How to Write Various Forms of Business Letters

Writing business correspondence is inevitable for someone who transacts business. This is not only true for those who work in an office. Even you might find the need to write a business correspondence because such a letter is a channel between two individuals or groups when they need to communicate about a product or service. Considering that you avail of products or services every day in your life, there might be a time when you would want to complain about a product you bought or inquire about a service you need. That is when you will need to write some of the several types of business correspondence. 

There are several types of business correspondence. They can be classified according to the nature and mood of the message. There are those that are written almost regularly and casually because they contain positive messages such as transmittals, inquiries, responses to inquiries, and announcements. Some are written carefully because they contain negative messages. This type includes refusals, complaints, adjustments, and collections. Another classification is geographically and culturally sensitive correspondence such as international correspondence.


An office correspondence is commonly known as business letter. The business letter is a formal type of written communication used by professionals. It can be easily distinguished from friendly or personal letters. Business letters should be specific and concise. The writer’s tone should be straight and to the point. The language used should be clear and simple. The elements of time, objectivity, and correctness should be carefully considered, too. 


A business letter may use any of the three standard formats: block, indented, or modified block form. The block format is the easiest to remember because you only need to start writing or typing all the lines of each part from the margin. The modified block is almost the same as the block except that the heading, complimentary close, and signature block are indented to the center and with the last word of each mentioned parts’ lines aligned.


There are six basic parts of a business letter or correspondence. These parts are the heading, inside address, salutation, body, complimentary close, and signature block. The heading includes the sender’s address and the date. The inside address includes the recipient’s name, position, company, and company address.

Purpose and Audience

The purpose and audience of a business correspondence vary according to the kind of letter. For example, if a complaint letter is to be written, a client or customer must be writing it for the person in a company concerned and the purpose is to inform the company of the problem with a product or service. Knowing the type of audience—whether they are considered as lay, high-tech, or low-tech will help you decide how much-specialized language you can use in your letter. Lay audience would be the recipients who are not familiar with the terminologies in your field. High-tech audience are your colleagues. Low-tech audience are those who work in the same company as yours but not in the same department, so they are not as familiar as you are with the language of your field. 

In addition, when you consider the audience in writing, you must be aware of the two different structures of a correspondence—the direct and indirect pattern. The direct pattern begins with the main point or reason for writing, followed by the explanation of details or facts and a goodwill closing. The indirect pattern, on the other hand, starts with a buffer or the establishing of the context, the explanation of details, followed by the negative message. It ends with a goodwill closing.


The commonly used office correspondence are letters of recommendation, acknowledgement, inquiry, request, complaint, apology, and resignation. 

Business letters consist of the same parts. However, the content varies depending on the purpose of the writer. 


Job applicants are usually required by their prospective employers to submit a letter of recommendation from their previous employer. The content of the letter focuses on the professional relationship between the applicant and the sender and the positive points that may convince the receiver to consider the application. Students who wish to enroll in a particular college or university are also required to submit recommendation letters from their teachers or professors. 


An acknowledgment letter is also known as letter of receipt. It is written to express acceptance or receipt of a prior correspondence. The sender usually lets the receiver know if an action regarding his/her request, complaint, or inquiry has taken place. When you receive correspondence such as transmittals, you will have to be prompt in responding in order to build a good relationship with the letter sender. When the acknowledgment of a transmittal is delayed, the purpose of sending acknowledgments—to inform sender that the document has been transmitted—will be defeated. In order to avoid delays, keep your message short.


The letter of inquiry is written to ask a specific question or elicit information. In writing a letter of inquiry, the sender should be specific with his/her question and identify exactly the kind of information needed. An example of an inquiry letter is when you ask for something such as the availability of a product of the price of a particular source. When you write inquiries, do not be too demanding when you pose questions, especially if you are the only one who will benefit.


A request letter is written to ask for a particular information, permission, favor, or service. Use polite yet straightforward language when writing request letters. 

Demand Letter

The term demand letter refers to a formal document sent by one party to another in order to resolve a dispute. The sending party may issue one requesting payment or another action in order to right a wrong or settle some type of grievance. The recipient may be in financial default, may have breached a contract, or may not have followed through with an obligation. They are normally written by lawyers. Demand letters are commonly the first step aggrieved parties turn to before taking legal action against the recipient.


A letter of complaint is written to express a problem, discontent, or protest. Complaint letters tend to have a strong content. However, the complainant should express his ideas and feelings in a rather formal tone. Rude or harsh language should never be used regardless of the nature of the complaint. 


A letter of apology is written as an expression of regret and intention to make amends for a mistake or infraction committed. The sender should explain the reason/s behind the mistake and provide a specific way to resolve the situation. 


A resignation letter is written by an employee who wishes to formally leave his/her job position. The content includes the employee’s reason/s for leaving and future career plans. The sender may also express his/her appreciation for the work experience and career opportunities provided by the company/employer. It should also indicate the exact date the resignation will be effective. 

The latter four types of office correspondence can be construed as negative letters. For these types of correspondence, you have to be very sensitive to how the recipient feels about the situation. For collection letters, be courteous so that you may maintain good relationships with the recipient of the letter. If you are to refuse a client or customer, do not mention the rejection in your letter more than once. If you are to make adjustments, explain in detail how you are going to act on the situation. If you are the one who needs to complain, explain the problem in detail. When you need to communicate with an international audience, avoid using idioms that might confuse the readers since idioms are culture-bound.