Communications, Types of
primary tools for communicating information in business
include e-mail messages, memos, letters, reports, phone
calls, meetings, and conversations. To determine which is
the best to use in a given situation, start by asking yourself
the following questions:
- · How
much information do I have to pass along?
- · How
many people will receive the message?
- · How
quickly does it need to reach them?
- · How
much time do the recipients need to respond to it?
- · How
formal should the presentation be?
- · Is
the message confidential?
- · How
are people likely to respond to it?
of its speed and informality, e-mail is ideal for routine
communication between coworkers. For instance, an e-mail
message is usually the best means of announcing a new policy,
introducing a recent hire, informing colleagues of a meeting
time, and reminding an employee of an approaching deadline.
messages are also useful for day-to-day or extremely timely
exchanges with people outside the company. Because of their
low cost, they often are preferred for communicating with
e-mail messages are now used instead of memos for most intercompany
communication, memos are still suitable for notes sent to
people higher in the company hierarchy, especially in conservative
memo is also appropriate for lengthy, formal communications
to coworkers that may eventually be circulated to your supervisors
or to contacts in other companies.
letter is now used primarily for formal correspondence with
clients, customers, and others outside the company, particularly
people you have not met.
for instance, that you need to ask for advice or information
from someone you do not know personally. The person will
likely give a letter more attention than an e-mail message
because a letter conveys an added element of formality and
- A complex
document of more than ten pages, especially one that will
be shown to outside contacts, is best presented as a report.
A routine report can be easily produced using a word processor
and a laser printer. Important reports for potential clients,
stockholders, or others you might want to impress usually
should be professionally designed and printed, often in
full color on heavy or glossy paper.
Calls, Conversations, and Meetings
main advantage of a phone conversation is that it allows
both parties to respond to each other immediately. If you
and a coworker have several questions for each other, asking
them in a single phone call is usually less time-consuming
than exchanging a long series of e-mail messages.
matters or topics that might elicit a highly emotional response
are best discussed in person. As common sense will tell
you, sending an e-mail or memo reading “You’re fired!” is
not the most delicate or responsible way of dealing with
a difficult situation.
meetings are usually the safest way of communicating confidential
information. Meetings are also useful when a quick group
decision is needed on a particular problem or issue. Important
side benefits of meetings are that they allow employees
in different departments or divisions to become acquainted
and can often foster a sense of shared mission among coworkers
the growing popularity of e-mail, much of the communication
between businesses still depends on the letter. Letters
are usually written to people outside a company—such as
customers, clients, and suppliers—and very often take the
place of a face-to-face meeting.
when writing to an outside contact you have never met, you
should strive to make your letters as thoughtfully phrased,
well structured, and attractively formatted as possible.
A hastily drafted e-mail message or memo may embarrass you
among your colleagues, but a poorly written letter can result
in lost business for your company.
of a Letter
- A business
letter comprises the following elements, presented in the
- 1. return
- 2. date
- 3. recipient’s
- 4. salutation
- 5. body
- 6. complimentary
- 7. signature
- 8. typist’s
- 9. enclosures
- 10. carbon
information on the appropriate content and styling of these
elements, see Business Letters, Addresses and Dates in;
Business Letters, Salutations in; and Business Letters,
a discussion of the two basic formats used for business
correspondence, see Business Letters, Formatting of.
letters can be divided into three parts:
- · an
introduction, which communicates your purpose in writing
- · supporting
information, which offers background on the topic of the
letter, the reasons for a decision you have reached or recommendation
you want to make, or the justification for a request you
have of the reader
- · a
conclusion, which restates your central point and, if necessary,
reminds the reader of any action you want that person to
- A short
letter may require only one supporting paragraph or even
none at all. A long letter may include several introductory
and concluding paragraphs and perhaps many pages of supporting
material. If a letter is more than two pages long, consider
organizing the supporting paragraphs under headings to make
specific information easier to find.
first paragraph of a letter is the most important because
it encourages the reader either to read on or to set the
letter aside. If you are writing the letter in response
to a meeting, phone call, or another letter, mention this
and include the date of the earlier conversation or correspondence.
Similarly, if the recipient does not know you or is unfamiliar
with the situation your letter discusses, identify yourself
or summarize the circumstances moving you to write as early
as possible in the letter.
the Right Tone
underlying goal of most business letters you write is to
promote goodwill between you and your reader. Especially
when writing to someone for the first time, you should use
a tone that will encourage that person to listen to you
and want to work with you now and in the future.
your letter is primarily informational or contains good
news, a direct approach is usually best. State your point
or offer your news immediately and briefly, and then explain
any other information the reader needs to know.
the proper tone is more difficult if you are delivering
bad news. In this case, taking an indirect approach may
be a better strategy. In the first few sentences, for example,
you could begin on a positive note by stating how much you
want to work with the reader’s company or by reminding the
reader of times you accommodated his or her requests in
the past. When you do get to your point, try to minimize
the reader’s disappointment or anger by delivering the message
in carefully considered language that conveys your news
clearly but tactfully.
Letters, Addresses and Dates in
the salutation in a business letter, you should include
(1) the return mailing address, (2) the date the letter
is sent, and (3) the mailing address of the recipient. If
you are using letterhead stationery printed with your complete
mailing address, the return address should be omitted.
the block letter format, all three elements are aligned
with the left margin. In the traditional letter format,
the recipient’s address is left-aligned, but the return
address and date are indented to the middle of the page.
See Business Letters, Formatting of, for more information.
non-letterhead stationery, begin your letter by typing on
- 1. your
- 2. the
company’s street address
- 3. the
city, state, and ZIP code
Park, IL 60131-0443
the street address, spell out words such as street, drive,
and boulevard. Do not abbreviate cardinal directions unless
they follow the street name.
