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How to write an effective business letter

Updated on December 16, 2010
C.V.Rajan profile image

C.V.Rajan is a retired Engineer. Backed by 3 decades of industrial experience, he writes on several aspects of business, management and HR.

Writing an effective business letter is an art with a business purpose behind it. An effective business letter must be clear, pointed, focused, informative, polite, factual, earnest and not overly boasting. It should be well formatted, free from grammatical errors, typos and be suitably attached with necessary reference material / brochure wherever relevant.

It will be better to see a practical example to understand, first, how a business letter should NOT be.

Read this letter:


With reference to your inquiry (Your e-mail ref: ABC-1234 dated 15th September 2008 originating from your Mr John Hayden, Purchase Manager, Electrical division) we are given to understand that you are looking for a sub-contractor to undertake electrical cable relaying work in your factory building so as to replace the worn and damaged cables. We are pleased to bring to your notice that we have been in the business of industrial cabling work for the past several years and we have innumerable satisfied customers who are very proud to have done business with us. We are the most reputed company who are specialists in this business line and our quality of service will be outstanding. Our rates are the cheapest in the market and we look forward to receive your detailed work specifications to enable us submit our most competitive and the best quotation for you to finalize our order on us. "

Does this business letter convey the intent of the writer? Mostly yes. But does it effectively and efficiently carry the writer's message in a way that can impress and influence the prospective client? No!

Let us analyze this business letter to find out what's wrong with it

(1) The above business-letter-writer has no idea of the need and importance of using short and multiple paragraphs in a business letter which is a fundamental requirement for ease of reading and grasping of the contents. Use of bullet-lists too is very effective in business letters.

(2) The writing style is archaic and long winding. It is not crisp, professional and engaging.

(3) It is vague and too generic about the capabilities of the firm. It does not give "specific" information about the firm's experience in the field, customers served and the core strengths they possess.

(4) It claims superlative merits in their capabilities and there is an element of superficiality in such unsubstantiated claims.

(5) There is a very uneasy claim about "cheapest rates". Claim of "top most quality" together with "cheapest prices" can always create doubts about the veracity of both the claims in a prospective customer's mind.

(6) Even before coming to the stage of submitting a quotation, the writer writes about "finalizing the order". Such an overt claim is like putting the cart before the horse.

Fair enough? Now that we know what's wrong with the above business letter, let us re-write it and see whether we can impress a prospective client to actively consider a business dealing with us:

Dear Mr John Hayden,

Thank you very much for your e-mail (ABC-1234) of 15th September and we are very glad to have received your attention in the prospect of offering our service to you.

You may perhaps be already aware that we are in the Cable-laying and ducting business for the past 15 years. In fact, some of our best customers (M/s Productive Manufacturing Co., Denver, Industrial Furnaces Inc., Cincinnati and so on) have been repeatedly utilizing our services in the cabling work practically in all their factory buildings in the past seven years.

We understand you are looking for cable replacement and relaying work for your entire factory. We have done a similar exercise at M/s Robert and Co., 6 months back. You are most welcome to contact the Proprietor Mr Robert to inquire about the quality and the level of satisfaction of our work.

We are glad to add here that we have ISO-9000 certification for quality systems and our firm is an executive member of IACDM (International Association of Cable and Duct Manufacturers). This prestigious membership helps us to keep up-to-date with the latest technology and quality standards prevailing in the industry. It is our policy to always use cables from the most reputed sources adhering to DIN 9988XY standards.

For submitting our most competitive quotation commensurate with the quality and standards we assiduously maintain, we require more detailed specifications and a plant layout drawing of yours. Our Technical Executive will meet you in person shortly and collect the details from you.

Thanking you and looking forward to an eventful business association with you "

Isn't it more effective and efficient?


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      A well worded and helpful letter. Thank you.