How to Start a Business Letter: A Guide for Beginners

How do you get to the top?

Superstar business leader, Indra Nooyi, knows how.

Serving as the chair and CEO of PepsiCo, 62-year-old Indra, is proud to hold the spot as one of the world’s most powerful professionals. How exactly did Indra claim her success and make her way to the top? She did it by understanding on of life’s biggest lessons; Words are powerful.

When you know how to say the right things, at the right time, the sky’s the limit for your career. That’s why, whether you’re addressing colleagues or customers, you need to know how to start a business letter. Are you ready to start your climb to the top of success mountain?

Read on to learn the right way to begin a business letter.

How to Start a Business Letter

As you get ready to learn how to start a business letter, you’ll want to keep your audience in mind. Are you writing this letter to a new customer, or someone you’ve written to before?

You’ll want to take into consideration previous letters you’ve written to this individual or entity. If in the past you’ve opened the letter with their first name, you should continue doing that.

However, if it’s standard for your company, to use a more formal tone, you should consider addressing the letter reader with the word, “Dear”, followed by their first name.

If you don’t know the reader at all, or you want to be extra formal, you can use their last name instead of the first name. However, should you choose to use their last name, you’ll need to make sure you also use the correct title.

Tips for Using Titles

A title is a word you put before somebody’s name. Here is a shortlist of different abbreviated titles you might use:

  • Mr.
  • Mrs.
  • Ms.
  • Dr.

You should never ever spell out any of the abbreviated titles in our list above. Instead, they should always appear in their abbreviated form.

There are other titles that you should not abbreviate, in under any circumstances. Always spell out unabbreviated titles such as Sister, Rabbi, Senator, Judge, Captain, Admiral, and more.

When You Don’t Know Gender

If you’re uncertain about whether or not a woman would prefer you to use the title Miss or Mrs, you should always default to using, “Miss” or “Ms.”. Should you not know the gender of the person you’re writing the letter too, it’s always a good idea to use their full name rather than a title.

For example, if the individual’s name is Kelly Brown, they could be either male or female. Instead of saying, “Dear Ms. Kelly, you would say, “Dear Kelly Brown”.

You should also, avoid using the phrase, “to whom it may concern”. Both your colleagues and customers will appreciate more personalized greetings rather than generic ones.

For handwritten letters, consider using custom stamps, to make a strong impression on the reader. Next, if you’re writing a letter to an entire company, you should do your best to avoid using the company’s name in the greeting.

For example, if you’re writing to a company called ABC, you’d want to find a personalized way to greet them. You can try using the word, “team”, to personalize things. The greeting, “dear ABC team”, is the perfect compromise that will keep your letter personal, and professional.

Welcoming First Line

Next, you’ll want to pay attention to the first sentence you create, since it will set the tone for the entire letter. Knowing how to start a business letter, is all about being professional and personal at the same time. Even if your company is incredibly formal, you can still have a friendly first line to set a warm tone to your business letter.

Here are a few examples of welcoming first lines you can use:

  • I hope this email finds you well
  • I hope you’re having a great day
  • Happy __day, I hope it’s a good one so far!

You can see that all of the first lines written above, are cheerful and welcoming. Go ahead and find ways to add your own twist and style to these greetings so that they represent your voice more clearly.

If the letter you’re creating has a serious tone, put periods at the end of your letters first line, rather than exclamation marks. However, if it’s not an incredibly serious letter or bad news, feel free to add an exclamation mark to the end of your first line.

Once you found a way to set a welcoming town to the beginning of your letter, you’re ready to clarify the purpose of your email.

Get to the Point

Both your colleagues and customers, need to know that you value their time. They shouldn’t have to guess what your email is about or search for information within it. Instead, you should clearly deliver the message to them, and give them every resource they need right at their fingertips.

For example, if you’re writing a business letter to a customer who has questions about their account, you should address their question from every angle. Immediately after your greeting and first line, move forward by telling them the purpose of your email.

You might say, “the reason I’m reaching out to you today, is because you had a question about your account”, and then list their account number. If possible, go ahead and put in a hyperlink that will take the customer directly to their account for convenience.

Next, explain what you understand their question to be, and give them the answer. If you don’t have a resolution to whatever issue your letter is about, let the letter reader know your plan of action.

For example, if you’re telling a colleague within your industry, about an issue, explain what you’re doing to address the issue. if your letter is to a customer helping them resolve a concern or complaint, let them know what action you’re taking on their behalf.

Finally, avoid creating long paragraphs that are difficult for the letter reader to go through. Instead, make each paragraph two to three sentences long. By spacing out the paragraphs, the letter reader will have an easier time accessing the information you need them to have.

Write with Confidence

Learning how to start a business letter, opens up your world with limitless possibilities. When you know how to communicate effectively in a professional setting, you can take your career anywhere you want to go.

We hope that our article will inspire you to make your mark in the world and have your voice heard. For more ways to expand your horizons, check out the rest of this site.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.