9. Business Letters, Memos, and E-mails – Business Communication, 2nd Edition


Business Letters, Memos, and E-mails


“If he [the person you are replying to] is rude, be specially courteous. If he is muddle-headed, be specially lucid. If he is pig-headed, be patient. If he is helpful, be appreciative. If he convicts you of a mistake, acknowledge it freely and even with gratitude.”


Sir Ernest Gowers


The sales department of Luxor Writing Instruments receives an inquiry from Mr Mukherjee about the availability of a set of Exception Solid Gold Waterman ballpoint and fountain pens. The manager, Mr Sharma, knows that his response to the inquiry is an important first step in securing the order for the highly expensive writing instruments. He carefully considers Mr Mukherjee’s letter of inquiry.

Mr Mukherjee wants to know the availability and the best price at which he can buy the set of pens. As the pens are not readily available, Mr Sharma writes to Mr Mukherjee to ask for some lead time and suggests that he select another set of pens from the wide variety immediately available. He dispatches a copy of the latest product catalogue along with the letter. He also mentions that the price will depend on the product selected, as the discounts ranged from 10 to 20 per cent and varied from product to product. He goes on to suggest that Mr Mukherjee visit one of the exclusive Luxor showrooms to see the full range of products at the location nearest to him and informs him that the full range could also be viewed at the company Web site, www.luxor.in.

Mr Sharma concludes by thanking Mr. Mukherjee for his interest in Luxor’s products and assures him of the company’s best services. His entire effort is to convert the initial inquiry into a sale.


Upon completion of this chapter, you should be able to:

  1. Identify business situations that require writing letters, memos, and e-mails.

  2. Write simple, complete, and persuasive letters and memos.

  3. Know the essentials of good business correspondence.

  4. Plan written communication by first considering the needs, levels, and expectations of readers.

  5. Acquaint yourself with different formats of letters, memos, and e-mails.


Letters, memos, and e-mails are brief pieces of communication. They are so short that most people hardly think it necessary to spend much time planning them before writing. It is common to just jot down one’s thoughts—the basic information needed to communicate. In fact, it is important to be careful when writing letters, memos, and e-mails, because these small pieces of communication are used in less formal contexts. They tend to affect the receiver’s feelings and thoughts with great immediacy and power. Writers should, therefore, consider two questions before writing:

  1. What is the exact message?
  2. How will it affect the receiver? That is, what would be the receiver’s reaction—would he or she be pleased or displeased, interested or not interested? These four kinds of reactions should guide the writer. They determine the sequence of information in letters.

Letters that please the receiver are called good-news letters. Those that neither please nor displease but are received with interest are known as routine letters. Both follow the same sequence of presentation of ideas and have a deductive pattern, which is a direct organization of ideas (Exhibit 9.1).


Exhibit 9.1 Sequence of Presentation of Ideas in Routine and Good-news Letters


Letters and memos are brief pieces of communication. They tend to affect the receiver’s feelings and thoughts with great immediacy and power.

The direct organization of ideas in good-news and routine letters follows human psychology. A pleasant or interesting idea will always hold the receiver’s attention. Hence, good news can be given in the very first sentence, followed by details and the final message.

This basic plan of presenting ideas can be used in many business situations. These situations include:

  1. Routine claim letters and “yes” replies
  2. Routine request letters and “yes” replies
  3. Routine order letters and “yes” replies

Routine Claim Letters and “Yes” Replies

A claim is a demand or request for something to which one has a right. Examples are a refund, payment for damages, a replacement for something defective, exchanges, and so on. A claim letter is, thus, a request for adjustment. When a writer thinks that because of guarantees or other specified terms and conditions, the request for adjustment will be automatically granted without delay or without requiring persuasion, he or she writes the letter in the routine form. When the writer believes that a direct statement of the desired action will get a positive response without arguments, he or she can use the following sequence/ pattern of ideas:

  1. Request action in the opening sentence.
  2. Give reasons supporting the request or action.
  3. End by appreciating or thanking the addressee for taking the action requested.

Identify business situations that require writing letters, memos, and e-mails.

The writer of the claim letter in Exhibit 9.2 obviously thought that his routine request for an exchange would be granted. He, therefore, stated his claim in the very first sentence without any complaints. Similarly, the person replying to a routine claim letter knows that the recipient will be glad to know that his or her request has been granted; therefore, the writer states an expression of willingness in the first sentence of the response. The details and closing sentence follow the opening. This is demonstrated in Exhibit 9.3.


Exhibit 9.2 A Routine Claim Letter


Exhibit 9.3 A “Yes” Reply to a Routine Claim



A copy of How to Communicate Under Pressure is on its way to you. You will not be charged for its mailing.

You should receive it within a few days. Our catalogue for the latest arrivals in Communication Strategies/Studies is also enclosed.



