You are on page 1of 16

Business letters

The layout of a business letter

The layout of a business letter some specific elements
Information about:

the two companies that communicate by letters

the people authorized to communicate on behalf of each company

or may refer to the filing system that enables tracing a letter (or a number of letters in
the correspondence file)

The letterhead
Information about the sender:
the logo
the companys name and status
its address
telephone/fax number/ e-mail address
The date
There are various ways to express date:
2.11. 2011
The 1st of November 2011
November 1st, 2011
In business correspondence pattern recommended:

2 November
The reference line
Your ref. (your reference)
Our ref. (our reference)
helps tracing a letter in the file

the name of the person who signed the letter

the name of the typist


Figure 5. Main parts of a business letter.

the filing code

Example: Your ref.: FW/ms/P25


the letter was written/signed by Frank Warrington

it was typed by Mary Storm

is located in the file P (petrol) 25

"Our ref." gives similar information about the sender

The inside address indicates the following:
name and address of the addressee
position in the company (e.g. The Supply Manager, The Chief Accountant etc.)
mail address written exactly as given by your partner
The salutation
Forms of address used to open business letters
depend on: the addressees status
the social distance between the partners
Dear Sir when the addressee is a gentleman whose name we do not know;
Dear Sirs used to address a company;
Dear Madam the addressee is a lady whose name we do not know;
Dear Mr Robertson/ Dear Ms Watson to address a person whose name is known to
the writer;
Dear Bill - used to address a person with whom the writer is on friendly terms
High officials or personalities:
(the addressees name is associated with)

courtesy titles

titles deriving from appointment or honours


Useful information:

no special form of address for the Prime Minister and members of the

ambassadors are addressed as:

Your Excellency (formal)
Dear Mr Rodson or Dear Lord Bart

The subject line

below the salutation and underlined

tells what the letter is about

helps the reader direct the letter to the right person

facilitates fast processing of correspondence

Dear Mr Winter
Tax collection

The body of the letter the main text of the letter (the message of

the rule of the four Cs

clear, concise, correct, courteous

divided into paragraphs

the letter)

information distributed according

to the role of each paragraph
The opening paragraph

makes connection between the subject line and the rest of the text (" above" or

refers to the source of information, which is used as a basis for the letter you are

The following two or three paragraphs

the proper message of the letter

describe facts/give arguments/ make complaints/ make suggestions etc

(according to the purpose of the letter)

The closing paragraph

emphasises the main idea of the letter


restate the writers point of view

conclusion of the letter

The last sentence of this paragraph often contains the formula:

We look/are looking forward to hearing/ receiving news from you
We look/are looking forward to your answer/reply/letter
The complimentary line

depends on the level of formality

the relationship between the writer and the addressee

directly related to the salutation

Differences between British and American English:

British English

Complimentary line

Dear Madam / Sir(s)

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss Waters/

Yours faithfully

Dear Mary

Yours sincerely /Best regards/ wishes/ Kind

Yours/ Best regards/ wishes/ Kind regards

American English
Gentlemen:/ Dear Madam / Sir(s)

Complimentary line
Truly yours/Yours truly/ / Faithfully yours/

Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss Hudson

Yours faithfully
Sincerely yours/ Yours sincerely/ Best regards/

Dear Nicholas

Best wishes/Cordially yours

Best regards/ Cordially

The signature given together with

the writer's typed name

the writers position in the company

If the writer is not the person authorised to sign the letter:

the printed name is preceded by:
p.p. (per procurationem) or
Mary Smith
p.p. Tom Richard

Supply Manager
Enclosure line the last point of a business letter
abbreviated to Enc./encl.
gives the list of additional documents sent with the letter:
Encl.: 2 copies of the Monthly Statement


Reference line

Inside address


Subject line

Main body of the letter

Complimentary line

Authors signature
Typed name

Fig. 1. Main parts of a business letter


Business Letter Layout

Business letter layout is important. There are three main layouts that are commonly used and people
will be used to seeing them when they receive business letters.
This page focuses on the shape of the letter and not the contents. The page about proper business
letter format focuses on the specifics of what should be included in each part of the letter; while, the
page with business letter examples gives examples of how the different formats and layouts can be
used together to produce professional business letters.
There are also some free business letter templates for you to copy and use to help you produce your
own letters.

Block Format
The most commonly used letter format is block format. The other two formats are modifications of the
block format. See the example below, for the form that a block format letter would take:

In block format all the text is justified left. The senders address, date, receivers name and address, as
well as the main body of the letter and the closing are all justified to the left hand side of the page. All
the lines start at the same place: they should be vertically justified so that they form a straight vertical
The paragraphs arent indented. The ends of the lines at the right hand side shouldnt be justified. Its
easiest to read text that is left justified and uneven at the right hand side. This will mean that the text
isnt stretched to fill the line so each letter and space will be the same size.

Modified Block Format

In the modified block format, business letter layout, the senders address, date and closing are all
moved towards the centre of the page, see the example below:

The exact place that the modified elements should start isnt precisely defined in the modified block
format. The senders address, date and closing should start at least in the centre of the page, that is,
the first letter of each line should be on the centre line of the page or to the right hand side of it. How
much to the right hand side is up to your personal preference. Choose the most professional looking
In this format the position of the date could remain left justified as in the block format or be lined up
with the elements that have been moved towards the right of the page.

