There are some situations in which writing a business letter is more appropriate than writing an email. If you need a permanent record of what you are writing, or if you are writing in a formal situation, a letter is a better choice. For example, you would probably write a letter of resignation instead of an email.
Structure of a business letter
Business letters often contain the following elements:
- A standard greeting (For example: Dear Sir / Madam)
- A reference to previous contact or reason for writing
In this first paragraph, say why you are writing the letter. Use a sentence that refers to a previous contact, such as a previous letter or phone call. Or use an objective sentence to say why you are writing: to confirm, clarify or enquire about something, for example.
- (The background to the letter.)
This is an optional paragraph and gives your reader more information to become familiar with the subject of the letter.
- Main point or idea
- Additional points
- Asking for action / reference to the future
In the final paragraph, close your business letter with an offer of further help, or ask for future action.
- Standard closing (For example: Yours faithfully)
Business letter phrases and samples
Here are some useful phrases for each section of your business letter:
"With reference to your letter, I..."
"In response to your letter, I can confirm..."
"With regard to your memo, I..."
"Following our phone conversation, I....."
"I am writing with reference to your enquiry."
"Thank you for your letter of..."
Replying to a request
"As you requested, I am enclosing a brochure about our adventure holidays."
"As you suggested, I am sending you my CV."
"In answer to your enquiry, I am enclosing information which I hope will be useful to you."
"As promised, I am sending you the..."
"Your name was given to me by (source)"
"My colleague, Ewan Jones, suggested that I write to you concerning..."
"I have been advised to contact you regarding your policy on insurance claims."
"I am the Marketing Manager of a search engine optimisation company, and I am writing to you to ask if your company would be interested in promoting ..."
Making reference to something your reader knows
"As you may already know / have heard, the Production Division is merging with..."
Saying thank you
"Thank you for your letter in which you enquired about..."
"Thank you for your advice regarding..."
"I am writing to thank you for your assistance."
"It has come to our notice that..."
"I am writing to inform you that..."
"Please be advised that..."
"I am writing to advise you that..."
"I am writing to confirm ...."
"I would like to confirm ...."
Asking for information or advice
"I am writing to enquire about ...."
"I would be interested to receive further details about ...."
"Please could you give me the necessary details concerning ...?"
"I would be grateful for your advice concerning..."
"I would appreciate your advice on ..."
Explaining and clarifying
"I am writing to explain ..."
"I would like to clarify certain points regarding..."
"I would like to take this opportunity to clarify ..."
Making a suggestion or giving advice
"In response to ..... may we suggest that you contact ...."
"With regard to your enquiry about ... we advise you to ... "
"We would like to advise all our customers to ..."
"Please find enclosed ...."
"Enclosed please find ..."
"Enclosed is a ..."
"Enclosed are ...."
"I am enclosing a ..."
"I have pleasure in enclosing ..."
"Please accept our apologies for this misunderstanding."
"We apologise for our mistake and we would like to take this opportunity to assure you that it will not happen again."
"We hope that this misunderstanding has not caused you too much inconvenience."
Referring to a meeting
"I look forward to seeing you on..."
"I look forward to meeting you on..."
"I would be delighted to arrange a meeting with you."
Asking for action
"I would be grateful if this matter could be resolved..."
"I would appreciate further information on..."
"I would be grateful for further advice."
"I would be grateful if you could send me..."
"Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance."
"If you would like any more information, please do not hesitate to contact me on..."
"Please feel free to contact me again if I can be of further assistance."
"As this matter is now urgent, we would appreciate a prompt reply."
"We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience."
"Due to the urgency of the situation, I would appreciate receiving your advice as soon as possible."
Business Letter Quiz
Level: Pre-intermediate and above
- ''I am writing with reference to your letter / your enquiry...'' is a standard phrase to refer to previous correspondence.
- The correct phrase is ''Following...'' More formally, you can write ''Further to...''
- Use the phrase ''As you requested'' or ''As requested'' and not ''As you asked for''.
- ''Please be advised that...'' is a useful phrase to give people information. You could also write ''Please be informed that...'' although this sounds more formal.
- Remember: ''I would appreciate your advice'' and ''I would be grateful for your advice''.
- Be careful with other ways of using ''appreciate''. In particular, ''I would appreciate it if you could...'' (appreciate + it + subject + past tense).
- You can write ''I enclose'' or ''Enclosed is'' (but not ''Enclosing''.
- Remember: after the phrase ''I look forward to'' (or ''I am looking forward to'') you need the gerund (''ing'') form rather than the infinitive. So ''I am looking forward to meeting you'' and not ''I am looking forward to meet you''.
- ''Please do not hesitate to contact me'' is the standard phrase to use. (Don't write ''Please to contact me...''
- ''At your earliest convenience'' is a formal phrase meaning ''Immediately'' or ''as soon as possible''.