A letter is a written message that can be handwritten or printed on paper. It is usually sent to the recipient via mail or post in an envelope, although this is not a requirement as such. Any such message that is transferred via post is a letter, a written conversation between two parties.
Now that E-mails and texts and other such forms have become the norm for communication, the art of letter writing has taken a backseat. However, even today a lot of our communication, especially the formal kind, is done via letters. Whether it is a cover letter for a job, or the bank sending you a reminder or a college acceptance letter, letters are still an important mode of communication. .
Types of Letters
Let us first understand that there are broadly two types of letter, namely Formal Letters, and Informal Letters. But then there are also a few types of letters based on their contents, formalities, the purpose of letter writing etc. Let us have a look at the few types of letters.
- Formal Letter: These letters follow a certain pattern and formality. They are strictly kept professional in nature, and directly address the issues concerned. Any type of business letter or letter to authorities falls within this given category.
- Informal Letter: These are personal letters. They need not follow any set pattern or adhere to any formalities. They contain personal information or are a written conversation. Informal letters are generally written to friends, acquaintances, relatives etc.
- Business Letter: This letter is written among business correspondents, generally contains commercial information such as quotations, orders, complaints, claims, letters for collections etc. Such letters are always strictly formal and follow a structure and pattern of formalities.
- Official Letter: This type of letter is written to inform offices, branches, subordinates of official information. It usually relays official information like rules, regulations, procedures, events, or any other such information. Official letters are also formal in nature and follow certain structure and decorum.
- Social Letter: A personal letter written on the occasion of a special event is known as a social letter. Congratulatory letter, condolence letter, invitation letter etc are all social letters.
- Circular Letter: A letter that announces information to a large number of people is a circular letter. The same letter is circulated to a large group of people to correspond some important information like a change of address, change in management, the retirement of a partner etc.
- Employment Letters: Any letters with respect to the employment process, like joining letter, promotion letter, application letter etc.
Importance of Letter Writing
- It is much more personal than a report.
- In business dealing, it represents your company’s image and your competence.
- It is also used as an official or legal record of any agreement.
- You also need to write a letter( C.V, i.e cover letter) if you are a job applicant.
Functions of Letter Writing
Business people have to communicate with the suppliers, debtors, creditors, customers and with other concerned parties to exchange information. Business letters are basically used to communicate with the above parties.
According to Ricks and Gow, “The primary purposes of business letters are to inform, instruct, request, inquire, remit, order, advice, correct and to question.”
Functions or purposes of business letter are as follows:
- Convey information
The basic purpose of any business letter is to convey information regarding business activities. Information can be transmitted through business letter to customers, suppliers, debtors, government authorities, financial institutions, bank and insurance companies and to any other parties related with the business.
- Conclude transaction
This is one of the specific purposes of business letter. To conclude in completed transactions business letters are frequently used.
- Creation of demand
Business letters especially circular letters used to create demand for new products. Circular letters can communicate many people in the same time.
- Creation of goodwill
In this electronic era messages can be sent within few seconds through electronic media but a well decorated business letter has its own importance in creation positive image of the company.
- Expansion of business
Through goodwill messages and through circular letters existing market can be expanded.
- Establishment of relationship
Another important purpose of business letter is, it helps to establish mutual relationship with the customers, suppliers and with the other interested parties.
Business letters are also used to maintain documentary evidence. Letters can be preserved for future reference.
- To inquire
A business concern not only sends messages but also receive information from the outside. To run the business any firm need different types of information from outside. Through business letters firms can inquire regarding necessary matters.
- Placing order
It is a very common purpose for using business letter. Both trading and manufacturing concerns need to place orders for finished goods or raw-materials to run the business.
- Problem solving
In the course of business, disputes and misunderstanding may arise. Business letters play vital role in solving such misunderstandings.
LAYOUT OF LETTER WRITING
When writing a business letter, the layout of your letter is important, so that it will be easy to read and looks professional. So is your use of an appropriate salutation and closing, your spelling and grammar, and the tone you employ.
Here’s information on business letters, including selecting a font, paragraph spacing, formatting, margins, what to include in each paragraph, how to close the letter, and an example of the proper layout for a business letter.
Letter Font and Spacing
Properly space the layout of the business letters you write, with space between the heading, the greeting, each paragraph, the closing, and your signature.
Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph. When sending typed letters, leave two spaces before and after your written signature.
Left justify your letter, so that your contact information, the date, the letter, and your signature are all aligned to the left.
Use a plain font like Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New, Calibri, or Verdana. Make sure that the font size you use is large enough that your reader won’t need to reach for their glasses – the standard font size for these fonts is 10 point or 12 point.
If you are submitting your business letter to a very conservative organization, it is best to use the traditional Times New Roman 12 point font. Do not, under any circumstances, use fancy fonts like Comic Sans or handwriting fonts like Lucida on business correspondence.
Business Letter Etiquette and Tone
Salutation: It is still standard to use the recipient’s title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Professor, Judge) before their last names in the salutation of formal business correspondence (Example: “Dear Mr. Smith”). The word “Dear” should always precede the recipient’s name; don’t simply use their name by itself as you might do in casual correspondence. By the same token, avoid beginning business correspondence with openings like “Hello,” “Hi,” or “Good morning” – business letters should always begin with “Dear [recipient’s title and name]” unless you use the salutation “To Whom It May Concern” (in instances when you do not know the name of the recipient).
Closing: Your closing needs to err on the side of the conservative. Acceptable closings to use include: “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Best regards,” “Regards,” “Thank you,” “Thank you for your consideration,” “Respectfully,” and “Very Respectfully” (this, often abbreviated “V/R,” is common in military business correspondence). Do not use casual closings like: “Later,” “Cheers,” “Cordially,” “Thanks!,” “TTYL,” or “Warmly.”
Word Choice and Grammar: Although your word choice for business letters should not be too stilted, flowery, or ornate, you should also avoid using slang, abbreviations/acronyms, emojis, or text-speak. By no means should you use the sentence fragments that are commonly used when texting. Instead, use complete sentences, watching out for comma splices (where two complete sentences are joined by a comma). Proofread carefully for spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.
Paper: If you are drafting a formal business letter to be mailed as opposed to an email, the paper you use should be a standard white bond paper of a decent weight – don’t use the sort of colored or flamboyant stationery that might be used in marketing “junk mail.” It’s fine to include a simple business logo at the top of the paper.