Letters Overview

Learning Objectives

Module 5:  Letters

  • Learn about the different types and purposes of letters
  • Learn about the direct and indirect approaches to write letters
  • Learn about the formats used in typical business letters
  • Learn to write business letters

 

Regardless of the more popular methods of communication, such as e-mail and other social media exchanges, letters remain the most formal and legal type of written business communication. Five types of business letters are thank you letters, claim letters, adjustment letters, inquiry letters, and transmittal letters. These letters can be written in a direct approach or an indirect approach. Most claim letters, inquiry letters, and transmittal letters are written in a direct approach, where the writer refers to background, stating his/her purpose for writing in the opening sentences of the first paragraph.

The indirect approach is used for letters that have negative messages. These types of letters are letters that deny requests, such as adjustment letters that deny claims or letters that deny employment applications. After Letter Mail Slotreferring to background, the writer using the indirect approach adds a disclaimer that is intended to intended to soften a negative decision. The second paragraph states and explains the purpose of the decision. This arrangement is a respectful, professional way to deliver a negative message.

Types of Letters

The following charts show the common formats and purposes of different types of business letters:

 

Transmittal Letter:
First paragraph: Purpose (main point). Refer to background information and the reason for the correspondence.
Second paragraph: Explanation. Briefly explain the contents of the related documents/actions that will follow the transmittal letter.
Third paragraph: Closing.
  1. Tell the time/dates of the related documents/actions can be expected. 2. Give your contact information, with a professional statement to contact you with questions or further concerns.
  2. Add a simple: Thank you. (The Thank you could be added as an abbreviated paragraph).

 

 

Inquiry Letter:
First paragraph: Purpose (main point). Refer to background information and the reason for the correspondence.
Second paragraph: Explanation. Request the specific information you need.
Third paragraph: Closing.
  1. Tell the time/dates you expect the requested information.
  2. Give your contact information, with a professional statement to contact you with questions or further concerns.
  3. Add a simple: Thank you. (The Thank you could be added as an abbreviated paragraph).

 

 

Claim Letter:
First paragraph: Purpose (main point). Refer to background information and your claim.
Second paragraph: Explanation. Explain how you expect the problem to be resolved.
Third paragraph: Closing.
  1. Tell the time/dates you expect a response, informing you of a decision.
  2. Give your contact information, with a professional statement to contact you if there are further questions or concerns.
  3. Add a simple: Thank you. (The Thank you could be added as an abbreviated paragraph).

 

Adjustment Letter (Positive):
First paragraph: Purpose (main point). Refer to background information and tell your decision to honor the claim.
Second paragraph: Explanation. Explain how you will honor the claim.
Third paragraph: Closing.
  1. Tell the time/dates the adjustment can be expected.
  2. Give your contact information, with a professional statement to contact you if there are further questions or concerns.
  3. Add a simple: Thank you. (The Thank you could be added as an abbreviated paragraph).

 

 

Adjustment Letter (Negative):
First paragraph: Background/Disclaimer Refer to background information and briefly make a disclaimer to soften the negative decision.
Second paragraph: Purpose/Explanation. Tell the decision not to honor the claim and explain the decision.
Third paragraph: Closing.
  1. Give your contact information, with a professional statement to contact you if there are further questions or concerns.
  2. Add a simple statement of apology.

 

 

Thank You Letter:
First paragraph: Purpose (main point). The first sentence expresses a simple thank you. This is followed by one or two statements that tell how the gift will benefit its recipients.
Second paragraph: Closing. Confirm your appreciation.

 

 

Formats for Letters

Two popular formats for writing letters are the Block Format or the Modified Block Format.  In a Block Format, the entire letter is written on the left margin.  See this file as an example:

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/oerfiles/technical+writing/Example+Letter+Block+Format.docx

In Modified Block Format, the body of the letter is written on the left margin, but the date, closing, and the signature line are just a little to the left of the center.  See this file as an example:

https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/oerfiles/technical+writing/Example+Letter+Modified+Block+Format.docx

Note that neither letter is right margin justified.  The right edges of both letters show a ragged edge.