Writing Letters: The Business Letter – Writing Better English » Luyện thi Gò Vấp
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The Business Letter 

There are some important differences between a friendly letter and a business letter. And although this second kind of letter is called a business letter, its style is used for any kind of formal letter. It is not used exclusively for conducting business. 

Most businesses have letterhead paper. This is paper that already has the company logo, name, and address preprinted on it. At the top of the paper you will see something like this: 

JONES AND SONS Plumbing Done Right 2990 West Main Street Johnstown, IL 60622 (311) 555-1234 

Most individuals do not use letterhead, so the examples of business letters given here will be for paper without a letterhead. 

There are several possible parts to a business letter. Compare these to the parts of a friendly letter: 

  • Start with the date on the left. Then include your return address, about two lines below the date. Your phone number is often included immediately following your address. 

June 30, 2009 

2990 West Main Street Johnstown, IL 60622 (311) 555-1234 

  • Skip a line and then type the name of the person to whom you are writing followed by the company name and address. 

Ms. Mary Brown Jones Medical Center 400 East Oak Street Johnstown, IL 60634 

  • If you don’t know the name of the person to whom you should be writing, use an attention line to identify who should be looking at your letter (manager, accountant, etc.). 

Attention: Billing Manager 

  • Give the subject of the letter on its own line. 

Subject: Billing Problem 

  • The greeting is next, followed by a colon ( : ). 

Dear Ms. Brown: 

  • Skip a line and then begin the body of the letter. Use as many lines or paragraphs as necessary to express why you have written to this person. 

I am a patient who . . . 

  • Include a polite final statement on its own line, if you wish. 

Thank you. 

  • Close the letter and follow it with a comma. 

Sincerely, 

  • Skip four lines to provide a place to sign the letter. 

[Your signature] 

  • Type your full name and title (Manager, Chairperson, etc.) after the space left for your signature. 

[Your typed name] 

[Your title] 

  • If someone else typed your letter, show your initials in capital letters (WS), followed by a slash, followed by the initials of the person who typed the letter in lower case (bk). 

WS/bk 

  • If you are enclosing a document with your letter, skip a line and indicate that at the end of the letter. 

Enclosure (1) 

If a business letter is typewritten, it should always be single-spaced. Let’s look at some sample letters. 

Sample 1 You know the name of the person to whom you are writing.

June 30, 2009 

2990 West Main Street Johnstown, IL 60622 (311) 555-1234 

Ms. Mary Brown Jones Medical Center 400 East Oak Street Johnstown, IL 60634 

Subject: Billing Problem 

Dear Ms. Brown: 

I am a patient who underwent outpatient surgery on my left hand on May 3, 2009. My doctor was Dr. Wilma Jones, and I am insured by the Johnstown HMO. My insurance number is ABC2003. 

On June 25, 2009, I received a bill from your office in the amount of $2,500.00. It is my understanding that my insurer will cover $2,400.00 of this amount. 

Please contact Mr. Roger Smith at Johnstown HMO for confirmation of my insurance and to adjust my bill. Inform me of any other steps I must take to correct this error. 

I have enclosed a copy of my insurance policy with this letter. 

Thank you. 

Sincerely, 

William Green WG/bk 

Sample 2 You do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing.

June 30, 2009 

2990 West Main Street Johnstown, IL 60622 (311) 555-1234 

Jones Medical Center 400 East Oak Street Johnstown, IL 60634 

Attention: Billing Manager 

Subject: Billing Problem 

I am a patient who underwent outpatient surgery on my left hand on May 3, 2009. My doctor was Dr. Wilma Jones, and I am insured by the Johnstown HMO. My insurance number is ABC2003. 

On June 25, 2009, I received a bill from your office in the amount of $2,500.00. It is my understanding that my insurer will cover $2,400.00 of this amount. 

Please contact Mr. Roger Smith at Johnstown HMO for confirmation of my insurance and to adjust my bill. Inform me of any other steps I must take to correct this error. 

I have enclosed a copy of my insurance policy with this letter. 

Thank you. 

Sincerely, 

William Green WG/bk 

The Body of a Business Letter

The body (content) of a business or formal letter is very different from the body of a friendly letter. A business letter isn’t casual, it isn’t newsy, and it doesn’t contain personal details that have nothing to do with the purpose of the letter. A business letter is brief and to the point. Look at how the body of the preceding sample business letters fits into the descriptions that follow: 

  • The first paragraph of a business letter introduces you and the subject of the letter. (I am a patient. I had hand surgery.) 
  • The second paragraph describes the details of the reason for the letter. (I received a bill for the surgery, but I have insurance. There’s a mistake.) 
  • If there is a third paragraph, it provides additional information needed to understand the reason for the letter. 
  • The final paragraph summarizes what you want to happen and can contain a word of thanks. (Contact my insurance company. Let me know what else I have to do.) 
  • Describe any enclosures in the letter. (My insurance policy.) 

Exercise

Exercise 1 Compose a business letter by filling in each of the following boxes with the suggested information. Put two or three sentences in each of the three boxes in the body of the letter. You are complaining about a defective product. 

Date 

Your address 

Name and address of the person you’re writing to 

Subject:

Greeting 

Introduce yourself and the subject of the letter. 

Give the details of the defective product. 

Summarize what you want done. 

A polite statement 

Closing 

Sign your name 

Your name 

Title (if any) 

Enclosures (if any) 

Exercise 2 Compose a business letter by filling in each of the following boxes with the suggested information. Put two or three sentences in each of the three boxes in the body of the letter. Inquire about job opportunities in a large business. 

Date 

Your address 

Name and address of the person you’re writing to 

Subject:

Greeting 

Introduce yourself and the subject of the letter. 

Give the details of the defective product. 

Summarize what you want done. 

A polite statement 

Closing 

Sign your name 

Your name 

Title (if any) 

Enclosures (if any) 

Exercise 3 Write a business letter to a travel agency to get information about a trip you would like to take. You can get the address of a travel agency in the phone book. 
Exercise 4 Write a business letter to a professional sports team to get its schedule of games for the next season. You can get the address of a sports team in the phone book. 
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