How to Write a Professional Letter (2019 Guide)

  • Last Edited: February 19, 2019
professional letter

 

The right professional letter can make or break your career. You need to write a professional letter that catches your audience’s attention, while representing who you are in the most honest way possible. If you are worried that your professional letters do not sound good enough, or do not seem natural to you, you have come to the right place.

This article is designed to show you how to improve your professional letter writing skills. After reading this article, you will understand why professional letters remain important even when you can still use email. You will also understand how to adapt a professional letter to suit different circumstances. One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that one professional letter can be used to apply for ten different jobs.

The best way to write a professional letter is to be yourself. It sounds like a cliche, but being yourself is important even when writing a formal business letter or a letter of professional correspondence. You can still insert your own “voice” in a professional letter, even while you sound formal and sophisticated.

What is a Professional Letter?

A professional letter is any written correspondence between you and a member of a formal organization.

Examples of a professional letter you will be familiar with include a cover letter, which you use to apply for a job. Other examples of professional letters include internal memorandums, such as company emails sent to employees. If your boss recently requested that you compose a professional letter sent to employees or stakeholders, you will need to brush up on your writing skills.

Although professional letters are by definition formal in nature, they do not have to be dry and characterless. You should by all means avoid slang and use proper grammar. However, you also need to come across more like a human being than a robot. The key to writing a professional letter is the same key to writing any piece of good communication: remember your audience!

If you write a professional letter, try to address it to a specific individual rather than to a generic “Dear Sir/Madam” or worse yet, “To whom it may concern.” These are outdated salutations used in the types of professional letters that get tossed in the waste bin.

Why Do You Need a Professional Letter?

You need a professional letter anytime you are asked to present a cover letter for a job application. Other instances of when and why you need a professional letter include the following:

  • Fundraising or request for sponsorship
  • Formal letter of complaint
  • Announcement of new products and services
  • Following through on a networking opportunity
  • Request for information
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Special invitation for clients or suppliers
  • Internal memorandum

In each of these and other cases, a professional letter is one that is brief and to the point. No professional letter should be an essay, and with few exceptions should remain no more than a page in length. All professional letters have a strong purpose in mind: you need to communicate something about yourself or your company.

You need a professional letter rather than an informal communication, like an email or a text message, because you are representing the best version of yourself. In many cases, you need a professional letter because you are also representing the company you work for or your university.

Because you are attempting to communicate in a manner that is professional—one that is polished, sophisticated, and respectful of others—you need to use language that is universal. Slang and informal communication is fine in social settings, but not in professional communications.

You are not writing a professional letter to a friend or even to a colleague. Professional letters are written to professionals. Therefore, you need to learn how to sound like one when you write.

Professional Letter Format

At risk of coming across as too stilted and rigid, you still need to conform to an expected professional letter format. You can modify the format a little, but your audience will not appreciate it if you alter the standard professional format too much. Remaining true to format creates a familiar and comfortable standard of communication.

With a professional letter format, your audience will easily be able to scan the letter for the important bits of information rather than trying to guess what it is you are trying to say. Therefore, try to stick to the professional letter format given below.

The Basics

Heading

Every professional letter has a heading with the pertinent information at the top of the paper. The pertinent information includes the date on which you send the letter, your name and contact information (or that of your company), and the recipient’s name and contact information.

In the heading, be as specific as possible. If you do not yet know the name of the person to whom you write, do a little research on the company website or even phone the organization if you need to find out the head of the department. Personalizing the letter with a person’s name will more likely get your letter results than one addressed “to whom it may concern.” Most readers are too busy to be “concerned” with a generic letter.

If you can, use a personal or company letterhead. A letterhead with a formal logo comes across as being professional and shows that you are ready for business. Even if you do not have a letterhead or logo, simply aligning your heading information will look appropriately professional as in the below example.

Salutation

The salutation can be tricky in a formal business letter. If you do not know the name of the person and cannot find out, then it may be appropriate to write to the “Head of the Marketing Department” before you resort to writing “to whom it may concern,” or “Dear Sir/Madam.”

Using the simple salutation “Dear” is appropriate in almost all professional letters. If you are already on speaking terms with the individual and feel comfortable using a first name only, then by all means write “Dear Jane,” instead of “Dear Ms. Jones.” On the other hand, use “Dear Ms. Jones” rather than “Dear Jane” if you have never met before or are not yet on a first-name basis. Using the last name connotes professionalism.

