Business Letter Etiquette

Business etiquette is fundamentally concerned with building relationships founded upon courtesy and politeness between business personnel. Etiquette, and especially business etiquette, is a means of maximising your potential by presenting yourself positively.

Writing a business letter is not simply a matter of expressing your ideas clearly. The way you write a letter and the etiquette you employ may have a significant impact on your success or failure in business.

Failure to observe correct business letter etiquette can result in you adopting an inappropriate tone, causing offense or misunderstandings, lack of clarity or purpose and hostility or soured relations.

The foundation of good business letter etiquette is ‘Think before you write’. You should be considering who the letter is addressed to, how and why? This will then influence style, content and structure.

Here we cover some of the main issues relating to good business letter etiquette:

Addressing the Letter

Always make sure you have spelt the recipient’s name correctly. It may sound simple, but you would be surprised at how many people fail to do so. The recipient’s name should include titles, honours or qualifications if deemed necessary.

Many people use the ‘Dear Sir/Yours Faithfully’ formula when addressing the receiver. Although this is acceptable for routine matters it is impersonal and should not be used when dealing with those you know, queries or complaints. With these the ‘Dear Mr…./Yours Sincerely’ formula should be adopted.

Once a certain level of familiarity is reached it is not considered bad etiquette to use phrases such as ‘Kind Regards’ or ‘All the best’ at the end of the letter.

Confidentiality

If the content of the letter is sensitive, personal or confidential it must be marked appropriately. Marking the letter ‘confidential’ will suffice in highlighting this fact. If you only want the letter read by the receiver without the interception of a secretary or PA, mark it as ‘Private’, ‘Personal’ or ‘Strictly Confidential’. If you have received such a business letter it is good etiquette to reciprocate and ensure that all future correspondence is kept at that level of confidentiality.