article is written when the name of the month is not mentioned with the day.
  • The Inside Address – In a business or formal letter you should give the address of the recipient after your own address. Include the recipient’s name, company, address and postal code. Add job title if appropriate. Separate the recipient’s name and title with a comma. Double check that you have the correct spelling of the recipient ‘s name.The Inside Address is always on the left margin. If an 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper is folded in thirds to fit in a standard 9″ business envelope, the inside address can appear through the window in the envelope.
  • The Greeting – Also called the salutation. The type of salutation depends on your relationship with the recipient. It normally begins with the word “Dear” and always includes the person’s last name. Use every resource possible to address your letter to an actual person. If you do not know the name or the sex of of your reciever address it to Dear Madam/Sir (or Dear Sales Manager or Dear Human Resources Director). As a general rule the greeting in a business letter ends in a colon (US style). It is also acceptable to use a comma (UK style).
  • The Subject Line (optional) – Its inclusion can help the recipient in dealing successfully with the aims of your letter. Normally the subject sentence is preceded with the word Subject: orRe: Subject line may be emphasized by underlining, using bold font, or all captial letters. It is usually placed one line below the greeting but alternatively can be located directly after the “inside address,” before the “greeting.”
  • The Body Paragraphs – The body is where you explain why you’re writing. It’s the main part of the business letter. Make sure the receiver knows who you are and why you are writing but try to avoid starting with “I”. Use a new paragraph when you wish to introduce a new idea or element into your letter. Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented. Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.
  • The Complimentary Close – This short, polite closing ends always with a comma. It is either at the left margin or its left edge is in the center, depending on the Business Letter Style that you use. It begins at the same column the heading does. The traditional rule of etiquette in Britain is that a formal letter starting “Dear Sir or Madam” must end “Yours faithfully”, while a letter starting “Dear ” must end “Yours sincerely”. (Note: the second word of the closing is NOT capitalized)
  • Signature and Writer’s identification – The signature is the last part of the letter. You should sign your first and last names. The signature line may include a second line for a title, if appropriate. The signature should start directly above the first letter of the signature line in the space between the close and the signature line. Use blue or black ink.
American Style British Style
Heading According to the format but
usually aligned to the left
The heading is usually placed
in the top right corner of the letter
(sometimes centred)
Date October 19, 2005 (month-day-year)
According to the format but usually
aligned to the left
(two lines below the heading)
19 October 2005 (day-month-year)
Usually placed directly (or 1 blank line)
below the heading.
Salutation Dear Mr./Ms. Smith:
Dear Sir or Madam:
After the salutation there is a colon (:)
Dear Mr./Ms. Smith,
Dear Sir or Madam,
Dear Sirs,
After the salutation there is a comma (,)
Complimentary close Sincerely,
Sincerely yours,
Yours truly,
Yours sincerely,
Yours faithfully,
  • Initials, Enclosures, Copies – Initials are to be included if someone other than the writer types the



The following pictures show what a one-page business letter should

look like. There are three accepted styles. The horizontal lines represent lines of type.

Modified Block             Style Block Style

                                                  Semi Block Style


Different Styles of Business Letter

Skip a line after the heading before the inside address. Skip another line after the inside address before the greeting.


Dr. Calvin Carson

Cross Country Coach

Dept. of Athletics

Colorado Community College at Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek CO 80678


The Greeting

The greeting in a business letter is always formal. It normally begins with the word “Dear“ and always includes the person’s last name. It normally has a title such as Mr., Mrs., Dr., or a political title. The greeting in a business letter always ends in a colon.


The Body

The first line of a new paragraph is indented in the semi block style. The block and modified block style have all lines of the body to the left margin. Regardless of style, skip a line between paragraphs. Skip a line between the greeting and the body. Skip a line between the body and the close.


The Complimentary Close and Signature Line

The left edge of the close and signature line in the semi block and modified block begin in the center, at the same column as the heading. The close and signature of the block letter begins at the left margin. The complimentary close begins with a capital letter and ends with a comma. Skip from one to three spaces (two on a typewriter), and type in

the signature line, the printed name of the person signing the letter.


Sign the name in the space between the close and the signature line, starting at the left edge of the signature line. Women may indicate how they wish to be addressed by placing Miss, Mrs., Ms. or similar title in parentheses before their name. The signature line may

include a second line for a title, if appropriate. The signature should start directly above the first letter of the signature line in the space between the close and the signature line. Use blue or black ink.




(Signature goes here)

(Mrs.) Elisabeth Jackson

Director of Acquisitions




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