When you think of a business letter, it’s often used as a cover letter, introduction letter for a business opportunity, or a letter of recommendation. If you’re writing a business letter, there are key items to focus on in addition to the “meat” or substance of the letter. Here are suggested tips on how to write a business letter and how to format a business letter for better readability and increased response rates:
Succinct and Direct Language
Today, readers tend to prefer language in a business letter that is short, sweet, and to the point. You want the language to be tailored and targeted so that at first glance, the reader of the letter knows your objective in a direct manner. Most business letters function as e-notes, so aim for 250 words or less. Remember, it’s important to make quick points in the business letter that a reader will understand in less than 10 seconds.
Extra advice on cover letters: while only 30% of cover letters are read by hiring managers, the reality is that a well-crafted cover letter will do more for you and your job search when you draw your connection to the job. Zealous appeal in your cover letter can increase views and decrease response waiting time. I recommend having a master cover letter template that you can add to over time and tweak accordingly for roles.
When formatting the business letter, always provide current contact details that include the recipient’s name, title, their company name, company address, and city, state, and zip code. If you are the addressee, be sure to provide the correct letterhead that includes your contact details as well. If you are seeking a call or direct email response, be sure to include that information in the letter as well and make it part of your CTA (call to action) in the closing of the letter.
Professional relationships require use of a formal salutation, not a first-name basis unless you already have a pre-existing relationship, and you know one another on a first-name basis. That means using a formal salutation such as “Dear Mr. Anderson” as opposed to “To Whom It May Concern.” I always recommend performing due diligence research on that key hiring manager or COO that you will be addressing the letter to. It shows effort on your part to address the letter appropriately.
Here are additional resources where I’ve published insights on the topic of business letters and cover letters:
U.S. News: How to Write a Business Letter