Business letters and assignment 1


1.  Business writing is like any other writing in that it requires prewriting, writing, and revising.

A.  In prewriting, you need to decide what kind of letter you are writing (purpose), to whom (audience), and what you need to say (content).

B.  In the writing stage, you shape the letter into its proper form.

C.  Revising is rewriting so that the letter has sounder content, structure, and mechanics.


2.  All business writing should meet these six aspects:  tone, audience, accessibility, accuracy, format, and appearance.

A.  Tone is the attitude that the writer has toward her or his subject.

    1.  The tone of a business letter should be businesslike, no nonsense, formal.

2.  You want to sound as if you are someone who can get the job done and whom the readers should take seriously.

3.  Do not be chatty or informal in a business letter, but don’t be coldly distant either.

B.  Audience is the individual who will read the letter.

1.  If you can picture an individual, you will write less distant and more approachable in content.

2.  You will also be more specific in content if you can picture a human reading the letter.

3.  You will understand better what the reader needs to know.

C.  Accessibility in a letter is attained by peeling away anything that could interfere with the message.

    1.  Keep sentences short and direct.

2.  Use familiar language rather than jargon.

a.  NEVER use slang.

b.  NEVER use swear words.

   3.  Avoid including information that is irrelevant to the subject.

D.  Accuracy means that the information must be correct.

    1.  Never purposefully give misinformation.

2.  Check numbers, names, dates, etc., carefully.

3.  Letters are legal documents.

E.  Format refers to the specific structure of the letter.

1.  Distribute handout.

2.  Follow the format exactly since readers always know where to find particular information in a particular part of a letter.

3.  Don’t use the letters from Word since they are not standard business format.

F.  Appearance has to do with neatness.

1.  Letters should be free of errors and corrections.

2.  There should be no smudges, blotches, etc., on letters.

3.  Use good paper.

4.  A business letter is never handwritten.

4.  Writing a political letter or letter to the editor.

Letter to the Editor or Government

1.  When the government or community upsets you, write a letter to your government    representative or to the editor of the local newspaper.

2.  When writing such a letter, use the business letter format to lend credibility and authority to your letter.

A.  You want to establish yourself as someone that the government and society should listen to.

          B.  You want the government and the editors to be able to get to the information easily by having it in the correct location.

3.  In a letter to the editor, follow this format:

A.  Find an issue covered in a recent edition of that paper about which you believe the community needs to know your opinion or knowledge.

1.  What are some issues that might fit a letter to the editor?

a.  Streets

b.  Schools

c.  Local government

d.  Crime

e.  Moral or political issues

2.  A letter to the editor does not have to be a complaint.

a.  You can thank people publicly.

b.  A letter can be in praise of some action.

c.  A letter can be a memorial.

B.  In the first paragraph, identify yourself by your position in the community,  refer to a story, and state your point.

1.  Editors want letters about their coverage, so refer to it.

2.  Make your point immediately so that editors know why you are writing.

C.  In subsequent paragraphs, give support for your stand.

1.  Limit your letter to 4 to 6 paragraphs, including the first paragraph.

2.  Limit the paragraphs to two to three sentences.

3.  Space carefully so that points can be easily recognized.

D.  You do not need a closing paragraph, but sign the letter.

E.  Try to keep your letter to fewer than 300 words (about 1-2 typed pages).


4.  In a political letter, follow this format:

A.  In the first paragraph, identify your connection to the reader, refer to the specific issue (or bill) that you want action on, and what action you want on that issue.

1.  As in the letter to the editor, give the reader something specific with which to identify.

2.  State your position immediately.

B.  In subsequent paragraphs, give your reasons for your stand.

1.  Limit your letter to 4 to 6 paragraphs.

2.  If you want the person to read extra material, add an enclosure.

a.  An enclosure might be a petition.

b.  An enclosure might be a letter, essay, or statistical information that relates specifically to the topic.

C.  Add a last paragraph that tells the reader how to contact you by phone or email.

1.  If you represent an organization or committee, use that body as the point of contact.

2.  You invalidate your letter if you don’t provide a contact point.

D.  Close politely.

1.  Always say, “Thank you for your time and attention.”

2.  Use “Sincerely yours” as the closing.

3.  You’re the decent person here; make the reader know that.


5.  Be careful in how you make a complaint.

A.  If you say you are outrage, have a good reason to be outraged.

1.  “I am outraged by . . .” is an overused clichJ.

2.  Make sure that your subject deserves the clichJ.

B.  Highlight the conflict.

1.  Be specific about names, dates, and actions that illustrate the conflict.

2.  Don’t generalize.

C.  If you need to attack someone, be dignified.

1.  Don’t use swear words or personal insults.

2.  Stick to the facts and let readers judge the validity of your attack.

D.  Being objective and using facts is much more effective than name-calling.

E.  Sarcasm is acceptable.

1.  Sarcasm is more acceptable in editorials than in government letters.

2.  Don’t be sarcastic over particularly serious issues.

a.  Being sarcastic over the Kosovo issue would not be appropriate.

b.  Sarcasm over Governor Jesse is acceptable, so long as the issue isn’t life-threatening.

3.  Let the issue determine your letter’s tone.

6.  Assignment:

A.  Write a letter to a government official.

B.  Sample letter


919 North Labree
Thief River Falls, MN 56701
25 April 2000

The Honorable Rod Grams
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Senator Grams:

As a citizen of Minnesota and the United States, I urge you to support the return of Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba.

I continually hear politicians assert their devotion to family values.  However, I also hear these same politicians insist that Gonzalez be taken from his father simply because his father lives in Cuba.  Family values are family values.  If our country asserts that families are important to the well-being of our nation, then we must also believe that they are important to the well-being of all nations.  We can even go so far as to believe that in nations where freedom is at a premium, such as in Cuba, then families are even more important to the people since the family is an independent unit, not a governmental one. Thus, it is even more relevant that Elian be returned to his father in Cuba to strengthen the bond of the independent family.

We also must practice what we speak.  America likes to present itself as a law-abiding nation that has specific laws based on a Constitution that extends freedom to its citizens within the law.  That law is established by the courts.  The court has ruled in the Elian Gonzalez case that he belongs with his father.  Now the government needs to enforce that law by taking Elian by force, if necessary, and returning him to his father.

Therefore, in the debate over whether Elian belongs with his father or his Miami relatives, speak out in favor of the father.  You are a father yourself, so you must understand the pain that Juan Gonzalez must feel in being separated from his son.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

 Elaine Jones

Elaine Jones


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