Tuesday, May 14

How to Write a Business Letter (and Why!)

As students become teens, it’s time for them to learn how to write a business letter. The goal of this writing is to articulate a concern and seek or suggest an action.

Whether you've experienced troubles or enjoyed your stay, a business letter or follow-up to a phone call is a life skill that all teens should learn. These letters aren't just for expressing displeasure -- they're also a great opportunity to point out what's right with your product / service...although all too often, these letters aren't the ones that get written. 

Business letters are used for the following situations :
  • To praise a product, service supplier, or staff person
  • To compliment a speaker
  • To compliment or praise an author
  • To praise someone for an achievement
  • To complain about poor product quality or poor service
  • To ask for political or social action or change
  • To write a letter of recommendation
  • To request information
A few notes :
  • Letters may be written in block or indented form. See examples of both here.
  • Be professional.  A business letter should be on par with a resume; clean and precise.  It should also be fair and not abusive (if it is a letter of complaint).
  • Write clearly and to a point.  Use active writing and short paragraphs.  Keep it to a single page, if possible.
  • Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph. Use a plain font like Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Use underlining or bold print to emphasize a few words or a phrase that is the most important part of the letter.
  • Be persuasive.  Suggest a solution and provide sound reasoning for the suggestion.
  • Proofread your letter!!  I cannot stress this enough.

Writing Assignment

Use the sample letter below to practice writing a letter to one of these recipients :
  • City council member 
  • State legislator, representative, or governor 
  • Owner of a local business 
  • President or CEO of a corporation 
  • College or university admissions department 
  • Chamber of Commerce (to request brochures or travel information


Sample Letter Format

Contact Information (Your contact information. If you are writing on letterhead that includes your contact information, you do not need to include it at the start of the letter.)
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address


Contact Information (The person or company you are writing to)
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name: (Use a formal salutation, not a first name, unless you know the person extremely well. Note that the person's name is always followed by a colon (:) in a business letter, and not a comma. If you do not know the recipient’s name, it is still common (and safe) to use the old-fashioned “To Whom It May Concern:”).

The first paragraph of your letter should provide an introduction as to why you are writing so that your purpose is obvious from the very beginning.

In the following paragraphs, provide more information and specific details about your request or the information you are providing.

The last paragraph of your letter should reiterate the reason you are writing and thank the reader for reviewing your request. If appropriate, it should also politely ask for a written response or for the opportunity to arrange a meeting to further discuss your request.

Sincerely / Thank you,   (Choose one.)

Leave four lines for a Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter — use blue or black ink to sign the letter)

Typed Signature

Find more real-world writing lessons in The Writing Life course, included with your SchoolhouseTeachers membership!
Whether your student sees himself or herself going into a creative field in the future or not, writing concisely, clearly, and powerfully are skills each of us needs to learn. In The Writing Life: Learn to Write Well homeschool course, students are given the opportunity to learn just that.
This full-year course for high schoolers is just one of the 450+ courses included with a membership, which covers all classes for every student in your house!

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