IN SEARCH OF A LOST ART:

HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS LETTER

EACH YEAR I SEE THOUSANDS OF LETTERS. Many are written to me to ask the Academy for something as simple as a publication or to seek employment. Many more are written in support of someone applying for some honor or award. Although most of these letters should follow the format of a standard business letter, many of them only vaguely resemble what is expected. Many are missing one or more of the following elements considered essential for standard business letters: letterhead (or heading with a typed name, address and phone number), date, inside address, salutation with proper punctuation (a colon :), body (text), complimentary closing with proper punctuation (a comma ,), signature, and a typed name.

The layout of the letters, that is, their visual appeal and balance is even worse.

I have been prompted to prepare this guide out of total frustration after seeing a continuing decline in the art of writing a business letter. Actually THE LETTERS which compelled me to write this guide were received from high school teachers of English, journalism, mathematics, and science and from a business person who wrote in support of students applying to become a members of Ohio's Space Scientists of Tomorrow. Variously missing from their letters were headings, dates, inside addresses, salutations and complimentary closings. And the forms were disheveled.

I have always thought that letter writing was taught in elementary school and reinforced by practice through ALL grades, including college. Frankly, in terms of form, often I am unable to distinguish any discernible differences between letters written by students, their teachers and by many other professionals.

I'll admit that, in general, letters from businesses and government, while often wordy and vague, are usually in proper form, probably because of the communication standards imposed by employers.

Apparently, for many, the art of writing a standard business letter has been lost. Thus, on the back I have outlined what are considered essential elements for a standard business letter. Use this guide yourself. Copy it for your friends. Give it to every teacher and student you meet. Maybe, together, we can resurrect the lost art of writing a business letter.

See Parts of a Business Letter


LYNN E. ELFNER
Chief Executive Officer
The Ohio Academy of Science
November 1993
© 1996 - 2009 Linda C. Joseph
All Rights Reserved

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