How to prepare envelopes and letters--the Block, Modified
Block, and AMS letter styles
on letters from the McNeeley School of Business, the MBA program at Texas
Writing Business Letters
On this page, you will
find the format for
On a separate page:
Job search: the letter of
application and follow-up letter
The body of the very simplest request letter is usually only
one or two paragraphs. This is especially true if there is some incentive
for the receiving party to respond to your request in a positive way. An
example of this would be a letter where you are requesting additional information
that might lead to a purchase of merchandise from the company.
In more complex request letters where there is no incentive
for the receiver of your letter to grant your request, your letter will need
to include some persuasive writing. Often the sales letter format,
discussed later, is used for the most complex request letters, such as when
you are asking for monetary donations.
Request letter format
Example of a simple request letter
Example of a more complex request letter
- Opening paragraph: introduce yourself and make your request.
This is usually only one or two sentences.
- After you make your request, give any necessary details to help
the receiver of your letter fully understand what you are asking for. This
is often part of the opening paragraph in simple request letters. In more
complex request letters--especially when you are inserting a couple
persuasive sentences--this could be a paragraph by itself. If you are asking
for more than three items or pieces of information consider using bullets to
clarify your needs.
- Closing paragraph: your "CALL FOR ACTION." Restate your request
giving a date by which you need a response. Make sure you state why you need
the response by this date.
Response to Request/Complaint
General guidelines for answering request letters include:
- Be prompt and courteous
- Be sure that your responses are complete--that they include all needed
- If you are giving
some positive and some negative responses, give the positive responses
first. Try to emphasis what you can do--not what you
The body of the very simplest "good news" letter is often
just two paragraphs. In these letters the "good news" is given in the
opening. Any "call for action" and your marketing statement are put in the
second paragraph. Simple details, such as when a package will be shipped,
can be put either at the end of the first paragraph or the beginning of the
More complex "good news" letters would include
those where conditions must be met in order for the request to be granted,
or those letters where only part of the request can be granted . These letters are usually three
or more paragraphs in length.
"Good News" letter format
- Opening paragraph: tell the good news. In this paragraph you
may want to include a sentence showing appreciation towards the reader. In
letters giving both positive and negative responses to a letter, think about
giving only the positive responses in the
opening--what you can
do. Explain what you can't do at the end of the middle part of the letter.
- Middle: give the details.
Specific details are given in the middle paragraphs of your letter. In only the
very simplest "good news" letters this information can be put at the end of the
- This part of the letter is where you give information about
how the request will be granted, or give the conditions that must be met before
you can grant the request.
- If several questions have been asked, make sure you
answer each question--possibly in separate paragraphs. If your responses to all
questions are positive, answer them in the order asked. If you are giving some
positive and some negative responses, give the positive responses first.
this section telling the reader any requests you cannot satisfy--along with a
reason why. Try to tell the reason why before you tell what you can't do.
- Closing paragraph: your "CALL FOR ACTION." Restate, in
general, any action needed from your reader for you to grant the request. If a
time element is important, give specific dates. Because you are giving a
positive response, you should try to include a marketing statement in your
Example of the simplest "good news" letters
Example of a more complex "good news" letter
Response to Request/Complaint
Don't deliver the bad news in the opening paragraph.
Always try to tell what you CAN do before you
say what you CAN'T do.
Explain the WHY before you deliver the bad news. For many
readers, once they see the NO they don't pay attention to the WHY.
Remember that a major goal is to maintain a positive
relationship with the reader. Do whatever you can to help the reader
understand and accept your message.
- When you are through writing the letter, make sure the message that you cannot grant the request
"Bad News" letter format (usually three or
Example of a
"bad news" letter
- Opening paragraph: show appreciation for the reader, but
don't deliver the "bad news" here. This is your buffer
- Middle: give the reasons why you cannot
grant the request--then deliver the bad news. This is the hard part
of the letter to write. Remember that your
goal is to help the reader understand and accept your decision. Try to state
the refusal in a positive way. Sometimes you can soften the blow by
inferring the bad news and still leave a clear understanding with the
- Closing paragraph. If at all possible, state something you
CAN do for the reader in the closing. In any case, provide the reader with a
suggested action to remedy the situation. Close with a positive statement.
Don't use the "hard sell" or try to bluff the reader.
Think about using bullets if you are giving three or more
qualities or benefits of your product.
Keep in mind that even if this letter doesn't generate an
immediate sale, you are creating goodwill that might pay off down the road.
- As a general rule, if you are going to mention the price do so in the
closing of the letter or after you have built desire for your product.
Sales letter format (not more than 1 page)
Example of a sales letter
- Opening paragraph: get the reader's attention.
If you are not able to get the reader's attention he or she will not read
the rest of the letter.
- Middle paragraphs: build
desire for your product or service. Give believable facts about your
product. Show how the product will satisfy your reader's needs. Reinforce your statements by referring to
endorsements or references. Towards the end of this part of the letter you
might include a sincere statement praising the reader.
- Closing paragraph: CLOSE THE SALE. Make it easy for
your reader to act. Motivate action by giving a benefit for replying within
a definite timeline if that is appropriate.