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Business Letters
Even with the widespread use of e-mail as a form of business
communication, the business letter is still one of the fundamental
forms of communication. Every person should be comfortable
keying and formatting business letters. They are used for formal
business correspondence, such as sending offers of employment to
job applicants, price quotations to potential buyers, or information
to customers to announce new products or services. They can be
hand delivered, sent by mail or courier, faxed, pasted into an
electronic form, or attached to an e-mail.
Although there are many ways to format business letters, the
parts generally remain consistent. Let us take a closer look at the
parts of the business letter, as shown in Figure 6.3 below.
Parts of a Business Letter
1–1.5" (2.5–3.8 cm)
Margin
1–1.5"
(2.5–3.8 cm)
Address
Address
Phone
1 Return address
Date today
2 Date line
Recipient’s Name
Company Name
Address
3 Inside address
Dear (Recipient’s Name):
4 Salutation
SUBJECT
5 Subject line
1–1.5"
(2.5–3.8 cm)
Margin
Figure 6.2 The business letter
is still a very important form of
business communication. Most
large companies have mailrooms
devoted to receiving and sending
business communications.
1 line
4 lines
1 line
1 line
1 line
The main characteristic of full-block letters is that everything
(except maybe a preprinted letterhead) is flush with the left margin.
Full-block letters are a little more formal than modified block letters.
6 Body
1 line
If your letter is only one page, type the complimentary closing and
optional components as shown below. Otherwise, type them on the
last page of your letter.
1 line
Sincerely
7 Complimentary closing
Signature
Your Name,Title
8 Writer’s identification
4–5 lines
1 line
Identification Initials
Enclosures: (Number)
9 Identification initials
10 Enclosure/notation
1 line
CC: Name for Copy
BCC: Name for Copy
11 Copy notation
1–1.5" (2.5–3.8 cm)
Margin
Figure 6.3 Parts of a typical
full-block business letter
NEL
GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS
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QUICK BYTE
LETTERHEAD CONTENTS
Most businesses use
preprinted letterhead for their
business letters. This paper
usually includes the company
name and logo, its return
address, telephone number,
fax number, e-mail address,
and website address (URL).
This eliminates the need to
key the return address at the
top of the letter each time.
QUICK BYTE
INSIDE ADDRESS
Why is the inside address
called the inside address?
One possible reason is that
this is the address that is
visible inside the window of
a window envelope.
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1. Return address—The return address is necessary for the receiver
of the letter to know where to send a reply. It is common to
include fax numbers and e-mail addresses in the return address.
You key the return address approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) from
the top of the page. If you have set a 1-inch (2.5 cm) top margin
on your document, start the address 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) below
that. Notice that the address does not contain your name. You
key your name at the bottom of the letter below your signature.
2. Date line—Immediately below the return address is the date line.
This line indicates the date the letter is keyed. The date should be
formatted using the long date (e.g., June 1, 2007 or 1 June
2007). You do not use the short-date version (1/6/2007) on a
letter, as this is too informal. There is no firm rule to say you
should leave a blank line after the return address before you key
the date. If you are using letterhead, leave one or two blank lines
before the date.
3. Inside address—The inside address is the name and address of
the person receiving the letter. It is also called the mailing address.
If you know the name of the individual in the organization to
whom you are sending the letter, key it on the first line, along
with the person’s title. The company name appears on the next
line, followed by the company’s address, city, province, and postal
code. If the address goes beyond six lines, the Canada Post Postal
Guide recommends that the postal code appear on the last line
of the address with the city and province. Press the space bar at
least two times before keying the postal code.
DO IT! ADDRESSING LETTERS
The Canada Post Postal Guide contains very detailed information on
how to address business letters and envelopes for mailing in Canada
and the United States. To learn more, go to www.nelson.com/btt.
Using the information contained at the site, key the inside address for
a letter that could go to the principal of your school.
Left aligned
J. Smith
Thomson Nelson
1 space in the
1120 Birchmount Road
postal code
Scarborough ON M1K 5G4
1 space
between
elements
2–4 spaces between
the province and the
postal code
Figure 6.4 Example of a proper address format
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4. Salutation—The salutation is the greeting within the letter.
However, it is a formal greeting, using the person’s title and last
name. If you know the name of the person, use it here, for
example, Dear Mr. Johsmagh or Dear Ms al Taweer. Use Ms
rather than Miss or Mrs. if you are not sure how a woman
prefers to be addressed. If you do not know the person’s name,
call the company for a referral, or use a generic salutation
such as the following:
• Dear Sir or Madam
• To Whom It May Concern (for one person)
• Ladies and Gentlemen (if you are writing to a group of people)
5. Subject line—Key the subject of your letter on the subject line.
Be concise, using one line or less. Many people emphasize the
subject line by keying it in UPPER CASE letters or by making it
bold and/or underlined.
QUICK BYTE
REQUIRED LETTER PARTS
Some of the letter parts
outlined in this section are
not always required. It
depends on the type of letter
you are sending and if you
are keying it yourself.
