What is business letter or commercial letter?

The letter that contains business related issues and information is called business or commercial letter. It refers to the letter in which business people or person exchange information with various business firms, customers, suppliers, employees, banks, insurance, companies, government agencies, business associations with aimed at selling or buying goods, obtaining information, placing orders, making inquiry etc and other related issues. Some important definitions of business letter are given below:

According to Hanson, “The letters which are exchanged among businessmen connected with business affairs are called business or commercial letters.”

According to M. Omar Ali, “Any letter designed and directed to the exchange of information connected with trade and trade related activities is known as a business letter.”

According to W. J. Weston, “Business letter is the process of accomplishing a business transaction in written form.”

So, Business letter refers to formal written letter where business related issues and information is exchanged with the suppliers, customers, clients, banks, insurance companies, government agencies or other external parts of the organization.

Essentials of a good business letter
The following are some of the important characteristics of a business letter.

  1. Well defined objectives: There is an old saying an aimless ship never able to reach the destination. In case of business letter-a letter without specific objectives is meaningless. Thus to be effective business leaders need to have well defined objectives.
  2. Contact information: The header of the business letter includes the senders name, phone number, address and email address, which may be left or right justified or centered at the top of the page. This is followed by the date the letter was sent, which in turn is followed by the “inside address.” The inside address contains the recipient’s name, job title and company address.
  3. Benefits: Discuss the benefits offer to the receiver or customer before the nuts-and-bolts basic information. Benefits to the customer could be tangible, such as saving money and having more choices in service packages or intangible but still more choices in service packages, or intangible but still valuable, including gaining peace of mind.
  4. Brief description: Any business letter must be short. The significance of a short letter is that the person reading the letter must understand the significance of the letter in the minimum possible lines. This is usually done in order to save time and energy of the receiver of the letter.
  5. Definite structure: The structure or main text of a business letter is typically divided into three sections: the introduction, the body and the closing. Introductory paragraphs should be brief and explain the letter’s intent. The body should elaborate on that intent and may include facts and statistics, descriptions and or explanations. The closing should thank the recipient for his time and include a ”call to action,” which indicates the next step in the communication process, such as a phone call or a scheduled meeting.
  6. Positive approach: The writer has to be optimistic regarding the achievement of the goal. Thus throughout the letter a positive tone must be present. Positive approach not only helps to convince the reader but also express the confidence of the writer.
  7. Courtesy: The tone of the letter is another very important aspect of the letter. The letter must sound polite, courteous and firm. The letter should also sound convincing the must have a polite tone.
  8. Coherence: Factually the business letter must be relevant and the facts and thoughts should be presented in a very systematic manner.
  9. You-attitude: To ensure effective writing the writer should put himself or herself in the reader’s place and then try to realize how the reader will respond to the letter. The ‘you attitude’ emphasis on the readers rather than the writer. Example of you-attitude is as follows: I or we attitude: I will give you a 10 % discount. You-attitude: You can get a 10 % discount.
  10. Clearness: A business letter must be readable and clear. If the reader of a business letter fails to understand the message, it will matter little to him. So the messages of the letter must be clear in meaning.
  11. Relevance: One of the important qualities of a business letter is relevance. The writer of a business letter should avoid the irrelevant matter that can vex the reader’s mind. So, unnecessary words should be avoided.
  12. Simplicity: A good business letter should be simple and easy. The writer of a business letter should use simple language in drafting a letter so that the reader can easily understand the meaning and significance of the letter.
  13. Free from error: A business letter should be free from all kinds of errors. So, the writer should be aware of spelling, grammatical sense and letter style in drafting a business letter.
  14. Appropriate timing: Appropriate timing is one of the important qualities of a good business letter. All letters must be sent and replied at the most appropriate time.
  15. Clear concept: If the writer does not have a clear concept about the subject matter then it will be very difficult on his or her part to make the subject matter understandable to the reader.
  16. Evaluation of the reader’s position: This is perhaps the most important thing that should be taken into consideration to draft an effective letter. The attitude, cultural and religious background, educational level, level of understanding etc. If the reader is likely to be different from those of the writer. That is why to be successful the writer must try to get an idea about the aforesaid aspects of the reader.
  17. Accuracy or correctness: There is nothing painful than preparing a letter with wrong information. It not only fail to achieve the goal but also detrimental for the goodwill of the firm. Thus correctness of the message must be ensured.
  18. Completeness: It means messages should be presented in such a way that helps the reader to understand what the writer actually wanted to convey. Incomplete messages not only create confusion but also can damage the mutual relationship.
  19. Persuasion: To convince the reader or to motivate him or her to do some favor business letters must be written in a persuasive tone.
  20. Use of simple language: To be effective business letter should avoid the use of difficult words and jargon’s. Simple and plain language should be used to clarify the message.

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