Textbook: Chapters 5 and 6; see specific pages below
Student Learning Objectives
· Identify all parts of a business letter and be able to incorporate them into correspondence.
· Write a “no” adjustment letter in a professional tone and follow standard grammar, punctuation, spelling and format.
Letters are a formal and frequent correspondence in the business world. Letters are legally binding documents, so prices, services, warranties, and the like must be accurate. As the author of your textbooks says, “Your signature on a letter tells readers that you are accountable for everything in it” (129). Read the section on “Letters in the Age of the Internet,” which describes the importance of letters (130-131).
Remember to include all parts of a letter:
· Return address/letterhead/heading (If you prefer not to use your own address on assignments, you may use the college address:2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, TX, 77058
· Date line
· Inside address
· Body of letter (see notes below)
· Complimentary closing (Respectfully – most formal; Cordially – most familiar)
· Company name (optional if listed in the letterhead)
· Space for handwritten signature
· Writer's name
· Enclosure (if applicable)
· Copy notation (if applicable)
Figure 5.3 on page 134 identifies parts on a sample letter. Figure 5.1 on page 132 identifies spacing. Often your word processing software will determine the set-up for a letter with you choosing the format (full block, modified-block, semi-block); see pages 131-133.
The purpose of the letter content is contained in the body, which is often written like an essay from your composition class. Your audience may be clients, patrons, employers, employees, colleagues, or potential customers. You may be explaining a service, describing equipment, congratulating them, thanking them for a donation, persuading them to purchase a product, applying for a job, or giving them negative news about layoffs.
Although there are different types of letters, we will concentrate on the “no” adjustment letter, which is written in response to a customer’s complaint (see Figure 6.7 and 6.8). Tone is especially important.
When refusing a customer’s request, be diplomatic.
Follow the outline of content in the body of the letter on Figure 6.11 and Figure 6.12 on pages 181 and 182.
· First paragraph: Thank them for writing. Acknowledge problem.
· Second paragraph: Explain damages and reason for refusal before notifying the customer about the decision. Mention only once that their request has been denied.
· Third and fourth paragraphs: Close with good will, such as a discount on a product or free repairs.
Write in the passive voice. Examples follow:
· The boy hit the softball. (active)
· The softball was hit by the boy. (passive) follows:
· The shirt is to be washed in cold water to prevent shrinkage. (passive)
· [Don’t write] you shouldn’t have washed the shirt in hot water; read the directions. (active)
Remember . . .
· Don’t scold the customer.
· Don’t point out their faults, such as not reading the manual.
· Be courteous (see 5.5c on page 142).
· Use modern phrasing (see 5.5d 0n page 142).
Revise the poorly written adjustment letter on p.197 – #17 about the toaster. Include all parts of a letter. You will need to determine the company and return address, date, and customer name and address or use those from a letter in your textbook. Use your own name as the company representative in the closing. If you told the customer that you have included a coupon or brochure, make sure to write enclosure below the closing (see pages 132 and 144). If you asked the customer to call you, make sure to include the phone number. Submit your assignment through Blackboard.
Rewrite the following ineffective adjustment letter saying “No.”
Our company is unwilling to give you a new toaster or to refund your purchase price. After examining the toaster you sent to us, we found that the fault was not ours, as you insist, but yours.
Let me explain. Our toaster is made to take a lot of punishment. But being dropped on the floor or poked inside with a knife, as you probably did, exceeds all decent treatment. You must be careful if you expect your appliances to last. Your negligence in this case is so bad that the toaster could not be repaired.
In the future, consider using your appliances according to the guidelines set down in their warranties. That’s why they are written.
Since you are now in the market for a new toaster, let me suggest that you purchase our new heavy-duty model, number 67342, called the Counter-Whiz. I am taking the liberty of sending you some information about this model. I do hope you at least go to see one at your local appliance center.
Letters are among the most important writing you will do on your job. While emails, texts, and DMs remain the most frequent type of communication in the world of work because they are a quick and easy way to send a message to one person or to many, formal business letters are still prized as a way of communicating. Businesses worldwide take letter writing very seriously, and employers will expect you to prepare and respond to your correspondence promptly and diplomatically. Your signature on a letter tells readers that you are accountable for everything in it.
Learning to write effective letters is not some lost art but a skill you need to be successful in the workplace. The higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the more letters you will be expected to write. Because letter writing is so significant to your career, this chapter introduces you to the entire process and provides guidelines and problem-solving strategies. It also shows you how to write for international readers. Chapter 6 will then help you prepare the most common types of letters you will be expected to write on your job.
5.1a. Letters in the Age of the Internet
Even in this age of the Internet, letters are vital in the world of work. A professional-looking letter is one of the most significant symbols in the business world for the following reasons:
Letters represent your company’s public image and your competence. A firm’s corporate image is on the line when it sends a letter. Its name and logo will appear on the company’s letterhead (see Section 5.2, “Letter Formats”). Carefully written letters create goodwill and make a positive impression on readers. Poorly written letters can anger customers, cost your company business, and project an unfavorable image of you.
Letters are far more formal—in tone and structure—than other types of business communication. Letters adhere to far more conventions than do e-communications. Emails, DMs, texts, tweets, and other social media posts (whether on Facebook or Instagram) are a much less formal way to communicate. A full discussion of the different types of letter formats and the parts of a letter can be found in this chapter.