Line Spacing and Margins

While there are no hard rules regarding the right typeface or margin size in professional letters, a general rule of thumb is to use block style paragraphs, single spacing, and left justification.

Block-style paragraphs are not essential, but many professional letters use this format as opposed to indenting the first line of each paragraph as you might see in a published novel or a newspaper article. Note the difference between block-style paragraphs with no first-line indent and the first-line indented format:

With block-style paragraphs, you draw the reader’s eye to each individual point. Given that all professional letters should be short, only about a page in length, the block-style paragraphs serve as single points of information. You are not writing a novel or an essay; you are writing a professional letter.

Single spacing might not be appropriate for essays and academic papers, which usually use double-spacing. However, professional letters almost always use single spacing. The single spacing used in professional letters keeps the information tight and able to fit on one page.

As with most of the writing you compose, left justification is preferable to centering or right justification.

The Body

The “meat” of the letter is the body: what it is you want to discuss with the audience.

If you are applying for a job, then you would focus on why you are applying for that job and why your reader might be interested in you as a job candidate.

If you are informing a supplier about a change in your pricing scheme, then you would want to alert the reader and inform them of the changes.

If you are writing a professional letter to members of the organization about a change in company policy, then information about the changes would comprise the body of the letter.

A professional letter usually has three main paragraphs, although that number can be flexible depending on the situation.

Paragraph One

The opening paragraph of the professional letter introduces you, the purpose of your writing the letter, or the issue or problem at stake.

Paragraph Two

The second paragraph is when you can dive into some of the most important details. For example, if you are applying for a job you would tell your audience about why you are the best candidate for the position.

Paragraph Three

Bridge the gap between your needs as the writer and the reader’s needs in the third paragraph. Talk about how you can help the reader achieve his or her goals, or how the information you present in the letter can be used to improve the reader’s products and services. You can break down this paragraph into two if you need to, but close on a positive note inviting the reader to connect with you online, using social media, on the phone, or in writing using another professional letter.

Closing

As with the salutation, closing the letter can be tricky and depends on your level of familiarity with the audience. Generally, you can use the terms “Sincerely,” “Best Regards,” or simply “Thank you,” before signing your name to the letter. You do need to sign your name, as opposed to only typing it.

Finally, if your professional letter is accompanied by additional information such as your resume or a product sample, then you would need to mention that. You can mention the insertion of any additional papers or enclosures by writing “Enclosures: Resume, Portfolio” after the closing and signature.

Professional Letter Templates

Cover Letter

One of the most common professional letters you will be writing is a cover letter.

Employers request cover letters so that they have a formal introduction from you. Similarly, you may need to use a cover letter when you are applying for undergraduate or graduate schools.

A cover letter is your chance to impart a bit of your personality before you even meet anyone from the organization. You can also use a cover letter as an opportunity to go beyond what your resume says, and talk about any gaps in employment or issues that your employer might not be aware of from the keywords on your resume.

Therefore, this cover letter template will help you organize your thoughts to create the best possible introduction for yourself. When you follow a professional cover letter template like this, you increase your chances of getting noticed by employers or admissions boards at schools.

Template

Your First Name Your Last Name
Street Address
City, State, ZIP

Recipient First Name Last Name and Title
Organization or Company Name
Company Street Address
Company City, State ZIP

Date

Dear Name,

Use the first paragraph to discuss how you discovered the company, or how you found out about a specific job opening. Use complementary language to show that you know about the firm and what it does.

Use the second paragraph to show why you are uniquely suited for this position. Talk about things that are not mentioned in your resume, instead focusing on your emotional intelligence or personality traits, your passion, or specific projects you excelled at during your last job.

Conclude with a strong closing paragraph that invites the reader to correspond with you further. Make your reader hungry to learn more about you and welcome you aboard on their team.

Sincerely,

(sign here)

Your Name

Example Cover Letter

Carlos Sanchez
1719 Yew Street
Syracuse, NY 13205

Harrison Ford, Director of Marketing
Action Integral Organization
2525 Loblolly Lane
Athens, GA 30601

March 1, 2019

Dear Mr. Ford,

This is a letter following up on our conversation at the Syracuse Job Fair. It was a pleasure meeting you and learning about your work with Action Integral. We discussed how my background in political science might help Action Integral develop a more comprehensive marketing strategy, and that is why I am writing you today. I believe that I have a lot to offer the marketing department.

