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Business Letters: Do You Really Know What They Are?

Copyright © Shaun R. Fawcett My two “writing help” Web sites receive well over two million visitors per year looking for information and templates to help them with their writing. With that many visitors I get a pretty accurate idea of exactly what people are looking for in the way of letter writing help. In fact, a significant number of people arrive at my site based on the search phrase “business letter”. Now, at first glance the term “business letter” makes sense. But, just wait a minute here! What exactly do they mean by “business letter”? Well, it turns out that they’re not sure. What it boils down to in many cases is that the person doing the search is involved in some kind of “business” (as owner or employee) and they need to write some kind of “letter” related to their business. Hence, their search phrase of “business letter”. I often get e-mails from people asking me if I have any business letter templates, or if I can write them a business letter. Invariably, I have to reply to them asking “what type of business letter, what is the specific purpose”? The fact is; “business letter” is a very general term that can mean one of many different specific letter types. Accordingly, the rest of this article is going to explain exactly what business letters are. Despite the widespread use of e-mail in commerce today, traditional business letters are still the main way that the majority of businesses officially communicate with their customers and other businesses. This is especially true when businesses want to formalize an agreement or an understanding. So far, emails are great for all of the preparatory work, but a formal business letter is still most often needed to "seal the deal". There are two overall categories of business letters: business-to-business, and business-to-customer. BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS LETTERS Most business-to-business letters are written to confirm things that have already been discussed among officials in meetings, on the telephone, or via e-mail. Can you imagine the letters that would have to go back and forth to cover all of the questions and possibilities that can be covered in a one-hour meeting, a half-hour phone call, or a few quick e-mails? The main purpose of a typical business letter is to formalize the details that were arrived at in those discussions, and to provide any additional information that was agreed upon. Over the years, certain general standards have evolved in the business world that the vast majority of businesses use in drafting their business to business correspondence. The Top 10 business-to-business letters that people search for at my writing help Web sites, in order of popularity, are as follows:

1. thank you letter

2. introduction letter

3. cover letter

4. financial letter

5. marketing letter

6. sales letter

7. project letter

8. invitation letter

9. employee letter


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