November 2008
Writing eTips UpWrite Press

When to Write a Formal Business Letter

Email is easy, texting is fast. Why on earth would you bother writing an old-fashioned business letter, when modern technology has made correspondence so much quicker? Slow down and read on.

Sure, instant communication is handy, but there are still times when it is appropriate to write a formal business letter. Here are just a few reasons to write and send that “old-fashioned” type of correspondence.

First and foremost, formal business letters are just that: formal. They carry a weight not perceived in a quick email or a brief text message. That formality gives a serious tone to official communication, lends credence to persuasive appeals, and imbues legal notices with the importance they deserve. In addition, a written letter can deliver bad news with proper gravity and concern.

Formal written letters are also textural—the receiver can hold them, feel them, even frame them. This is especially useful when the letter includes a commendation or notice of achievement. There’s a permanence to a written letter that suggests importance and substance.

You can find out more about when to use a formal business letter on page 26 of Business and Sales Correspondence, part of the EZ Series of business writing materials from UpWrite Press.


Our Staff Writers’ Blog

Get the latest insights into writing from our staff writers. As you may know, we’ve been publishing podcast entries on our blog for nearly two years now. Recently we began adding personal entries from our staff writers, revealing their unique perspectives on business writing. To learn more, visit our blog.

That Little Extra:

If you are having trouble getting into your writing, why not try freewriting? This is a commonly used method to open the channels of thought and get something down on paper.

Start by writing down your topic—for example, “Productivity Increase” or “Possible Cutbacks.” Then take a deep breath, set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, and just start writing anything that comes into your mind. Keep writing—don’t stop to correct spelling or organize your thoughts. Just let your ideas flow wherever they want to go, even off-subject.

When your time is up, look through what you’ve written and see if anything sparks some thoughts on your topic. You’ll be surprised at how—even if you haven’t written anything specific about your subject—you will be more relaxed and open to doing the writing you need to do.

Try to freewrite every day or so. It might feel a little weird at first, but freewriting is like anything else—the more you do it, the easier it will become, as will accomplishing those recurring writing tasks.

Join Our Writers’ Forum

We invite you to be part of our monthly eTips. Each month we pose a question or problem regarding the use of writing in business. Send us your reply along with your name, your company’s name, and a brief description of what you do. We will print the best responses, and you will get your name out to our more than 6,000 subscribers! (We reserve the right to edit your remarks for fit and suitability.)


November Writers’ Forum Topic

In this troubling economy, it’s easy to look at the dark side. Yet this month is traditionally a time to be thankful. What things about your career, your job, or your office are you grateful for?

Email your response to Write “November Writers’ Forum” in the subject line, and you could see your reply in the eTips Mid-Month Mini.

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Coming in December

Business Letter Formats

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eTips is a publication of UpWrite Press, Inc., P.O. Box 460, Burlington, Wisconsin 53105. Copyright © 2008,
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