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Business English: Business Letters
Howard Middle


Communicating with people in a business context often requires a more formal style than when writing to friends and family.

Business letters typically avoid spoken language, and include the use of full forms instead of contractions (e.g. I am writing not I’m writing) and a number of set phrases.

Below you can find an example letter and notes explaining its features. These notes also include some useful set phrases used in business letters.


An Example Letter

(1) P. COOK & CO. A
123 Crescent Road, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030
Tel: (201) 555-4567 Fax: (201) 555-4568

(2) 17th August 2002

(3) Brown & Brown (Luxury Foods), Inc
     100 South Street
     New York NY 10001

(4) Dear Sir/Madam:

(5) Subject: Franchise Agreement

(6) I am writing to enquire about the franchise opportunities you are offering, as detailed in yesterday’s Financial Journal.

(7) P. Cook is a medium-size company with ten years’ experience in the catering business. We believe we have much to offer your organization because of our specialized services and established clientele, and wish to explore a mutually beneficial franchise arrangement. I enclose a prospectus for your information.

(8) I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

(9) Sincerely,

Christina Cook
(10) cc: P. Cook, T. A. Cook

(11) Enclosure



1 The name of the company and its address, phone, and fax details generally appear at the top of the page, together with any Internet and e-mail details.

2 The date can appear on the left- or right-hand side of the letter, though the most usual style is to have everything aligned to the left.

3 Put the address of the recipient on the left-hand side. If you know the name of the person and his/her title, add these above the address too.

4 In business letters, use a colon (:) at the end of this line, not a comma (,).

  • If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, put:
    • Dear Sir/Madam: or 
      Dear Sir
      or Madam: or
    • use their title: Dear Marketing Director:
  • If you know the name of the person you are writing to, put:
    • Dear Mr. [surname] (for a man)
    • Dear Ms. [surname] (for a woman)
      Avoid using Mrs or Miss unless the person you are writing to has already used the title themselves in a previous letter.
    • Dear [first name and surname] is less formal but is becoming more common, for example Dear Jennifer Marsh
5 Write the subject of your letter here.

6 You can also start your letter in a number of other ways:

  • Thank you for your letter of…,
  • I am writing in response to… 
                               to inform you that/ of…
                               to complain about…
  • I would like to enquire about/whether…
7 Give further details about the purpose of your letter here.

8 You can also close your letter in the following ways:

  • Thank you in advance for your help.
  • I would be most grateful if you could inform me…
  • Please let me know if … 
  • Please phone to confirm the details.
  • I look forward to hearing from you/receiving your reply.
9 You can write the following expressions before your name:
  • In a formal letter:
    • Sincerely,
    • Sincerely yours,
    • Respectfully
  • In a less formal letter, when you know the person you are writing to:
    • With best wishes,
    • Best wishes,
    • Regards,

10 cc: means that a copy of the letter is being sent to the people mentioned.

11 Enclosure or Enc. means that documents are being enclosed with the letter.


Next in the Series

In the next issue of the magazine we will focus on how a resumé is put together.