The “yes” reply in Exhibit 9.3 grants the request but the writer does not use the word “grant”. Moreover, there is no reference to the letter being answered as a claim, though these words are often employed for referring to such letters. Phrases such as “your request is granted” or “we are granting your request” may convey to the receiver “we see ourselves as superiors and in a position of power”. Similarly, “we are adjusting your claim” can also suggest “We are responding to your dissatisfaction”. Therefore, words such as “grant” and “claim” are not used in such letters.

The recipient of a claim letter should always try to view the complaint positively. He or she should not be angered by customers, clients, or defective products. Business letters in all situations should be written with politeness and respect for the other party. Negative expressions should be avoided, though it is easy to react sharply when people complain about something one has done, said, or sold. Neither the writer nor the person replying should use expressions of accusation, such as “because of your careless packing, several pieces of the crockery set sent to me are broken” or “I have been cheated by you because the colour of the shirt, which was guaranteed to be fast, has completely faded”.


Business letters in all situations should be written with politeness and respect for the other party.

Instead of using the harsh language used in Exhibit 9.4, the writer can simply state the facts of the situation and the action desired. For example, it is more businesslike to say:

Exhibit 9.4 A Businesslike/Impolite Routine Claim

508, Sector 9

June 18, 2010

Agfa Company
531, Linking Road
Bandra, Mumbai – 400 052

Dear Sir,

I am returning a pair of Rayban sunglasses, which you sent me per my order of June 6, 2010.

You will notice there is a scratch on the right lens. As the lens is guaranteed against imperfections, I am returning it to you.

Will you send me a new pair of sunglasses as soon as you can? The enclosed receipt was packed with the sunglasses when they were mailed to me.

I shall appreciate an early exchange as I am going on a trip to Rajasthan at the end of the month.


Yours truly.


“I have received the sunglasses I ordered from your company. I find that there is a scratch on the right lens; perhaps it happened in transit. I would appreciate an early replacement of the sunglasses as I am going on a trip to Rajasthan at the end of the month.”

Another example of a businesslike claim is,

“I am returning the Easy Knit shirt that I purchased from your shop a week ago. Its colour has faded after washing by machine. The colour was guaranteed as long as the shirt was not exposed to the sun. I request you to exchange it with a new shirt of the same colour.”

The “yes” reply letter in Exhibit 9.5 directly grants the request, reassures the buyer that he made a wise choice when he chose Easy Knit, and goes on to explain how to maintain the product. The reply avoids negative language. Through positive language, the customer is made to see his mistake. The letter also suggests ways to prevent future trouble and finally expresses hope for a continuing relationship by informing the buyer of discount sales. The “yes” letter is carefully written to guarantee customer confidence in the product and full satisfaction in the transaction. The letter has a direct, positive approach.

Exhibit 9.5 A “Yes” Reply to a Businesslike/Impolite Routine Claim


Dear Mr…,

One long-lasting, pink Easy Knit shirt is being sent to you against the one you returned to us. Compared with other shirts, Easy Knit shirts do not normally fade in colour and remain wrinkle-free. But for best results, they must be washed by hand and without using any strong bleach.

Our Special Discount sales catalogue is being mailed to you separately.



Routine Request Letters and “Yes” Replies

Now that we know how routine claim letters and replies to them should be written, let us take a look at routine requests. A letter to, say a vendor, requesting information about a product, should state clearly and completely what information is desired. A request for information should not suggest that the writer wants to place an order. Exhibit 9.6 shows a sample routine request. Exhibit 9.7 shows how a “yes” reply to a routine request should be written.

Exhibit 9.6 A Routine Request Letter


April 30, 2010

Mr Abhishek Chaturvedi

Order Department

MML Electronics Suppliers, Inc.

135 C, Kolkata

Dear Mr Chaturvedi,

Re: Order No. 497; Shipment No. 246032

In our order of April 10, 2010, we included a request for an electron tube X518E. The shipment we received today does not include the tube we ordered but does include a proton tube. Upon checking your catalogue, I discovered that you intend this tube to be a replacement for the tube X518E, which you have discontinued from your product line.

The supervisor of our repair shop, however, says that he cannot use the replacement tube sent by you. Because of this, we are returning this item from the shipment.

Please credit our account for Rs 2,000 for the tube we did not order and have returned.

Sincerely yours,

Ajay Saxena

Administrative Manager

Exhibit 9.7 A “Yes” Reply to a Routine Request


444, New Main Street
Charki Dadri – 120072

April 12, 2002

Ms Sonia Suri
General Manager
Escorts Medical Hospital
Neelam Bata Road
Faridabad, Haryana

Dear Ms Suri,

We will be more than happy to replace the Durafinish tiles in front of the elevators and in the lobby area of Escorts Hospital as you requested in your letter of March 28, 2002.