North Hampshire Street
26 North Hampshire Street NW
state name may be spelled out or abbreviated using the U.S.
Postal Service’s two-character codes.
available, use the complete nine-digit ZIP code, placing
a hyphen between the fifth and sixth digits.
the date below the return address or, if you are using letterhead,
at the top of your letter. You may write the date using
either a month-day-year or day-month-year sequence (see
Dates), but always spell out the name of the month.
March 31, 1999
31 March 1999
the date, insert the recipient’s address. There should be
at least one line space between them, although using three
line spaces is usually preferred if the letter is short.
the following items in the address, each on a separate line:
- 1. the
recipient’s full name preceded by a courtesy title
- 2. the
- 3. the
company name (spelled and styled exactly as it appears in
the company’s own publications)
- 4. the
company’s street address
- 5. the
city, state, and ZIP code
the recipient’s title is short, you may list it on the same
line as the name, using a comma to separate them.
Henry Thomason, Manager
you do not know the recipient and cannot tell from the name
alone whether the person is a man or a woman, omit the courtesy
Letters, Closings of
business letter should end with a complimentary close and
a signature with the sender’s name and title typed beneath.
If needed, the typist’s initials, a list of enclosures,
or the names of people who have received copies of the letter
may also appear below the signature.
line spaces below the final paragraph of a business letter,
you should insert a polite closing statement, known as a
complimentary close. Only the first word in the close should
be capitalized, and a comma should follow the final word.
business correspondence, standards such as “Sincerely,”
“Yours truly,” and “Best wishes” are usually the most appropriate.
Avoid complimentary closes that are overly flowery (e.g.,
“Your humble servant,” “Wishing you the very, very best”)
or informal (e.g., “Bye now,” “’Til next time”).
on the letter format you use, the close should either be
aligned on the left margin or indented to the middle of
the page (see Business Letters, Formatting of).
your name in ink below the complimentary close, and type
your name and title on separate lines below your signature.
the name of your department or division is not on your letterhead,
you may insert it below your title.
consider adding your telephone number, fax number, and e-mail
address if these are not printed on your stationery. Be
sure to label clearly whether a number is for a telephone
or fax line. For consistency’s sake, also place a label
before your e-mail address when it appears with a telephone
or fax number.
more information, see Telephone and Fax Numbers.
someone else types your letter for you, the typist’s initials
should appear two line spaces below your typed name and
title (or, if listed, below your telephone number, fax number,
and/or e-mail address). The initials should be set in lowercase
letters with no periods between them.
one person writes a letter and another types it, the
writer’s initials, set in all capitals, should be inserted
before the typist’s initials. Place a colon or slash between
one person writes a letter, another types it, and a third
person signs it, the signer’s initials, set in all capitals,
should be inserted before the writer’s initials, also set
in all capitals. The typist’s initials should follow
the first two. Place a colon or slash between them.
any materials are to be sent along with the letter, insert
the word Enclosures or the abbreviation Enc. or Encl. two
line spaces below the typist’s initials. To keep a record
of what was sent, you can insert a colon after the word
or abbreviation and either note the number of items enclosed
or list a description of each.
- Encl.: Job
at Parnell Aerospace” (brochure)
you send copies of a letter to anyone other than the person
to whom it is addressed, insert the abbreviation cc. (for
“carbon copy”) two line spaces below the enclosures line.
Follow cc. with a colon and the names of everyone who received
a copy. Use the same form for all of the names listed.
more than one person receives a copy, list their names either
according to their rank in your company or in alphabetical
Letters, Formatting of
elements of a business letter are usually arranged in one
of two formats: full block style or modified block style.
full block style, all parts of the letter are aligned along
the left margin (see Alignment). In modified block style,
the return address, date, complimentary close, and signature
are indented to approximately the middle of the page. Everything
else is left-aligned.
business today, full block style is far more common—both
because it is easier to type a letter in this format and
because it gives a document a neat, clean look. Letters
in modified block style have a more casual appearance. This
style is often preferred for relatively informal business
letters and personal correspondence.
more information and samples of each letter format, see
Full Block Letter Format and Modified Block Letter Format
of the simplest ways of making a letter inviting to a reader
is to set generous margins. Each margin should be at least
one inch wide, but using one-and-a-half inch margins can
make a letter both easier to read and more visually appealing.
your letter is less than half a page long, your top margin
should be even larger. As a general rule, begin the letter
far enough down on the page that the signature falls below
the page’s center point.
may also need to add extra space to the top margin to accommodate
an oversized logo on letterhead stationery. At minimum,
you should always leave two line spaces between a logo and
the beginning of your letter.
- A letter
in either format should be single-spaced, with an additional
line space inserted between paragraphs in the letter’s body.
line space should also be placed between most of the components
of a letter. Three line spaces are usually used to separate
the return address from the date and the complimentary close
from the name typed below the signature.
you are formatting a letter in the modified block style,
you may indent the first line of each paragraph (see Indentation).
You should not indent paragraphs, however, if you choose
the full block format.
often, the body of a letter is aligned along the left margin
only. For a more formal look, however, you can align it
on the right margin as well—a style of alignment known as
justification (see Alignment).
the sake of appearance and readability, justified text often
needs to be hyphenated to eliminate inconsistent word spacing.
See Word Spacing for more information.
of More than One Page
a letter runs longer than one page, at the top of all pages
after the first add a heading that lists the following:
- · the
recipient’s courtesy title and full name
- · the
page number preceded by the word Page
- · the
date of the letter
center this material on one line with a uniform amount of
space between each element