Basics of Letter Writing

  • Post last modified:10 October 2021
  • Reading time:23 mins read

Physical Appearance

Paper

In Selection of the paper for Business letters, the following aspects should be considered.

Quality

A. The paper used for a business letter should be of good quality to create a good impression.

B. Moreover, if a poor quality paper is used, it becomes difficult to preserve it for a long time and maybe torn and tattered by repeated usage.

C. In practical business 60 GSM to 100 GSM paper qualities are used.

Color

A. A white paper should be preferred for business letters as the written matters stand out clearly on its facilitating reading and it suits all kinds of business letters.

B. In modern commercial communication, some firms use tinted paper to suit their trade. If such a paper is used it should be of a light shade. Bright colors are avoided. The basic purpose of using tinted papers is for attraction

Size

A. The standard sizes of the paper used for business letters “A4” and “Legal”.

B. A4 is approximately 8.5 inches x 11.5 inches. While a “legal” size paper is approximately 8.5 inches x 14 inches.

C. In no case half of the sheet is used, this gives a miserliness approach of the firm drafting the letter.

Continuation Sheet

A. Sometimes a letter requires more than one page for the message. In such cases, neither the message should be continued on the reverse 57 side of the paper nor a fresh letterhead is used, but the same quality blank paper is used as a continuation sheet.

B. In every continuation sheet that is used, the name of the addressee, page number and the date is mentioned at the top of the page.

Envelope

  • The envelope of the business letter should be decent and attractive.
  • Size of the envelope must match the size of the letter and should be as big enough to have only two folds in the letter.

Window Envelope

  • A window envelope is used by certain firms to save the time of superscription that is, typing the address of the recipient once again on the envelope.
  • Window envelopes are not used for transiting confidential and important documents as they are unsafe and the matter of the letter can be seen through the window.

Structure and design of Letter and essential parts of the letter.

Heading / Letterhead

  • Every company gets the letterhead printed on a good quality paper.

  • The letterhead must be printed in 1/3rd (one third) portion of the page used. In modern commercial communication maximum 1/5th (one fifth) portion of the page is used for printing the company letterhead.

  • The letterhead comprises details like name of the business enterprise, nature of the business carried, all possible contact numbers, fax numbers, address for communication, e-mail address, website and logo or symbol of the business enterprise.

  • Though most of the above-mentioned details are printed the letterhead should not be overloaded with details.

  • It should not be used as an advertising paper.

  • In modern commercial communication, the letterheads are specially designed to depict the business and it carries the first impression of the company to the recipient.

Date

  • It is one of the most important aspects of letter writing.
  • It should be mentioned in every business letter for future reference and date wise filing of the letter.

  • The date in the letter also helps the sender or the receiver to use it as constitutional proof.

  • According to the concept of modern commercial communication writing “Date” or “Dt.” Before writing the date is avoided, as the specified date is self-explanatory.

  • There are several styles of writing the date but only two styles of the date are popularly used in business communication.

British Style

  • The British style of writing the date follows DD/MM/YY Format.
  • 15th August, 1947. (Closed punctuation marked date)
  • 15th August 1947 (Open punctuation marked date)

American Style

  • The American style of writing the date follows MM/DD/YY Format.
  • August 15, 2006. (Closed punctuation marked date)
  • August 15 2006 (Open punctuation marked date)
  • Avoid writing dates in the formats like 15 Aug 2006, 11/8/06, etc.

Reference Number

  • Every company maintains a reference number for a better tracking system of the letter.

  • It enables the linking of letters with past and future correspondences.

  • Every company maintains a reference number for a better tracking system of the letter.

  • In case of failure of the usage of the reference number by the replies, it is considered as a discourteous action as it causes inconvenience on the part of the receiver to track the letter.

  • Reference numbers can include the name of the company in short, the branch code, the name of the drafter, the record or the file number, letter number and any other number which the company needs to track the letter. For Example, a reference number of a company can be “In/ 02/AC/MNP/087/00018.

Personal Note:

  • Personal notes like confidential, urgent, immediate, personal, etc. can 59 be written in the letter above the inside address as well as above the outside address on the envelope.

  • The addressee or his deputy should open letters bearing the instruction “confidential”, but if the letter bears the instruction “personal” the addressee only should open it. No one else is authorized to open the letter in his/her absence.

  • The logic behind writing the personal note on the letter too is to prevent it from being mixed with the regular letters.

