Despite widespread use of e-mail in commerce today, traditional business letters are still main way that majority of businesses officially communicate with their customers and other businesses.
This is especially true when businesses want to formalize an agreement or an understanding. So far, emails are great for all of preparatory work, but a formal business letter is still most often needed to "seal deal".
There are two basic categories of business letters: business to business, and business to customer.
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS LETTERS
Most business to business letters are written to confirm things that have already been discussed among officials in meetings, on telephone, or via e-mail.
Can you imagine letters that would have to go back and forth to cover all of questions and possibilities that can be covered in a one-hour meeting, a half-hour phone call, or a few quick e-mails?
The main purpose of a typical business letter is to formalize details that were arrived at in those discussions, and to provide any additional information that was agreed upon.
Over years, certain general standards have evolved in business world that vast majority of businesses use in drafting their business to business correspondence.
BUSINESS TO CUSTOMER LETTERS
There are many different types of business to customer letters. They include: sales and marketing letters, information letters, order acknowledgement letters, order status letters, collection letters, among others.
As with business to business letters, over years certain general standards have evolved in business world that vast majority of businesses use in drafting letters to existing and potential customers.
Of course, going in other direction are customer to business letters. These include: order letters, order status inquiry letters, complaint letters, and others.
Since these are customer-generated letters, there is no particular expectation that they follow any particular letter-writing standard. Typically, they are handled just like any other piece of personal correspondence.
BUSINESS LETTER WRITING TIPS
Here are a few tips I have picked up while writing literally hundreds of business letters over past 20+ years. This is a slightly modified version of tips included in my eBook, "Instant Home Writing Kit".