Rules for Business English - Letters

Business English varies slightly from other forms of written English in the sense that it is slightly more formal and there is less personalisation involved.

In business letters it is usual to place your name and address and that of the business that you are writing to at the top of the page.  Usually the letter would start off “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Mr/Ms” etc.  As a rule, if you write “Dear Sir”, then the letter should be signed off “Yours Faithfully.”  If you write, “Dear Mr/Mrs….” Then the letter should end, “Yours Sincerely.”

It is also customary to make clear the subject of the letter in the first sentence and this is usually in bold font, so that the reader immediately knows why you are writing and what it is about.  If, for example, the letter is about the delivery of an order, then this should be stated and the order number given.

Business English should also be polite, even if the letter is addressing a disagreement or complaint.  This serves to separate a business letter from a personal one.  So when writing you would not state that you think the recipient of the letter’s business is useless.  Instead you should convey disappointment with the level of service offered by the recipient’s business and request information about how the recipient will offer to remedy the situation.  Business is business, not personal, so there is no need for personal attacks or insults.  These merely cause offence and are less effective than firm but polite language.

Letters should also be concise.  People are busy and merely want the facts, the figures and any other necessary information.  Finally, the letter should always be proofread and if necessary edited before sending it; nothing looks worse than a letter which is badly written with poor grammar or bad punctuation.

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