Business correspondence, which includes letters and memos, serves very definite purposes in the
(1) it provides a written record of decisions made, (2) it reaches a wide audience quickly, and
(3) it allows the writer to handle sensitive situations in the kindest manner possible.
Many times employees
do not understand the importance of business correspondence and, consequently, do not handle it the way
they should. What many do not realize is that, just as with any other writing task, the finished letter or
memo, whether carried by the postal system or electronic mail, is the writer on paper. The image this
correspondence conveys is the image of the writer and thus the company.
Business correspondence, like any other technical writing, must be clear, concise, courteous, and
correct. If not, the writer will appear uneducated, careless, ineffective, and unprofessional – all
characteristics which spell disaster in the workplace. Think of the effectiveness and consequences of a
letter of application which has misspelled words and an incorrect format. Think of the consequences if the
writer is disseminating information to a large audience through electronic mail. How do you think it
looks to others if the writer uses no capital letters and misspells words?
Remember that the written word is
the physical representation of the writer.
What is important to remember about business correspondence is that it has conventions to be
followed. We will discuss certain conventions here, but you must also be aware that the company for which
you may work may have its own format and style and you must adhere to the company's policy.
As with any writing, you must analyze your audience, set goals, gather information, plan
organization, plan visuals (if any), write, and revise.
Business letters have three basic formats: Modified Block, Full-Block, and Simplified. Examples of these
formats are given on pages 206-09 in your Pearsall text.
Study them carefully. Notice the differences
among them. A writer
mix the forms. He or she must use one format and one format only. The most
popular format is the full-block format because it is the easiest and quickest to type (all parts start on the
left margin). You will note that the simplified style has no salutation and complimentary closing. This
format works well when the writer does not know the identity of the recipient or when the subject is
impersonal. As you study them, notice the use of white space, margins, spacing, and indentations. All
combine to give the letter a very professional look.
Regardless of the format used, all business letters (except those in the Simplified format) have six basic