Inside Address

  • The inside address is the address of the recipient.

  • The inside address is written after the date and the reference number on the left margin.

  • Generally, the first line of the inside address is the post to whom the letter is addressed or sent, the second line is the name of the company which is then followed by the short address of the company.

  • In certain cases, the first line of the inside address is the name of the person to whom the letter is addressed and the second line is the post of the person. This is done in case the drafter wants to have a personal approach to the letter or maintain better relationships.

  • There are two styles of writing the inside address.

  • British Style/Indented style

The British style of the inside address is time-consuming.

  • American Style/Block Style
  • The American style or the block style of writing the inside address is very convenient for the typist and is preferred in business correspondences.

  • A comma may or may not be used after every line of the inside address and a full stop may or may not be used after the last line.

  • In case the comma and full stop are used the address is known as closed punctuation marked inside address and if the comma and full stop are not used it is known as open punctuation marked inside address.

  • In case the inside address begins with the name of the recipient, the following courtesy titles are used.

Mr.’ is used for addressing a manMs.’ is used for addressing a woman whose marital status is not known. In modern commercial correspondences even if the marital status of a woman, to whom the correspondence is done is known, “Ms.” is used.

Messes” “M/s.” is the plural form of “Mr.”. It is used to address a partnership firm with a personal name or names. Like “M/s. Desai and Bros.”, “M/s. Desai and Co.”, “M/s. Desai and sons.” “M/s. Desai and Desai”

In Indian culture “Shri” is used for both man and woman as well, “Sheri man” is used for man, “Kumari” is used for unmarried woman and “Sherimati” is used for married woman.

Attention Line

In cases when the writer wants to divert the letter to all the partners of the enterprise or several authorities of the firm, but at the same time wants special attention of a particular person or a department, he/she writes an attention line below the Inside address.

This attention line mentions the name of the person or the department whose attention is necessary to the letter.

The attention line is highlighted so that it is easily legible.

Salutation

Salutation is an essential part of a business letter. It is like greeting a person when you meet him/her.

The usage of salutation avoids the abrupt beginning of the letter and at the same time, it shows courtesy to the receiver of the letter

The choice of the salutation is made as per the relationship with the addressee. For Example,

Form of Salutation Suitable when the letter is addressed to
Sir
Madam
Government officials, editors of newspapers or prominent persons in Society.
(Not proper for use in business unless the letter is pertaining
to repeated complaints)
Dear Sir,
Dear Madam
Businessperson (As the case may be)
Dear Sirs,A joint-stock company or the letter is meant for several authorities in a firm.
Dear Mesdames,An organization consisting of ladies.
Dear Mr._
Dear Ms._
A businessperson with intimate relations.
Gentlemen,Board of Directors or committee
Respected Sir,Important respectable person
(Not suitable in routine business correspondence)

Subject:

After the salutation, there should be a comma. In The U.S.A. colon is used after the salutation.

  • The subject line is not a compulsory part of the business letter.

  • It is written to let the reader know immediately what the message is about. Thus it helps to know the gist of the letter and helps the receiver to schedule his work on a priority basis.

  • Generally, the subject line is written in the center of the letter and is underlined. The Subject line does not have a full stop, as it is not a complete statement.

  • In business correspondences, the subject line is avoided as it becomes too formal and the matter to be discussed is mentioned in the opening paragraph of the letter.

Body of the Letter

  • This is the core of the business transaction.

  • The body of the letter is divided into three parts. The first part is the opening of the content, introduction or reference of the previous letter. The second part on wards till the necessity of the content the business is discussed in detail. The final part is the conclusion.

Complimentary Close

  • The complimentary close is a courteous leave-taking.

  • It is a polite way of closing the letter.

  • Only the first letter of complimentary close is capital.

  • At the end of the complimentary close, a comma is marked.

  • The salutation and the complimentary close must agree to each other as shown below:
SalutationsSuitable
complimentary Close
Remarks
Sir
Madam,
Yours faithfully,
Or
Yours obediently,
Suitable while addressing to
people on a high post
Dear Sir,
Dear Sirs,
Dear Madam,
Dear Mesdames,
Dear Ladies,
Yours faithfully,
Or
Yours truly,
People on a high post Standard
closure for business letters.
Dear Mr Prem
Pandit,
ours sincerely,
Or
Yours truly,
Suitable for addressing to people
with intimacy.
Dear Member,
Dear Customer,
Dear Subscriber,
Dear Reader,
Yours sincerely,Suitable for sales and circular
letters.
  • Participle ending of the letter like “Thanking you”is avoided as it is grammatically incorrect and incomplete.

