Howe Writing Initiative Farmer School of Business Miami University Oxford, OH 45056

Howe Writing Initiative
Farmer School of Business
Miami University
Oxford, OH 45056
April 2, 2013
FSB Students
Farmer School of Business
Miami University
Oxford, OH 45056
Dear FSB Students:
This business letter model provides you with advice about the form, style, purposes, and contexts of
business letters. See the comment boxes on the right side of the page for more specific advice. As we’ve
done here, the opening line of a business letter sets up the context in which you are writing; never begin a
letter with the sentence “My name is ____.”
Always consider your audience when composing a business letter, from the opening salutation, or
greeting, through the closing lines: What information do you need to convey to the recipient of your
letter? Use the first paragraph of a business letter to state the main point for your audience in a few
sentences; reserve specific details for the body paragraphs that follow your introduction.
There are many types of business letters—of application, of complaint, of employment, of dismissal, and
others—which will affect the information you choose to include in the letter you are writing. We are
showing you a basic letter format that works for different types of business letters.
Use the body paragraphs to justify the purpose of your letter. The support you use could take the form of
background information, statistics, first-hand accounts, or other relevant data. A few short paragraphs
within the body of the letter should be enough to support your reasoning.
Use the closing paragraph to restate your purpose and the importance of your letter for your audience. If
the purpose of sending your letter is to establish a new relationship with a person or company, consider
including your contact information in the concluding paragraph. You might also consider thanking your
audience for taking the time to read your letter.
HWI 2/3/09 11:24 AM
Your address, if you choose to include it, goes at
the top of the letter. If the letterhead includes address
information, you do not need to include it here. You
do not need to include your name or title here, as it
will be included in the letter’s closing. HWI 2/3/09 11:09 AM
Comment: Use the US conventional date format when writing a
business letter from an American company [Month
Date, Year]. Do not abbreviate the month.
HWI 2/3/09 11:26 AM
This is the recipient’s address (sometimes called
the “inside address”); write to a specific individual
whenever possible, and include their name with a
personal title [Ms., Mr., Dr., etc]. If the final
destination is a country outside the US, type the
country name in all-capital letters on the last line.
The recipient’s address should be the full postal
HWI 2/3/09 11:09 AM
In the salutation, use the same name as is listed on
the recipient address. It is usually appropriate to
begin with a friendly salutation [Dear SFB Students];
if you do not know the recipient’s name, address the
letter to either the position [Dear Human Resources
Manager] or use “To Whom It May Concern.” End
the salutation with a colon (not a comma).
If you do not know the recipient, do not assume
gender or marital status at any point in the letter.
HWI 2/2/09 1:11 PM
Comment: The basic, most common form of a business letter is
block format. In this format, the entire letter is leftjustified and single-spaced, with double spacing
between paragraphs.
HWI 2/3/09 11:03 AM
Comment: The closing begins one line after the last body
paragraph; you only need to capitalize the first word
[Thank you,], and follow the closing with a comma.
HWI 2/3/09 11:27 AM
Comment: Leave four lines after the closing and type your
name. Your signature will go in the space between
the closing and your typed name.
HWI 2/3/09 11:04 AM
The Howe Writing Team
Comment: If you are sending other documents with the letter,
type “Encl.:” one line below your name to notify the
recipient. In some cases, it might be appropriate to
list the specific documents enclosed [Encl.: resume].
Encl.: “Writing Business Letters”
HWI 2/3/09 11:29 AM
cc: FSB Faculty
Comment: The “cc:” line indicates to your recipient(s) other
individuals or companies that will receive the same
Howe Writing Initiative • Farmer School of Business • Miami University Writing Business Letters
What do business letters do?
Business letters can accomplish different objectives:
Announce (cover letters, letters of application)
Appoint (to a position)
Congratulate (letters of promotion, award letters)
Critique (letters of complaint)
Dismiss (from a position)
Recommend (letters of nomination)
Respond (letters responding to complaints or inquiries)
Solicit (letters of request, fund-raising letters, sales letters)
Summon (letters from courts)
How are business letters like other forms of business communication?
Like all business writing, business letters should be concise, maintain a formal tone, and use
professional diction. Business letters should also be considered public documents; your letter of
complaint could be forwarded from the manager of a company to the CEO. Make sure to
proofread carefully before sending out business letters.
How are business letters different from other forms of business communication?
Typically, business letters establish relationships with individuals or companies outside of your
company. In contrast, a memo is an internal document passed among individuals within one
organization. Business letters allow the sender to put his or her best persona forward while
maintaining a professional relationship with the recipient. Business letters can also be used to
break existing relationships, between both individuals and companies. In some situations, letters
reinforce relationships between people rather than provide information.
Business letters can also be sent within companies; these internal letters usually concern matters
that require institutional recognition (letters of promotion or letters of dismissal). In many ways,
business letters archive important interactions between individuals and companies as well as
important events within companies. In contrast, email communication exchanges information
quickly among individuals in a more informal way.