My academic focus has been on corporate social responsibility. I wrote my senior thesis on this topic, and also studied abroad in India researching how companies like yours can do more to serve their communities and add value for stakeholders. Action Integral has demonstrated earnest commitment to corporate social responsibility. I would like to contribute to the Action Integral approach to building better relationships with community partners while also boosting shareholder value.

Until now, my work experience has been limited to university-based positions. The enclosed letters of reference and my resume should show that I have a level of dedication to my work that is unique. Eager to learn and to be a part of a growing and progressive firm such as yours, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Carlos Sanchez

Letter to Clients or Suppliers

When your company expands, offering new products and services, the best way to alert your clients is through professional correspondence. A professional letter is an ideal way to reach out to existing suppliers to let them know of a change in your terms of operation or pricing schemes. Likewise, you can use a professional letter to let clients know about alterations in policy that might affect their contract with you. When you write a professional letter to clients or suppliers, you are representing your company. It helps to maintain a tone that is consistent with the voice of the firm in its other marketing publications and communications.

Template

Your First Name Your Last Name
Your Position at the Company
Company Name
Street Address
City, State, ZIP

Recipient First Name Last Name and Title
Organization or Company Name
Company Street Address
Company City, State ZIP

Date

Dear Name (or Department),

Use the first paragraph to provide some background information or lead the reader to the main point. For example, the opening paragraph could mention how long your company has been in business and what products and services it has focused on in the past. The opening paragraph can also discuss the need for change, leading the reader into the reason for writing this letter. You can state outright, “The reason we are writing this letter to you now is…”

Use the second paragraph to get straight to the point. Here is where you would say, “We are pleased to announce a new line of products known as…which would be of interest to your clients, or which would boost your sales.” Alternatively, you could mention, “I am sorry to announce that our prices will go up effective March 31, 2019 to $4 per kilogram. We have done everything in our power to keep our prices as low as possible while still maintaining the top quality our company and brand is known for throughout the industry.

Conclude with a strong closing paragraph that invites the reader to correspond with you further, ask questions, or express concerns. End on a positive note, regardless of the subject of the letter.

Sincerely,

(sign here)

Your Name
Position
Company

Example Letter to Clients or Suppliers

Jennifer Maricopa
Logistics Manager
T-Rex Snowboards
420 State Street
Boulder, CO, 80303

Ian Proust
Comox Outdoor Supplies
250 Principal Lane
San Bernadino, CA 92354

March 15, 2019

Dear Mr. Proust,

For the last twenty years, we at T-Rex have been proud to provide some of the most reputable snowboards and snowboarding equipment in the industry. We thank you at Comox Outdoor Supplies for your continued business. It is my pleasure to announce that T-Rex will now be offering a new line of snowboards that use a revolutionary new type of material made from 100% post-consumer recycled waste. This is a brief letter of introduction to our new product line, and we are encouraging our clients like you to offer feedback.

The new product line will be priced similarly to our existing product lines, with options for budget, midrange, and luxury snowboards. Working with our manufacturing and product development team, it has come to our attention that the new product line will be priced roughly the same as the existing T-Rex products. We plan to market the new line under the brand name of Pterodactyl.

Enclosed please find images of the prototypes of the new snowboards plus a full list of specifications. We look forward to offering Comox Outdoor Supplies a special advanced option for purchasing the Pterodactyl products and becoming an exclusive vendor through contract options. Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Mericopa
Logistics Manager
T-Rex Snowboards

Conclusion

Professional letters can be among the most important types of correspondence you will have to write. The right professional letter can get you noticed, achieve your goals in communication, and can even make the difference between landing your first choice job or not. Chances are you have already had to write professional letters, such as cover letters.

Often, you will need to write professional letters of recommendation, letters that express formal complaint, and letters that build relationships with your clients. Throughout your career, professional letters will express your needs and those of your company. Writing professional letters takes practice, because you may not be used to using the formal tone or style they require. The tone and style of a professional letter will be different from the tone you use in academic papers. Professional letters are also more formal than the email communications you may be used to. Therefore, practicing your professional letter writing skills is something you can work on now.

By using the templates provided in this article, you can improve your professional letter writing. Next time you need to apply for a job, don’t use the standardized templates or stock formats you see online. Instead, practice using a formal style of communication without sacrificing your own voice.

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How to Write a Professional Letter (2019 Guide). (2019, February 19). Retrieved from https://www.aceyourpaper.com/documents/professional-letter/

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