Writing business letters and e-mails

In this course you will learn how to write business letters and e-mails and how to evaluate your business letters and e-mails.

Writing a business letter

Writing a business letter

Here is an example of how to write a  business letter.

Now watch the video for a further explanation about this. 

All videos used in this course have been adapted from the originals created by the CoZa Cares Foundation and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The originals are freely available at Nolwazi

Structure of a business letter

Drag the correct text blocks to where they should appear on your business letter
  • Your address and postcode
  • Date
  • Company name & address
  • Dear Mr Smith (or Sir / Madam)
  • Heading that explains what the letter is about
  • Main content of your letter
  • Yours sincerely / Yours faithfully
  • Position of the person you are writing to
  • Your phone number & e-mail address
  • Your signature, name and title

Salutations for business letters

The salutation in a business letter should always be formal.

  • If you know a person's name, you should use their title and surname (eg Dear Mrs Jones)
  • If you don't know their name, you should use Dear Sir / Madam

The closing sign-off you should use also depends on whether you know the person's name

  • If you know a person's name, you should use Yours sincerely
  • If you don't know a person's name you should use Yours faithfully

Match the correct salutation and closing sign-off

  • Dear Sir / Madam
    Yours faithfully
  • Dear Mr Smith
    Yours sincerely

The content of a business letter

The heading

Every formal letter should have a brief heading that explains what the letter is about and draws the reader's attention to your content. This does not need to be a complete sentence. For example:

Complaint about poor quality service

If you are using a computer, then the best way to make this obvious is to use bold text. If this is a handwritten letter, then you should underline the heading. For example:

Complaint about cold food

Main content

You should use formal language and well structured paragraphs, with a new paragraph for each point you are making. Remember to use any relevant dates or reference numbers (for example, if you are complaining about a product that is faulty, then include a product number and serial number, and where you bought the product). Other reference numbers you may need to include in your letter are:

  • Account names and numbers
  • Order numbers
  • Invoice numbers
  • Policy numbers
  • Reference numbers from previous correspondence 

You should make it clear if you are requesting action and when you expect this to be done.

A concluding paragraph may help ensure that you receive a response to your letter. For example:

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Which is the best heading for a letter asking for permission to be absent from school because you need to travel to your parent's house to collect money to pay your exam registration fees.

  • I will be travelling to see my parents
  • Exam registration fees
  • Request for permission to be absent from school
  • Give me permission
  • I need to collect fees

Pick the correct answer from the dropdown menu to fill in the blanks and complete the content of this letter

 writing to complain about the poor service in  restaurant when I had lunch there on 5th September, 2015.

Which of the following sentences would be appropriate at the end of a letter complaining about the poor quality of service? Select the sentence(s) that explain(s) clearly what you want to happen. Note there may be more than one correct answer

  • I look forward to hearing your response to this complaint as soon as possible
  • Please reply immediately
  • Please send me compensation as soon as possible
  • I look forward to hearing the outcome of your investigation into this complaint and actions as a result of this.
  • I am anxiously waiting for your response.

Writing a business e-mail

E-mail basics

Click here to read about the basics of e-mail communication.

When you have done this, watch the video which talks about how to use e-mail for business.

 

Addressing an e-mail

Click where you would type the e-mail addresses of the people to whom you are sending and copying this e-mail 

Addressing an e-mail

  • True
  • False

True or false?

You should always include your full postal address in an e-mail

Which of the following is NOT appropriate in a business e-mail

  • Dear Sir / Madam
  • Hi there
  • Love from
  • Yours sincerely
  • Cheers
Please click all the answers which should NOT be used when writing a business e-mail

Drag the text to the correct place in this e-mail

Drag the text to the correct place in this e-mail
  • [email protected]
  • Sentence describing what the e-mail is about
  • Main content of e-mail
  • Your signature (with further contact details if required)
  • Attaching a file to your e-mail

Evaluating your business letter or e-mail

Evaluating your business letter or e-mail

Watch this video about evaluating your business letter or e-mail.

The diagram below shows the steps you should follow when writing your business letter or e-mail.

Advice on writing good business e-mails

Match the correct pieces to make sentences that give good advice on writing business e-mails.
  • MAKE SURE
    You have checked that are sending your e-mail to the correct e-mail address(es)
  • NEVER
    Write only in capital letters
  • CHECK
    You have attached any files you wanted to
  • DON'T
    Send an e-mail before checking you haven't made any mistakes
  • E-MAILS
    Should not be too short as this can make them look rude
  • ALWAYS
    Make sure you have used formal language and been polite

Summary

Summary

Watch this video to see a summary of how to write business letters and e-mails.

Choose the correct answer from the dropdown menu to fill in the blanks to complete the paragraph about business letters and e-mails:

Business letters and e-mails have format. Both should include a clear  so that the recipient can see easily what the letter or e-mail is about. The content is . The content should always include  you are dealing with and suggest to this problem. You should always include so that the person can get back to you quickly if they need to.

Which of these statements about writing business letters and e-mails are true or false?

  • You can only send an e-mail to 1 recipient at a time
  • You should always use formal language when writing business letters and e-mails
  • You do not need to include a postal address in a business e-mail
  • Writing your e-mail in capital letters makes the recipient think the e-mail is very important
  • You should never check an e-mail before sending it
  • You should ask yourself how the e-mail you have written would make you feel if you received it
Choose whether each statement is true or false.

Well done - you have finished this course.

You have now completed this course on writing business letters and e-mails. It is now time to put what you have learnt into practice. Write a business letter or e-mail to your teacher about this course. You might want to include comments about what you thought was good and what you thought needed to be improved. Remember to include a suggestion about how this course could be improved. Then send this letter or e-mail to your teacher and ask for feedback.