A letter is a written message containing information from one party to another. The role of letters in communication has changed significantly since the nineteenth century. Historically, letters (in paper form) were the only reliable means of communication between two people in different locations.
As communication technology has diversified, posted letters have become less important as a routine form of communication; they however still remain but in a modified form. For example, the development of the telegraph shortened the time taken to send a letter by transferring the letter as an electrical signal (for example in Morse code) between distant points. At the telegraph office closest to the destination of the letter, the signal was transferred back into a hardcopy format and sent as a normal mail to the person’s home. This allowed the normal speed of communication to be drastically shortened for larger and larger distances. This required specialised technicians to encode and decode the letter. The facsimile (fax) machine took this one step further: an entire letter could be completely transferred electrically from the sender’s house to the receiver’s house by means of the telephone network as an image.
Letters are still used, particularly by law firms and businesses, for official (public) notifications, sometimes advertising. This is because of three main advantages:
- No special device needed - almost everybody has a residence or other place at which he or she can receive mail. A mailbox is all that the intended recipient needs – unlike e-mail or phone calls, where the intended recipient needs access to a computer and an e-mail account or a telephone respectively.
- “Catch-all” advertising- unlike e-mails, where the recipient needs an individual e-mail address to receive messages, individuals are not necessarily chosen, by rather can widely cover many or all addresses in a given locality.
- Physical record - important messages that need to be retained (e.g. invoices; government notification such as tax or immigration) can be kept relatively easily and securely.
A commercial business letter is a letter written in formal language, usually used when writing from one business organization to another, or for correspondence between such organizations and their customers, clients and other external parties. The overall style of letter will depend on the relationship between the parties concerned. There are many reasons to write a business letter. It could be to request direct information or action from another party, to order supplies from a supplier, to identify a mistake that was committed, to reply directly to a request, to apologize for a wrong or simply to convey goodwill. Even today, the business letter is still very useful because it produces a permanent record, is confidential, formal and delivers persuasive, well-considered messages.
There are two main styles of business letters:
- Full block style: Align all elements on the left margin.
- Modified block style with other elements on the left page margin.
Business letters conform to generally one of four indentation formats: Block, Semi-Block, Modified Block, and Modified Semi-Block. Put simply, “Semi-” means that the first lines of paragraphs are indented; “Modified” means that the sender’s address, date, and closing are significantly indented.
In a Block format letter, (1) all text is aligned to the left margin, (2) paragraphs are not indented. 3) paragraphs are separated by double or triple spacing.
In a Semi-Block format letter (1) all text is aligned to the left margin, (2) paragraphs are indented.
In a Modified Block format letter, (1) all text is aligned to the left margin, except for the author’s address, date, and closing; and (2) paragraphs are not indented. The author’s address, date, and closing are usually indented three inches from the left margin, but can be set anywhere to the right of the middle of the page, as long as all three elements are indented to the same position.
In a Modified Semi-Block format letter, (1) all text is aligned to the left margin, except for the author’s address, date, and closing; and (2) paragraphs are indented. The author’s address, date, and closing are usually indented in same position.
Layout of Business Letter
- Letter Head
This is the writer’s full address. Business letters usually have preprinted, letterhead stationary which contains this information. That heading usually consists of a name and an address, and a logo or corporate design, and sometimes a background pattern An address heading is optional for informal letters
Date is calendar that means pointing the day, month, and year. Placement calendar is usually located under right corner Letterhead.
Date in the form of writing a business letter can be devided into 2 form
- Date in British
Date in British style in the English Language, usually written before the day of the calendar month, for writing an exact date, you need to know before ordering in the British system, sorting in the United Kingdom as follows:
1. First (-st)
2. Second (-nd)
3. Third (-rd)
While writing the date ends with number 4 – 10. Can use the suffix (-th) the end of the number
For example: When writing the date of 2 March 2012, then that should be noted is the date ending in 2, then use the suffix at the end of -nd number two. So that the writing be 2nd March 2012, if you are writing for the 7th of March 2012, then writing it is the 7th of March, 2012.
Example : (day/month/year)
- Date in American style October 19, 2005 (month-day-year)
3. Reference Line
4. Inside Address
The recipient’s full name and address. Generally, informal letters do not include an inside address.This is the address you are sending your letter to. Make it as complete as possible. Include titles, names, and routing information if you know them.This is always on the left margin. Skip a line after the heading before the inside address. Skip another line after the inside address before the greeting.
The salutation is your greeting. Most salutations begin with “Dear” followed by either the recipient’s first name, or title and last name. Endeavor to address all letters to an actual person.
If you know the name:
Dear Ms / Miss / Mrs / Mr / Dr + Name
Example: Dear Mr Miller
If you do not know the name:
here are several ways to write the welcome if you do not know the name of the person you want to go, namely as under this:
- Dear Sir / Dear Sirs = If the recipient man
- Dear Madam = If the recipient woman
- Dear Sir or Madam = If the recipient is unknown sex
- Gentlemen = If the recipient man
- Ladies = If the recipient woman
- Ladies and Gentlemen = If the recipient is unknown sex, or
- To whom it may concern = If the recipient is unknown sex
Its inclusion can help the recipient in dealing successfully with the aims of your letter. Normally the subject sentence is preceded with the word Subject: or Re: Subject line may be emphasized by underlining, using bold font, or all captial letters. It is usually placed one line below the greeting but alternatively can be located directly after the “inside address,” before the “greeting.”
Notice the difference of writing ‘ subject’ between british english and american english as under this:
- British English
Located between greeting and Content Letter, as follows :
Dear Mr. Hunt
Subject: Request No. 145
Referring to your …
b. American English
Located before greeting, as follows :
Subject: Request No. 145
Dear Mr. Hunt:
Referring to your …
7. Body Of The Letter
The complete text of the letter; the subject matter content. The body is written as text. A business letter is never hand written. Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented. Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.
This is the farewell phrase or word that precedes the signature and is followed by a comma. Closing should reflect a type of farewell or goodbye as writer signs off. Examples: “Yours truly,” “Sincerely yours,” “Regards,” etc.
*Note: “Thank you,” is not considered an appropriate closing for a formal or business letter.
The signed name of the writer. Formal or business letters include the full name of the writer printed below the signed name and most often include the writer’s title and/or professional designations.
An enclosure notation reminds readers of enclosures and appears directly under reference initials. The following are examples of enclosure notation forms
1. Invoice 6234-44
2. Letter of authorization
3. Price list
Part of a formal or business letter consisting of brief words or abbreviations as notations.
“R.S.V.P.” (Répondez s’il vous plaît) - French for “Please reply.”
The use of this notation indicates that the writer expects the recipient to contact the writer with a “yes” or “no” response to the invitation extended in the body of the letter. Often a corresponding address and/or phone number is printed directly below this notation.
“cc:” (carbon copy) – These initials are followed by a name or column of names, indicating those people to whom a copy of the letter is being sent to. (One-sided inked carbon paper slipped between two pieces of paper was once the method used for duplicating copies of correspondence, hence use of the word “carbon” in this notation).
“encl.” (enclosure) – Indicates that something else accompanying the letter is enclosed.
“PL/rm” (initials of persons) - Indicates that a person typed or even composed a letter on behalf of someone else. The capitalized initials are those of the sender of the letter (Paul Lazarman). The lower-case initials are those of the person who typed or composed the letter (Rachel McDonald) on behalf of the sender. The most common use for this notation is for situations where an administrative assistant composed and/or typed the final version of a letter that was dictated by his/her boss.