Signature

  • Signature is one of the most important aspects the letter without which the letter does not become constitutional proof.

  • The signature is done in the following ways:

Yours faithfully,


(Prem Pandit)
Partner/Proprietor/Owner


Yours faithfully,
For,
Prem & Co.


(Prem Pandit)
Managing partner


Yours faithfully,
P.P./Per Pro.
Prem & Co.
(Vikram Pandit)
Managing partner


  • The full form of P.P. is Per Procurationem. The meaning of Per procurationem is “on behalf of”

  • The person who has been given the power of attorney does the P. P. sign.

Post Script

  • In case the drafter forgets a small point in the body of the letter, it can be added in the letter under the title P. S. after the enclosure.

  • A postscript must always be signed.

  • This is a facility to add a forgotten point in the letter.

  • Only one postscript can be written in the letter.

  • As the number of postscript increases in a letter the impression of the company drafting the letter decreases
    .
  • Sometimes the postscript is also used to highlight an important point of the body of the letter.

Enclosures

  • Often business letters carry important documents like price list, catalogues, draft, invoice, transport receipt, cheques, etc.

  • In such cases, the documents sent along with the letter must be mentioned under the title “Encl” or “Enclosure” at the end of the letter on the left margin.

  • All the documents should be mentioned specifically under the title enclosure.

  • Enclosure avoids unnecessary transactions.

  • The enclosure helps the dispatch clerk and the receiving clerk of the sender and the receiver respectively to know that the envelope contains something other than the main letter.

Identification Initials

  • The identification initial is written on the opposite side of the complimentary close.

  • It identifies the person who has drafted the letter and the person who has typed the letter.

  • For example, ksb/rst or KSB/RST is written,\
    Here Mr K. S. B_ _ _ _ has drafted the letter and Mr R. S. T_ _ _ _ __ has typed the letter.

Carbon Copy Note:

  • Sometimes copies of the same letter are sent to some concerned authorities.

  • In such cases, it is indicated in the letter by writing the names and addresses of such authorities just below the identification mark or enclosure,

  • This information is very useful for the receiving clerk and the receiver.

Mailing Instructions

Mailing instructions like Airmail, Regd. A. D. etc. is typed in the center of the letter after the letterhead as an instruction for the dispatch clerk.


Principles of Effective Letter Writing: (The Seven C’s)

i) Clarity

  • The writer of the letter should have clarity of the message.

  • It should be chronologically sequenced and the questions or answers should be precise and simple for the reader to understand.

ii) Conciseness

  • A concise message saves the reader’s time and helps for the prompt execution of the message.

  • The message of the letter should be short without avoiding clarity and simplicity at the same time it should not look curt.

iii) Courtesy

  • Though modern commercial communication suggests quick and short letters, it advises the writer to be courteous at the same time. Words like “please”, “Thank you” or “We are/I am Sorry”, Etc should be used as the case be to make the receiver feel that he/she too is important for us.

iv) Consideration

  • Consideration is also termed as “You Attitude”

  • Consideration is also termed as “You Attitude”.  Writing a letter with “you attitude” means to keep the receiver in the center of the letter and make him/her feel that he/she is important for the sender’s business.

  • You Attitude does not mean flattering the receiver, which will give a negative impression.

  • But the following usages can help you attitude.
We Attitude (Not preferred)You Attitude (Preferred)
We are pleased to announce…You will be please to know….
We achieved a sale of Rs.5,00,000
in a single day…
A retailer like you helped us to
achieve such a big target.
1,00,000 T-Shirts sold every
month
1,00,000 T-Shirts bought every month

v) Correctness

  • The letter that you draft and sent to the party concerned may use the letter as a constitutional proof in cases of conflict.

  • So the letter must contain all details that are correct and no unnecessary details or false details are mentioned to avoid problems.

vi) Completeness

  • All the essential ideas pertaining to the idea or the objective of the letter has to be included.

  • This avoids unnecessary transactions and confusions.

vii) Concreteness

  • It should not be vague.

  • For example, the writer should avoid expressions like “please send us a few fans in a few days”, instead it should be “Please send us 20 fans by August 19, 2006.”

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