Business Letter Basics

Business Letter Format

The basics of good business letter writing are easy to learn. The following guide provides the phrases that are usually found in any standard business letter. This basic of business letters are important because certain formulas are recognized and handled accordingly.

Think of a basic business letter in three steps:

Introduction - The Reason for Writing

The introduction helps the reader understand in which context the letter should be considered.

Possibilities include job interview inquires, business opportunity requests, complaints, and more. Of course, Each type of business letter has its own standard phrases.

Details - State your Business

The detail section of a business letter is extremely important. This is where you achieve your goals in writing a business letter.

Conclusion / Next Steps - Future Actions

Provide a call for future action. This can be a chance to talk in person, a follow-up letter or more. It's important and expected to make it clear what you would like for the next step from the person reading your business letter.

The phrases presented in this guide provide a frame and introduction to the content of business letters. At the end of this guide, you will find links to sites that give tips on the difficult part of writing successful business letters - arguing your business objective. By using these standard phrases, you can give a professional tone to your English business letters.

Once you understand these basics, you can refine your business letter writing skills by focusing on different types of business letters, as well as other business documents to refine your skills for your business needs at your employers or your own small business organization.

The Start

The start of any business letter begins by addressing the recipient of the letter.


Dear Personnel Director,

Dear Sir or Madam: (use if you don't know who you are writing to)

Dear Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms. Smith: 

Generally speaking, use Ms for women unless asked to use Dr, Mrs or Miss. Use Mr. for men unless asked to use Dr.

Dear Frank: (use if the person is a close business contact or friend)

If you are unsure how formal you should be, always choose a more formal form. Writing to a specific person is always preferred if at all possible.

Formal forms are used in formal business letters. However, emails are often much less formal and are generally written using the first name without 'Dear'

The Reference

Begin by referencing a specific conversation or other contact means. If this is the first letter in a conversation, you can also provide the reason for writing.

With reference to your advertisement in the Times, your letter of 23 rd March,
your phone call today,
Thank you for your letter of March 5 th .

The Reason for Writing

I am writing to...

... inquire about
... apologize for
... confirm
... comment on
... apply for

I am writing to inquire about the position posted in The Daily Mail.
I am writing to confirm the shipment details on order # 2346.
I am writing to apologize for the difficulties you experienced last week at our branch.

Once you have introduced the reason for writing your business letter, move on to stating more specifically the purpose of your letter. Here are a number of possibilities:

Requesting Something

Could you / Would you possibly...?
I would be grateful if you could...
Could you / Would you please...?

Would you please forward your job requirements?
I would be grateful to meet with you next week. 
Would you possibly have time for a meeting next week?

Agreeing to Requests

I would be delighted to

I would be delighted to give you a tour of our facility this coming month.

Giving Bad News

I am afraid that

I am afraid that I will be unable to attend the conference next week.
Unfortunately, we will have to postpone the meeting until June 1st.

Enclosing Documents

I am enclosing
Please find enclosed
Enclosed you will find

Closing Remarks

Thank you for your help Please contact us again if we can help in any way.
there are any problems.
you have any questions.

Reference to Future Contact

I look forward to ...

...hearing from you soon.
...meeting you next Tuesday.
...seeing you next Thursday.

The Finish

Use the following phrases to end your business letter or email. These phrases are called "salutations" and are chosen based on your relationship to the person you are writing. 

Yours faithfully, 

Used in formal letters and if you don't know the name of the person you're writing to.

Yours sincerely,

Used in formal letters if you know the name of the person you're writing to.

Best wishes,

Used in formal letters if you are on a first name basis.

Best regards, / Regards,

Used If the person is a close business contact or friend.

Sample Letter

Here is a sample letter using some of these forms:

Ken's Cheese House
34 Chatley Avenue
Seattle, WA 98765

October 23, 2006

Fred Flintstone
Sales Manager
Cheese Specialists Inc.
456 Rubble Road
Rockville, IL

Dear Mr Flintstone:

With reference to our telephone conversation today, I am writing to confirm your order for: 120 x Cheddar Deluxe Ref. No. 856

The order will be shipped within three days via UPS and should arrive at your store in about 10 days.

Please contact us again if we can help in any way.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Beare
Director of Ken's Cheese House

More Help with Business Letters

For more detailed help with standard business writing skills, I highly recommend these business English books.

Now that you understand basic business letter writing style, you can use this guide to different types of business letters to refine your skills for specific business purposes such as making inquiries, adjusting claims, writing cover letters and more.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Business Letter Basics." ThoughtCo, Mar. 10, 2017, Beare, Kenneth. (2017, March 10). Business Letter Basics. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Business Letter Basics." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 21, 2018).