Business letters are written on letter-headed paper showing the name and address of the organization, its telephone and fax numbers; Internet and e-mail addresses along with the logo of the company might also be included. At the foot of the page the address of the ‘registered office’ and a registration number might appear. This is a legal requirement in the UK for limited companies only. Letterhead details could be in the form of a template if the organization uses word processing for its correspondence.
In business, the letter is often the first contact between organizations and their clients; it may be the only form of contact and so represents the public face of the company. Companies are willing to spend considerable amounts of money on the design and printing of headed notepaper knowing that it creates of professional image and makes a good first impression. It follows that the appearance, as well as the content, of the letter meets the same professional standards.
Many companies have their own ‘house style’ for letters which must be used in correspondence. Although the arrangement will vary, most of the following components shown in business letters:
- Letterhead – pre-printed headed paper is used only for the first page of a letter. Sometimes continuation paper featuring company name and logo is used for multi-page letters.
- Reference – this could be a file number, or the initial of the writer. It could indicate the company’s reference or the recipient’s if this was continuing correspondence.
- Date – written in full as example, ‘1 august 2017’
- Name and address of the recipient – as it will appear on the envelope. The title of the person is usually included (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Dr). Many women prefer the title Ms, and you can use this if their marital status is known. Some organizations simply write the name in full and omit any title.
- Salutation – Dear Mr/ Mrs Smith: use the same title as in the address line. ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ is a title old-fashioned and organizations now prefer to use a more personal approach. ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ is still used in very formal correspondence.
- Subject heading – this is often omitted, but it inclusion means the reader can quickly see what the letter is about.
- Main body of the letter – the actual message/ content of the letter. Always leave a line space between paragraphs.
- Complimentary close – a polite, formal way to end a letter. Standard forms are Your faithfully or Yours sincerely. The complimentary close must match the solution:
- Dear Sir or Dear Madam = Yours faithfully
- Dear Mr Smith = Yours sincerely
- Signature space – leave space for the writer to sign the letter, usually about 5 blank line spaces is enough.
- Name and designation of person signing letter – writer’s name and job title printed below signature for clarity.
- Enclosure abbreviation – added if any documents are being sent with the letter, ‘enc’ means enclosure, ‘encs’ means more than one.
- Company registration details.