Writing a Business Letter

The term business letter makes some people nervous. Many people with English as a second language worry that their writing is not advanced enough for business writing. This is not the case. An effective letter in business uses short, simple sentences and straightforward vocabulary. The easier a letter is to read, the better. You will need to use smooth transitions so that your sentences do not appear too choppy.


First and foremost, make sure that you spell the recipient's name correctly. You should also confirm the gender and proper title. Use Ms. for women and Mr. for men. Use Mrs. if you are 100% sure that a woman is married. Under less formal circumstances, or after a long period of correspondence it may be acceptable to address a person by his or her first name. When you don't know the name of a person and cannot find this information out you may write, "To Whom It May Concern". It is standard to use a comma (colon in North America) after the salutation. It is also possible to use no punctuation mark at all. Here are some common ways to address the recipient:

First paragraph

In most types of business letter it is common to use a friendly greeting in the first sentence of the letter. Here are some examples:

After your short opening, state the main point of your letter in one or two sentences:

Second and third paragraphs

Use a few short paragraphs to go into greater detail about your main point. If one paragraph is all you need, don't write an extra paragraph just to make your letter look longer. If you are including sensitive material, such as rejecting an offer or informing an employee of a layoff period, embed this sentence in the second paragraph rather than opening with it. Here are some common ways to express unpleasant facts:

Final paragraph

Your last paragraph should include requests, reminders, and notes on enclosures. If necessary, your contact information should also be in this paragraph. Here are some common phrases used when closing a business letter:


Here are some common ways to close a letter. Use a comma between the closing and your handwritten name (or typed in an email). If you do not use a comma or colon in your salutation, leave out the comma after the closing phrase:

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