How to Set Up a Formal Business Letter

By Shannon C , last updated July 3, 2011

Setting up a formal business letter is not as complicated as the task may sound. There is a time honored formula that is taught in most business schools and trade schools, and many great templates for writing a formal business letter can be accessed with an internet search as well. Discovering and adhering to the basic structure of a formal business letter sets the foundation, but from here the greatest challenge becomes crafting a business letter that will assist you to stand out from your competitors. Whether you are competing for the reader's attention to obtain that all important job interview, to build a new relationship with a client prospect, to cement an existing customer relationship before it is lost to a competitor, or to propose a new venture or partnership, success in writing the formal business letter comes in two parts - the structure, and the execution. Learn from experts how to set your formal business letter, and your business goals, up for success.

The Formal Structure of a Business Letter

The formal business letter follows a very exact structure. At the top, you will have your letterhead, which often includes the sender's name and sending address, as well as phone and email address. From here, you will list out the date the letter is composed, the recipient's name and contact address, and the opening salutation. Addressing the individual by first name, or by honorific and last name, will be a personal choice. In the body of the letter is where a formal business letter explains its purpose and the hoped for result. The closing salutation is followed by the sender's signature, underneath which will be placed any typist initials and indications of any relevant attachments. Following this formal structure exactly will get your business letter off to an excellent start.

Composing the Business Letter

From here, the business letter will sink or swim based on the content in the body of the letter. The information contained in the body must be succinct, relevant, interesting, and to the point. There should be a clear intention stated, a reason for why that intention should be fulfilled, and a clear invitation to fulfill the intention. If the letter is written for the purposes of inquiring about a job position, you should be clear in the letter why you want the job, why you are the best person for the job, and why the reader should invite you for a job interview. If the letter is written for the purposes of soliciting a new prospect's business, the letter should outline why the prospect's business is of interest to you, what you can do for that prospect that your competitor's can't, how you are prepared to make a satisfied new customer out of that prospect, and why the prospect should allow you to meet with them to discuss doing business together. The more direct, courteous, and inviting your business letter is, the more likely the recipient is to take the time to respond, and favorably, to your request.

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