Semi-Block Format
This format is the same as the modified block format (so the description form above remains the
same) apart from the first line of each paragraph is indented. See following example:

The first line of each paragraph in the main body of the letter has been indented. One tab space is a
suitable indentation to use. Everything else is the same as in the modified block business letter layout

Collection Letters: Guidelines for Writing Collection Letters (with samples)!

Collection letters are written when you have to recover/collect your dues from a customer, for
the goods or services given on credit. If the customer has not paid in time, it becomes
necessary to remind him. This is a delicate situation, because on the one hand you want to
retain the business relationship and on the other you want your money in time.
Hence, tact of language is necessary to impress upon the customer (who may himself be in
financial difficulties) to pay your dues anyway. In some cases, it is a reality of business that
you have to accept part payment also.
Guidelines for Writing Collection Letters:
1. Tact and restraint:
To remind someone that he has failed to meet his financial commitment is a sensitive matter.
Hence you have to use a language of tact and restraint. Moreover, you have to provide for
two circumstances: that the payment is already sent/received but not within your knowledge,
or that the goods/services are unsatisfactory.
The buyer may be facing difficulties in realizing value out of your supplies. At the same time,
some customers are habitually late or negligent. Therefore each case will have to be taken on
2. Polite tone:
A good businessman has his future business angle in mind and uses polite language in a
collection letter. He avoids hurting the reader. Even if it is the last collection letter threatening
legal action, good business requires that you be polite and use words like with regret.
3. Show understanding of the customers problems:
If the customer is caught up in a difficult financial situation himself, has no ready money and
has been unable to realize cash out of your goods, he may have good reasons for not paying


or not being able to pay. As a collector of dues, you may have to get involved to some extent
in his problems and find a common solution to get value for your goods. This sensitivity
needs to be shown in your letter and overall approach to the collection.
4. Progressive steps in writing a series of collection letters:
It may happen that one collection call is not enough to get your dues. The customer may
willfully or otherwise default on payment.
The stages in writing collection letters in a series are:
(i) Formal reminder, assuming he will pay, in a mild tone.
(ii) A firmer and persuasive reminder stressing the necessity to pay here and now.
(iii) Last resort letter, which states that the customer must pay, otherwise legal action will
First Stage Collection Letters:
At this stage the letter is a formal one. Even a printed form letter can be used. It is presumed
that the customer just forgot to pay and will act upon the reminder at once.
Useful starters for first collection letters:
(i) We notice that your account, which was due for payment on 1s outstanding in our
(ii) We have to invite your attention to our invoice no. for Rs
(iii) We have to remind you that we have not yet received the balance shown against your
name in our statement dated amounting to Rs. which is now more than a month overdue.
(i) We hope you will settle the bill by return.

(ii) We look forward to your remittance within the next few days.
(iii) In case you have sent the payment in the meantime, you may ignore this notice.
Specimen formal reminder:

Persuasive/ Firm Reminder:

If the first collection letter does not bring in the payment after a due wait, a second letter is
sent in about 15-20 days. In this letter the language is firmer but the tone is still polite. You
are not to annoy the customer but rather seek his cooperation.
Some starters:
(i) We see from our records that our reminder to you for payment vide our invoice dated is
to this date unresponded.
(ii) We refer to our letter dated requesting you to settle your dues.
(iii) We have to remind you again of your dues under our invoice no Dated for Rs, for
which our first reminder dated, seems to be unresponded by you.


(i) We urge you once again to take this up on priority and settle the dues at once.
(ii) We sincerely hope that this time you will take a serious note of the dues and clear them
(iii) We trust that this impresses upon you the urgency of the matter and that you will act
Specimen collection letter stage II

Last Resort Letter/Final Collection Letter:

If there is no response to the earlier collection letters, a final collection letter is sent
according to lie following plan:
(a) Record the past efforts for collection.
(b) Offer one more chance to pay.
(c) Mention the legal action that will be necessary if this request is also ignored.
(d) Set a deadline for payment.


Some starters:
(i) We wrote to you on and again on for recovery or our dues vide invoice no .
Dated, with still no action from you
(ii) We have to say that our earlier requests dated and For settlement of our bill dated
for remain unhonoured by you
(iii) We note with surprise and disappointment that our two successive letters concerning the
over dues from you in respect of our bill dated are not answered.
(i) Now unless we receive our dues by we shall have no option but to put the matter in the
hands of our lawyers.
(ii) Please treat this as our last request for payment in the matter before we resort to law. But
we still hope you will act within a fortnight and pay up the dues.
(iii) We still hope you will remit by and save yourself the considerable cost and
inconvenience of legal action.
Specimen Last record letter/ final collection letters



Dear Sirs,
Sub: Non-payment of dues
This is to bring to your notice that after checking our accounts recently, it has come to light
that we have not yet received payment of Rs.14, 800/- (Rupees Fourteen thousand and eight
hundred only) for computer harware supplied to you on (date) against your Order No. --------Since we never received any complaint about goods supplied to you, we assume that the
goods supplied by us have met with your standards and given you complete satisfaction. In
fact, it has been our constant endeavour to retain the goodwill of our valued customers, we
hope that you will arrange for the payment of dues without any further delay.
Thanking you
Yours faithfully