Although emails are already considered as less formal business letters, in the business world it is not advisable for your language to seem too informal. Emails are faster and more efficient, but it is the only difference between a handwritten business letter and emails. In the business world, the need of writing a letter in English is very common. In these cases, it is necessary to follow a formal writing style, which is distinguished by a series of sentences and steps.
1.Define the format.
When we write a formal letter, in this case a business letter, we must follow a set of standards established in terms of format. On one hand, the most appropriate fonts for this type of document are Arial or Times New Roman and the size should be 12. With regard to the size of the paper on which we are going to print the letter, it is recommended that it be letter size (21.59 x 27.94) or A4 (21 x 29.7)
On the other hand, if the letter is written by your company, do not forget to add a professional header with the company logo. Remember that this letter is a representation of your company and should convey the best possible image.
2.Know the structure of the letter.
It is important to know which are the different parts that make up the business letter so you don’t miss any. It doesn’t matter if the letter is for your English classes, the format and design will be the same. Below you will find each of these parts:
- Sender Information: That is your information. This includes your name or that of your company, address and city from which you send the letter.
- Place and date: First write the city from which you send the letter and after a comma (,) the date on which you write it. The date format is usually day, month and year. The month must be written in letters, not numbers.
- Recipient information: In this part you must write the name of the person with their respective title or position within the company in which you work. Likewise, you must include the name of the company where they work, address and city.
- Greeting, body of the letter, closing of the letter and signature (in which you include personal data.)
It is the first step when writing the letter, since in English the greetings may vary depending on the person to whom it is addressed. If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, you can opt for Dear Sir, Dear Madam. In the case of addressing someone you know, include that name: Dear Mr. (Sr.), Mrs. (Mrs.), Miss (Miss.) Or Ms.
4.The reason for the letter – The first paragraph:
It follows the greeting and has to respond to a specific intent, that is, to express what we want in the way that best suits the situation. Responding to a job offer in English is not the same as making a claim or requesting information about products or services. Here you can see some examples:
- I am writing to enquire about (…..) – I am writing to know (…..)
- We greatly appreciate – We would like to thank you
- I would like to apply for the job of
- We are pleased to inform you
5.The body of the letter – Development:
The ideas that we want to develop within a formal letter in English have to be divided by paragraphs: one paragraph per idea. For example, if you are a job applicant, you will need different paragraphs: one to introduce yourself and narrate your experience, another in which you show your interest in the vacancy, your availability and so on. This applies to all the reasons why you are writing a letter or business email.
6.The conclusion of the letter – Farewell:
To conclude a formal letter in English there are several ways to say goodbye, both thanking attention and inviting the recipient to keep in touch. Each situation must be accompanied by the most indicated courtesy formula, such as:
- Thank you for your help
- I look forward to hearing from you
- Please, feel free to contact me if you have any questions
The end of the letter should be treated with some care. Use only one of the following ways:
- Yours faithfully,………. – If you don’t know the person’s name
- Yours sincerely, ,……… – If you know the person’s name
Don’t forget to put your signature. If you are sending the letter electronically, include a digital signature. Under the signature, put your contact information such as name, telephone and email.
- These steps apply for cover letters as well.
- Most business letters use block format and are left-justified. Also, there’s a single space between each paragraph.
- Always check your spelling. You can always use a spell check to make sure that everything is correctly written. Also, before writing the letter, you can check if the recipient uses American or British English. Many words are spelled differently in each.
- Check your grammar. The most common mistakes are not knowing how to differentiate between: Your – You’re, its – it’s, possessive nouns (‘s – s’), than – then, present perfect and past and so on. The best way to avoid them is by learning the rules, but you can also use a grammar check to avoid mistakes.
- Check your punctuation. You might forget a comma, use too many spaces (one space before a comma, and one space after, for example) or even add exclamation marks and emoticons. Those should be avoided in a formal letter, as well as abbreviated language nor uppercase words.
- It is better to use simple grammar and without very complex structures. In business English it is preferable to use active voice.
- Try to proofread your letter different times for grammar, spelling and punctuation. That way, you can prevent some mistake from being overlooked.
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