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Writing An Effective Business Letter

E-mail may be the quick and convenient way to relay daily business messages, but the printed business letter is still the preferred way to convey important information. A carefully crafted letter presented on attractive letterhead can be a powerful communication tool. To make sure you are writing the most professional and effective letter possible, use the business letter format and template below and follow these basic business letter-writing.

Select a professional letterhead design for your small business

Your business letter is a representation of your company, so you want it to look distinctive and immediately communicate "high quality." For a convenient and economical alternative to using traditional preprinted letterhead, try using our contemporary letterhead and envelope design templates. Simply create a letter within a predesigned color letterhead template and then print your entire piece quickly and beautifully on your Phaser® color printer.

Use a standard business letter format and template

The most widely used format for business letters is "block style," where the text of the entire letter is justified left. The text is single spaced, except for double spaces between paragraphs. Typically margins are about 1 inch (25.4 mm) on all sides of the document, which is the default setting for most word-processing programs. If you are using Microsoft Word, you can turn to its built-in Letter Wizard for additional formatting assistance (look on the Tools menu).

This business letter format illustrates the specific parts of a business letter:

Writing an Effective Business LetterBusiness Letter Template Fields:

Date: Use month, day, year format, e.g., March 3, 2012 or 3 March 2012

Sender's Address: It is a good idea to include sender's email and url, if available. Don't include this information if it's already incorporated into the letterhead design. This will allow customers to find your small business more quickly.

Inside Address: Use full name. Mr./Ms. is optional

Salutation: Be sure to use a colon at the end of the name, not a comma as in personal letters

Body Text: State why you are writing. Establish any connection/mutual relationship up front. Outline the solution, providing proof in the way of examples and expert opinions. Group related information into paragraphs

Closing "Call to Action": State what the reader needs to do and what you will do to follow up

Signature Block: Sign your letter in blue or black ink

Enclosures: Use if you have an enclosure

Carbon Copy: Use if you are sending a copy to additional person(s)

Use a professional tone.

Save casual, chatty language for email - your printed business letter should be friendly but more professional. As Scott Ober suggests in his book Contemporary Business Communication, "The business writer should strive for an overall tone that is confident, courteous, and sincere; that uses emphasis and subordination appropriately; that contains nondiscriminatory language; that stresses the "you" attitude; and that is written at an appropriate level of difficulty." That said, be sure to sound like yourself - you don't want your letter to read as if a machine wrote it.

Write clearly.

State your point early in your letter. To avoid any miscommunications, use straightforward, concise language. Skip the industry jargon and instead choose lively, active words to hold your reader's attention.

Organize your information logically: Group related information into separate paragraphs. In a long, information-packed letter, consider organizing information into sections with subheads. You may want to highlight key words to make them "pop" - this technique is possible with most word-processing programs and your color multifunction printer.

Use Color To Emphasize Words In Text

It's easy to put a few words in color to draw attention to them. Just select the type and click the arrow to the right of the Font Color button, choose the color you want, then click the button. Or, try highlighting a few words in the text. Select the type you want to emphasize, then click the Highlight button. Note: When highlighting parts of a document you intend to print, use a light color such as yellow, light green, or light blue. If you wish to remove the highlighting, select the text and click the Highlight button again.

AutoText automates applying color (or any type style), which would ordinarily take numerous clicks or commands. Say you're creating a report that compares your organization's performance against that of your competitor. Word can automatically color your company's name every time it appears, making those entries easy to locate.

Be persuasive.

Establish a positive relationship with your reader right away. If you have a connection to the reader - you've met before or have a mutual colleague, for example - mention it in your introductory paragraph. Whether you think your reader will agree with the point of your letter or not, it is important to find common ground and build your case from there.

Understand your reader well enough to anticipate how he or she will react when reading your letter. Address his or her needs or wishes, or a specific problem, and then outline your solution. Provide proof in the way of examples and/or expert opinions to back up your point. Make sure to maintain a friendly tone.

Conclude your letter with a "call to action." State clearly what your reader needs to do or believe to achieve the desired solution and then state what you, the writer, intend to do next to follow up.

Proofread your letter!

All your careful crafting and printing can't cover up spelling or punctuation errors, which leave a lasting negative impression.

Now that you've learned the secrets of writing an effective business letter, you're ready to start composing. Good luck!

For more tips for your small business, check out our Small Business Tips.

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