Letters constitute an official legal record of an agreement. They state, modify, or respond to a business commitment. A signed letter constitutes a legally binding contract (and will often be scanned to create an electronic record). They provide legal evidence where there is a dispute over a business matter. Letters also provide a reference, a stable record for any problems that come up. Be absolutely sure that what you put in a letter about prices, guarantees, warranties, equipment, delivery dates, and/or other issues is accurate. Your readers can hold you and your company accountable for such written commitments.
Unlike emails, many businesses require that letters are routed through channels before they are sent out. Because they convey how a company looks and what it offers to customers, letters often need to be approved by your boss and others in the company. Depending on the content, a company’s legal, finance, human resources, purchasing, planning, or IT departments may need to review and authorize a business letter.
Letters are more substantial and secure than emails. They are a vital record of a company’s business, and provide a documented hard copy and paper trail that is not as easily deleted as emails. Letters are often logged in, filed, and bear a handwritten, authorized signature.
A letter is the official and expected medium through which important hard copy documents and enclosures (contracts, specifications, proposals) are sent to readers. Letters often convey official changes in policy or organization; accompany key materials submitted to outside vendors, partners, or companies; or notify customers about adjustments to their account.
Because readers receive far fewer letters than emails, letters often get higher priority; readers tend to pay more attention to them. A letter commands attention because of its formal elements (see Section 5.3, “Parts of a Letter”). It is a physical, tangible document whereas an email can be missed or confused with spam. All the physical components of a letter—envelope, letterhead/stationery, mailing label, etc.—convey a far different impression than an email.
Letters are far more personable than emails or other e-communications. They are addressed to a specific person whose name and address are typed on the envelope. Letters, moreover, show readers that the writer has taken time to send them a personalized message. Unlike an email which might be sent to hundreds of individuals, a letter shows specific customer appreciation.
A letter is still the most formal and approved way to conduct important business with many international audiences. These readers see a letter as more polite and honorable than an email for initial contacts and even for subsequent business communications.
A hard copy letter is confidential. Emails are sent over the Internet, which is far less secure than letters, which come sealed in a stamped envelope. Unlike an email, which can be easily opened, copied, deleted, and resent, a letter is more permanent and more likely to be delivered to only the proper recipient and less likely to be forwarded to unintended readers (as an email might be).
5.2a. Full-Block Format
In full-block format all information is flush against the left margin, double-spaced between paragraphs. Figure 5.1 shows a full-block letter. Many employers prefer this format when your letter is on letterhead stationery (specially printed paper giving a company’s name and logo; business, Internet, and social media addresses; phone and fax numbers; and sometimes the names of its executives).
Full-Block Letter Format with Appropriate Margins
5.2b. Modified-Block Format
In modified-block format (see Figure 5.2), the writer’s address (if it is not imprinted on a letterhead), the date, the complimentary close, and the signature are positioned at the center point and then keyed toward the right side of the letter. The date aligns with the complimentary close. The inside address, the salutation, and the body of the letter are flush against the left margin. Though used less frequently than the full-block format, the modified-block is a format an employer may ask you to utilize.
5.2d. Continuing Pages
Do not number a one-page letter. To indicate subsequent pages if your letter runs beyond one page, use one of these two conventions. Note the use of the recipient’s name.
5.5b. Guideline 2. Keep the Reader in the Forefront of Your Letter
Make sure the reader’s needs control the tone, message, and organization of your letter—the essence of the “you attitude.” Stress the “you,” not the “I” or the “we.” Below is a paragraph from a letter that forgets about the reader:
I think that our rug shampooer is the best on the market. Our firm has invested a lot of time and money to ensure that it is the most economical and efficient shampooer available today. We have found that our customers are very satisfied with the results of our machine. We have sold thousands of these shampooers, and we are proud of our accomplishment. We hope that we can sell you one of our fantastic machines.
6.6g. Refusal-of-Credit Letters
A special type of bad news letters deals with a company’s refusing credit to an individual or another company. Like other bad news correspondence, writing such a letter requires a great deal of sensitivity. You want to be clear and firm about your decision; at the same time, you do not want to alienate the reader and risk losing their future business.
How to Say “No”
Follow these guidelines when saying “No” in a refusal-of-credit letter:
Begin on a positive—not a negative—note. Find something to thank the reader for; make the bad news easier to take. Compliment the reader’s company or previous good credit achievements (if known), and certainly express gratitude to the individual for wanting to do business with your company.
In a second paragraph, provide a clear-cut explanation of why you must refuse the request for credit, but base your explanation on facts, not personal shortcomings or liabilities. Appropriate reasons to cite for a refusal of credit include
· a lack of business experience or prior credit
· being “overextended” or needing more time to pay off existing obligations (Figure 6.13)
· current unfavorable or unstable financial conditions
· an order that is too large to process without prepayment
· a lack of equipment or personnel for the company to do the business for which they are seeking credit
· demographics-too many competitors in the marketplace; too little traffic, etc.
End on a positive note. Encourage the reader to reapply when business conditions have improved or when the reader’s firm is in a better financial position. One of your goals is to keep the reader as a potential customer, as in Figure 6.13.