However, all business letters
must have the return
address, date line, inside
address, salutation, body,
complimentary closing, and
writer’s identification.
6. Body—The body of the letter is where your message is placed.
Use full sentences, and choose clear, concise words to get your
message across. Remember, business letters should not waste
the reader’s time. The first paragraph introduces the purpose of
the letter, and the paragraphs that follow provide further detail.
The final paragraph generally concludes the letter. Single-space
the paragraphs, and double-space between each paragraph.
7. Complimentary closing—The complimentary closing ends your
letter. The one you choose to use depends largely on the nature
of the letter. Choose a formal closing for a formal letter. Some
examples of closings are as follows:
• Respectfully yours (very formal)
• Sincerely (very common, formal)
• Yours truly (very common, neutral)
• Cordially (friendly closing)
8. Signature—It is important for the sender of the letter to place
his or her signature on the letter after it has been printed.
This confirms that the letter is genuinely from the person whose
name appears below the signature. For electronic letters (those
sent through online forms or as e-mail attachments), a written
signature is not necessary.
9. Writer’s identification—The name of the sender of the letter
appears four to five lines below the complimentary closing to
allow room for the signature. The title of the person also appears
to help the recipient address a reply correctly, where necessary.
NEL
Figure 6.5 It is important that
you sign your letter to show that
you actually wrote it.
GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS
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Figure 6.6 Letters used to be
typewritten with carbon paper in
between multiple sheets of paper.
That is where the term carbon
copy comes from.
10. Identification initials—If you have someone else key the letter on
your behalf, that person’s initials appear below the keyed name.
There are a number of ways to show that someone else keyed the
letter for you: JLE:tl; JLE/tl; tl. The CAPITALIZED initials
represent the sender of the letter. The lower-case letters are the
initials of the person who keyed the letter.
11. Enclosure notation—If you have included anything with the
letter—such as a resumé, invoice, or brochure—you make a note
of it here. If there is more than one enclosure, key the number of
items in brackets, for example, (2).
12. Copy notation—CC stands for carbon copy. When typewriters
were used in business, multiple copies were separated by sheets of
carbon paper to make duplicates. Today, carbon paper is not
used, but if you are sending a copy of the letter to another person,
it is polite to let the person to whom the letter is written know that
the other person has also received a copy. Key cc with the person’s
name at the bottom of the letter below the identification initials.
For example:
JLE/tl—writer’s identification
cc: A. Brown—cc notation
BCC stands for blind carbon copy. A BCC notation means
that the original recipient does not know that an additional
person has received a copy. How do they not know? The BCC
line appears only on the copy that the writer keeps and the copy
that goes to the person on the BCC line.
LITERACY TOOLBOX
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING A BUSINESS LETTER
Writing a business letter is different from writing an
e-mail or sending a text message. Here are some
guidelines to follow as you prepare to write your first
business letters. They will help you write
correspondence that is clear and easy to understand,
which will help you get the results you want.
• Use language in your letter that is clear and easy
to understand. Try to write as if you are speaking
to the recipient(s) of your letter.
• Know why you are writing the letter. You must
be clear about your purpose before you begin
to write.
• Keep your sentences short. When in doubt, it is
better to use two shorter sentences instead of
one longer one.
• Most letters are written to ask someone to do
something. Therefore, it is important to think
about to whom you are writing and how you can
word your request to get what you want.
• Use simple words and phrases to keep your
meaning clear.
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B U S I N E S S T E C H N O L O G Y TO D AY
• Avoid the use of slang, short forms, or other
abbreviations. You want your reader to understand
exactly what you intend to say.
• Remember, you are writing to another person.
Make your letter sincere and straightforward.
NEL
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DO IT! SAMPLE BUSINESS LETTERS
Find samples of business letters received in your household from various
organizations. They can be personally addressed to members of your
family or use generic salutations. With your family members’ agreement,
bring them to class. Compare the letter styles, and with the tools
learned so far in the chapter, label the parts of each letter. Create a
chart that compares the parts used in all or some of the letters.
Which parts are common to all? Which other parts are used most
frequently? Least frequently? Compare your results with those of your
classmates. What conclusions can you draw from this data?
Letter Styles
As you examine Figure 6.3, you will notice that all of the letter parts
are aligned at the left-hand side of the page. This style is called fullblock letter. There are no extra indentations or tabs to move letter
parts to other positions on the page as there are with indented-letter
styles, specifically the block letter and semi-block letter.
Your Name
Address
Address
Phone
Your Name
Address
Address
Phone
Date today
Date today
Re: (To what this letter refers)
Re: (To what this letter refers)
CERTIFIED
PERSONAL
CERTIFIED
PERSONAL
Recipient’s Name
Company Name
Address
Recipient’s Name
Company Name
Address
Attention (Recipient’s Name)
Attention (Recipient’s Name)
Dear (Recipient’s Name):
Dear (Recipient’s Name):
SUBJECT
SUBJECT
The main characteristic of full-block letters is that everything (except maybe a preprinted
letterhead) is flush with the left margin. Full-block letters are a little more formal than
modified block letters.
