Guide to Basic Business Letters By Kenneth Beare

Guide to Basic Business Letters: The Basics
By Kenneth Beare

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 – What you would like to accomplish.
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 – What you would like to happen in the future.
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, Miss or Ms Smith: (use if you know who you are writing to, and have a formal relationship with – VERY IMPORTANT use Ms for women unless asked to use Mrs or Miss)

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

Note: 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.

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 5th .

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:


Could you possibly?
I would be grateful if you could

Agreeing to Requests

I would be delighted to

Giving Bad News

I am afraid that


Could you possible forward your job requirements?
I am afraid that I will be able to attend the conference next week.
I would be delighted to give you a tour of our facility this coming month.

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

Yours faithfully, (If you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to)

Yours sincerely, (If you know the name of the person you’re writing to)

Best wishes,

Best regards, (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 Detailed 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.

Basic Business Resources
Interview Basics
Finding the Right Job
Writing Your Resume
Business Language
Leading a Meeting
Participating in a Meeting
Useful Business English
Business Vocabulary
Business and Commercial Letters – Core Vocabulary
Banking and Business Abbreviations
Banking and Stocks – Core Vocabulary
Related Articles
Business Writing – Business English Writing Resources
Career English Learner Resources at ESL ABOUT
Writing a Claim Letter – Business Letters
Business Writing Guides – Improve Your Writing
Writing a Claim Adjustment Letter – Business Letters

Kenneth Beare
English as 2nd Language Guide
Sign up for My Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s