Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

BUSC-S2P: Business Letter

24/7 Librarian

Profile Photo
Lorraine Patrick
Bellevue University
Freeman/Lozier Library
1000 Galvin Rd. S.

Quick Links

Business Letter

Business Letter

Synopsis: The letter can make announcements, drum up business, or identify issues in a formal way, often to external clients.


Short-range business document

1-3 pp.

Very specific structure

Appears in both print and digital copies


The letter can be both internal and external, but it is the most formal of announcements, sales, and informational communications. Most letters are addressed to those outside of one’s company, traveling between organizations.


Any member of an identified audience

Guidelines to Keep in Mind

Organizations and businesses can communicate with customers in letters. For instance, Bellwether award winners are notified of their standing and category on official Bellevue University letterhead. In this case, the student is a stakeholder of the institution, and the letter indicates to the prize winner a noteworthy cause.

Donation letters are sent out for tax purposes to individuals who have given money to a non-profit organization.

Many businesses make use of good news and bad news via the business letter, whether sent by post, attached in an email as a Word document, or nestled into an email through mail merge.


Three styles of letters: block, modified block, semi-block

Most companies use block when they initially contact a customer. The modified and semi-block versions are used after one has established rapport with the recipient somewhat. Consider block for initial contact and subsequent communication might use modified or semi-block structures.

The tone should appear confident and courteous (Purdue OWL, 2020), positioning the writer according to the needs of the reader.


The heading or address is used to indicate where the letter originated from. (It may be an address built into a letterhead, or it may be a blank document with the writer’s typed name, address, city, state, and zip.)

The date appears between the heading or address and inside address.

The inside address of the person being addressed is next.

The attention line, subject line, and salutation come after the addressee’s address.

An attention line is used when the writer does not know a specific person to address (Markel, 2001).

* Attention: Roald Dahl, Author

* Attention: Henry Higgins, President of Pronunciation

A subject line is used when the issue relates to a common product, and the need to delineate to a

specific number may be necessary.

* Subject: Confirmation Number 55120909

* Subject: Purchase Order #43567

The salutation is the person of address.

* Dear President:

* Dear Program Director:

* Dear Sir or Madam:

* Ladies and Gentlemen:

* Gentlemen:

* Ladies:

* These are seen as outdated, so tailor the salutation to the specific audience. Inclusive audiences may not want to be addressed by gender.

*  Dear Members of Nebraska Hands & Voices:

*  Dear Members of Omaha Association of the Deaf:

These sections are followed by the body of the letter, including at least three paragraphs: the introduction, a middle section, and a conclusion.

The concluding paragraph reaffirms the purpose’s qualities or appeal, or it might use a four-point closing.

The signature follows the conclusion.

* This is where you put your full name and relevant credentials. Only list doctoral or medical degrees, not master’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees.

*  Be sure to include a signature four lines above your typed name and position.

If applicable, enclosures may appear on the first page of the letter after the signature (Markel, 2001).

*  Skip four lines before the typed signature and the enclosures in the letter.

*  Enclosure(s)

Four-point Closure

Information on the four-point closure comes from Purdue OWL (2020).

* Succinctly and explicitly state what the reader should do.

* Include “facilitating devices” like self-addressed stamped envelopes or business cards for the customer to complete the transaction with ease.

* State the deadline for the desired transaction if needed.

* Identify the incentive (benefit) to the customer/reader for completing step one (Purdue OWL, 2020).


Nebraska Hands & Voices Membership Letter


Markel, M. (2001). Technical communication (6th ed.). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Purdue University. (1995-2020). Writing the basic business letter. The OWL at Purdue. 



Business Letter