According to Oxford Advanced learner’s Dictionary of English, a letter is a written message addressed to a person or organization, usually in an envelope, and sent by post. It is also a communication between two hearts in conversational tone. Letters are both a personal and professional means of communication. They represent the image of the organization and the professional competence of the writer. They can influence people favorably or unfavorably. According to Philip C. Kolin, letters serve the following five functions:
- Letters provide information.
- Letters prompt action.
- letters establish goodwill.
- Letters sell.
- Letters follow upon telephone calls and other types of conversation
Checklist for Letter Writing
- Make your letter neat and professioanl.
- Follow a letter format (full back or semi block) strictly.
- Leave margins of approximately 11/2 inch all around your letter.
- Spell every word correctly.
- Correct every typographical error.
- Use a good variety of sentence length.
- Avoid clumsy, awkward, fragmented, spliced and fused sentences.
- Use clear, precise and appropriate vocabulary.
- Use proper idioms and appropriate use of language (formal/informal).
- Use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation.
- Make a logical arrangement of paragraph.
- Make appropriate voice or attitude toward the reader.
- Exclude irrelevant material.
- Avoid unnecessary repetition.
- Include all necessary information.
- Proofread everything before you post it.
- Be concise and contemporary (sound, friendly and natural).
- Avoid using the passive.
- Avoid jargon whenever possible.
- Use shorter sentences rather than longer ones.
- Don’t try to be too clear.
- Be clear and to the point, but don’t be too blunt.
For business correspondence, proof reading is a must because you are responsible for every error letter has and that can be costly and embarrassing. Kolin mentions eight ways to proofread a letter effectively.
- Read the letter backwards, bottom to top.
- Read the letter from the start to the finish aloud. Pronounce each word carefully to make yourself more aware of typographical errors or omitted words. Look at every letter of every word. Don’t skim.
- Place your finger under each word as you read the letter silently.
- Double check the spelling of all names and the accuracy of dates, costs, addresses, and other factual details. Errors have here sure to cause problems. watch for inconsistencies (Philip in one place; Phillip in another).
- Have a friend read the letter. Four eyes are better than two.
- Have you friend read the original copy of the letter aloud whole, you follow the typed copy.
- If you have the time, proofread the letter the following day.
- Never proofread when you are tired and avoid reading large amounts of materials in one sitting.
A letter format is a way where you place certain kinds of information in a letter. Full block format and semi-block format are two popular letter formats in the business world.
In a full block format, all information is typed or printed against the left hand margin. For example:
In a semi block format, we type the writer’s address, date, complimentary close, and the signature at the right hand side of the letter.
It is printed at the top giving a company’s name, address, telephone number and sometimes the names of its chief executives or the company symbol or design.
You place the month, day and year or day, month and year. Its place depends on the format you use. Spell out the name of the month in full. April 17, 2004
It is placed against the left hand margin in both full block and semi block formats. it is the same that you print or type on the envelope. It contains the name, title, company or organization and address. Do not use punctuation at the end of the lines.
It is the greeting part of your letter. It is typed against the left hand margin in both formats. The salutation depends on whom your are writing. Begin with ‘Dear’. If you are writing to a particular person like the editor-but you don’t know that person, start:
Dear Sir, or Dear Madam, or Dear Sir or Madam,
If you are writing to a firm with no idea who will read the letter, start:
If you are writing to a person, you have met a few times, start:
Dear Mr. Adhikari or Dear Mrs. Tamrakar
Salutation begins with Dear and then follows with a courtesy title, the reader’s last name and a colon. (Dear Mr. Adhikari:) A comma is used in informal letter (Dear Adhikari,). if you are writing to a large group of readers or do not know the reader’s name, use individual’s job title or relevant designation (Dear Engineer, Doctor).
It provides a concise summary of the letter or another relevant information. it is preceded by the word “SUBJECT” with left hand margin and two spaces below the salutation.
SUBJECT: Your February 1 inquiry concerning order no. 437.
Body of the letter
It contains the message. Use single space within the paragraph and double space between paragraphs. the first paragraph is about your purpose in writing the letter. The introduction part should indicate why the writer is writing it or must state clearly what the letter is about. in the second paragraph, you develop your message with factual support. The last paragraph is the conclusion. The main point of the conclusion is to underline that purpose of the letter and to spell out the action the writer would like taken.
It is typed two spaces below the body of the letter. It ends the letter politely. There are special ways of signing off which must match the first greeting.
If you start with Dear Mr. Bhusan or Dear Mrs. Pandit, you end with Yours sincerely, and put your signature underneath. If you start with Dear Sir, Dear Madam, you end with Yours faithfully and put your signature underneath.
It appears four spaces below the complimentary close. Sign your name in ink. Then it indicates that you have approved the contents of the letter. your name is typed below the signature.
- Your address
- The name, title, and address of the recipient
- The date
- Subject/Reference (s)
- The greeting
- The first paragraph
- Other paragraphs
- The ending.
- Checklist for Writing Business Letters
- Make a list of all the things you would like to write and read them well. Remove the points that do not support your main cause.
- Go to the Point.
- Be friendly and positive.
- State your points plainly in short sentences.
- Remove words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs if they do not support your idea.
- Use active voice.
- Be sympathetic and show human qualities.
- Never write when you are angry.
- Edit with an action step and close with a simple word or phrase.
- Be professional in writing i.e. by setting up a clean and logical format.
- Respond other’s letters quickly.