The Art of Business Letter Writing

Why do you write letters? There is a reason and end result you are looking to accomplish. Writing letters accomplishes several things; such as information gathering; promote; record information; sell; support and engagement.

There are basic formatting that needs to be included in your letter: dateline; reference line; special mailing notation; inside address; attention line; salutation; subject line; identification initials. Complementary close is placed two spaces after last paragraph and signature block is two spaces after that.

There are three letter types that can be used in business. Most business writing can fit in one of these categories. All these types have 3-4 paragraphs to appropriately get the message across.

The Good News Letter

This is where the “good news” is given in the first paragraph. It satisfies the curiosity of the reader. The second paragraph is for explaining your main point and offering supporting details to help the understanding of the letter. The third paragraph is for a call to action telling the reader exactly what you want them to do.

The Bad News Letter

The “bad news” is given in the third paragraph. The first two paragraphs are to prepare the reader for the disappointing news. Leading with the bad news the reader will become defensive and most likely not finish reading it. Using the acronym YES will remind you of the correct format.

para1- Y (you)- express your understanding by echoing concern

para2- E (explain)- reason for bad news in detail

para3- S (state)- give the bad news and offer apologies

The last paragraph is the call to action-  this is where you leave on a positive note.

The AIM Letter

Is used to ask for contributions, collect a debt, promote a plan or sell a product or service.

para1- A (attention)- capture by using a “grabber”

para2- I (interest)- describe in detail

para3- M (motivation)- offer solid evidence

The call to action should spell out the action you want. Give the reader some thing to do by adding phone number or email and add a sense of urgency.

Before you start writing your letter, first figure out what the purpose of your letter. Remember each type of letter is for a specific purpose. When answering someone in a positive matte use the “good news” format, answering someone in a negative matter use the “bad news” format and if asking for something use the “AIM” format.

Administrative Assistant’s and Secretary’s Handbook Third Edition by James Stroman, Kevin Wilson, Jennifer Wauson

The Encyclopedia of Business Letters, Faxes, and Email by Robert W. Bly and Regina Anne Kelly

Persuasive Business Writing: Creating Better Letters, Memos, Reports and More by Mary Cross