The main characteristic of semi-block letters is that everything (except maybe a
preprinted letterhead) is flush with the left margin. Full-block letters are a little
more formal than modified block letters.
If your letter is only one page, type the complimentary close and optional components as
shown below. Otherwise, type them on the last page of your letter.
If your letter is only one page, type the complimentary close and optional components
as shown below. Otherwise, type them on the last page of your letter.
Sincerely,
Sincerely,
Signature
Your Name, Title
Signature
Your Name, Title
Identification Initials
Enclosures: (Number)
Identification Initials
Enclosures: (Number)
CC: Name for Copy
CC: Name for Copy
CC: Name for Copy
CC: Name for Copy
(a) Block letter
(b) Semi-block letter
Figure 6.7 The block letter and semi-block letter are indented-letter styles.
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In block-letter style, the return address, date line, complimentary
closing, and writer’s identification all start at the halfway point
in the line.
Semi-block-letter style is a modification of the block style. In this
style of letter, each new paragraph begins with an indent.
The style of letter you use is your choice. However, many
businesses have adopted one of these styles, or one of their own, as
their standard. When you are an employee of an organization, be
sure to find out which style is preferred.
Once you have developed your competency in composing and
keying business letters, you will be able to present your message in a
professional manner.
LITERACY TOOLBOX
WRITING TO DIFFERENT AUDIENCES
When we write to different audiences, or in different
forms, our correspondence takes different tones. For
example, you would use different words and sentences
to write an informal note to a friend than you would
to write a letter to a teacher or a potential employer.
In groups of three, compare the letters you wrote.
As a group, summarize the differences in language,
tone, and structure.
Here is a paragraph that contains information
about a new product:
Today, there are countless types of ringtones
available for your mobile phone. But who
ever thought of creating a ringtone that not
everyone can hear? One company has done this,
creating a tone that only young people can hear.
Originally made to keep young people from
loitering in front of retail stores, the mosquito
ringtone is too high-pitched for many adults
to hear due to aging ears, or the loss of hearing
at the high-frequency range.
Based on this information, compose each of the
following in your own words:
• a letter to the manufacturer requesting more
information about the product
• a letter to your school principal asking for her or
his comment on this breakthrough technology
and the impact it might have on school security
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Figure 6.8 The tone of a letter varies depending on
the person you are writing to. A letter to a friend is
more casual than a letter to a potential employer.
NEL
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GET ON IT! PROJECT UPDATE
BIZTEK DVD
As outlined in your Chapter Project at the beginning of the chapter, one
of your tasks is to write a letter to a local Internet service provider (ISP)
to get information about setting up a home network so you can share
your Internet connection at home. This source of information is very
important, as you will get detailed information that is related to your
Internet connection at home, not just general information.
To complete this task, compose and key a letter in full-block style
to your local ISP. Look up its address in the local telephone book or
Yellow Pages directory. Start the letter with a paragraph outlining your
project. The second paragraph should then ask for information on how to
set up a shared Internet connection in your home. In your letter, let your
ISP know if you use high-speed or dial-up Internet in your home. The
third paragraph should let your ISP know how to get this information to
you—either by return mail or by e-mail (be sure to include your e-mail
address). If you are mailing the letter through Canada Post, you will need
to prepare an envelope. If you e-mail the letter, send it as an attachment
with an appropriate e-mail message asking them to read the letter and
respond via e-mail.
This is a great first step in the information-gathering stage for your
business report. Well done!
Men and Women
in Business
Venture travels to the CIBC
Leadership Training Centre
where employees examine the
corporate battle of the sexes
and how to try to improve
communication in the
workplace. After viewing the
clip, create a list of differences
between men and women in
their communication style.
As a class, discuss whether
you think that women should
adapt to male modes of
communication, or whether
men should learn to interpret
women’s communication styles
in business environments.
REVIEW IT! AND DO IT!
1. In your notebook, draw a sketch of a business
letter, and label the essential parts of a letter:
return address, date line, inside address,
salutation, body, complimentary closing, and
writer’s identification. On your sketch, show how
many blank lines should appear between each part.
2. How would you write a proper salutation for your
teacher? What is not included in the salutation
that might appear in the inside address?
3. What are four typical complimentary closings? When
might you use each one?
4. What information is helpful in the writer’s
identification for the recipient of the letter? Why
is this information helpful?
NEL
5. Describe the difference between a full-block,
block, and semi-block letter.
6. Compose and key a letter applying for a part-time
job at a local business. Research the name of
the person to whom you should send the letter.
Be sure to look up the full address of the
organization, including the postal code. This
letter should focus on how you can help the
employer meet her or his business objectives.
Highlight the skills you have that qualify you for a
position in that company. What makes you different
from the other people who are applying for the
same position? If possible, refer to a specific job
opening. Refer to Figure 6.3 to ensure that your
letter presents you in a professional manner.
GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS
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