When we installed the tile (Model 520) in December 2000, we guaranteed the no-fade finish. The tile you selected is imported from Italy and is one of our best-selling products. Recently, the manufacturer added a special sealing compound to the tile, making it more durable.

Our sales representative, Mr Deepak Rai, will call on you in the next few days to inspect the tiles and make arrangements for replacing them, at no additional cost. I appreciate your calling this situation to our attention because we are always eager to know how our products are performing. We guarantee our customers’ full satisfaction.

Sincerely yours,
Mokshit Sharma
cc: Mr Deepak Rai

Routine Orders and Their “Yes” Replies

Routine orders should be explicit and thorough. In addition, they should be very clear about what they expect by giving complete details of the desired product. This includes specifying the time of delivery and the mode of shipment. There should be no ambiguity or chance of confusion or misunderstanding. A sample of a routine order letter is presented in Exhibit 9.8.

Exhibit 9.8 A Routine Order Letter


July 1, 2001

Silvania Office Products

B-27, Lajpat Nagar

New Delhi

Attention: Order Department

Dear Sir,

Please send me the following office supplies as listed and priced in your summer catalogue 91:

8 pkgs


Colour-coded files with heavy manila folders—letter size

4 boxes


Square box-files-capacity 2



Large capacity 3-ring binders—letter size

Please charge these to the Maria Interiors account. I would appreciate quick delivery of these items. Please ship by the fastest freight available.


Akshay Sharma

Office Manager

Since the response to the letter in Exhibit 9.8 is positive, the “yes” response should follow the pattern shown in Exhibit 9.9.


Exhibit 9.9 A “Yes” Reply to a Routine Order


July 12, 2009

Mr Akshay Sharma
Office Manager
Maria Interiors, Inc.
12, Andheri West
Mumbai – 400012

Dear Mr Sharma,

The following items were shipped to you today by Worldwide Express, rush service:

8 pkgs


Colour-coded files with heavy manila folders—letter size



Large capacity 3-ring binders—letter size

Enclosed is the invoice for Rs 4,000, which includes sales tax. Your order for four boxes of square box-files—2 in capacity (D33E – 276) should reach you within 14 days, also by Worldwide Express. Because of the great popularity of these durable, high-capacity hole punchers, they are currently out of stock. A shipment from the supplier is due shortly, and when it arrives, we will fulfil your order immediately.

Thank you for your order, and please let me know if I can be of service in the future. For your convenience, I am enclosing a preview copy of the new catalogue, No. 107, which will be mailed to our customers in early December.


Rajesh Bhatia

Sales Manager



: Catalogue No. 107


: Invoice


Guidelines for a “Yes” Reply

The guidelines a writer needs to follow while drafting a “yes” reply to a routine claim, request, or order are summarized here:

  1. The beginning should state the reason for writing the letter and the main idea.
  2. The middle paragraphs should give details of the good news, reaffirm the guarantee if any, describe the product offered, and explain why the replacement would satisfy the receiver.
  3. The end should draw the reader’s attention to the conditions, if any, attached to the positive response. The letter should close on a positive note of thanks for the original order and hopes for continuing good relations with the buyer.

Guidelines for a “No” Reply

In business, at times we have to say “no”. In some situations, it may not be possible to grant the writer’s request or deliver what he or she has ordered. On such occasions the goal of the person who is responding should be to write a “no” letter inoffensively, while stating facts and giving reasons as convincingly as possible. A refusal is a refusal. It is bound to disappoint the reader. However, the goal is to reduce the negative emotions as much as possible. The writer of a “no” reply cannot convey an unfavourable decision in an unfavourable way if he or she wants to retain the customer’s goodwill. Thus, he or she must be able to write “no” while minimizing the reader’s disappointment. To achieve this objective, the information should be patterned as follows:


The goal of the person writing a “no” reply is to reduce the negative emotions as much as possible. The writer of a “no” reply cannot convey an unfavourable decision in an unfavourable way if he or she wants to retain the customer’s goodwill.

  1. The letter should begin with a paragraph that describes the general situation as the context in which the reader’s request was considered. It should indicate in a neutral or friendly tone the reasons that led to the negative information or a refusal.

    Some possible methods to do this are:

    • Assuring the receiver that his or her matter was considered with great understanding and care.
    • Making the reader believe that it is the circumstances or situation and not the merit of his or her request that is responsible for the “no” response. (For example: “This session, there are more than ten thousand admission requests from your country.”)
    • Agreeing with the reader in some way. (For example: “You are right that the guarantee period is one year.”)
    • Giving a sincere compliment. (For example: “Your CAT score is quite high…”)
    • Showing (without raising false hope) that the possibility of fulfilling the request was there. (For example: “Your plan for opening a business school of international caliber sounds excellent.”)
    • Mentioning good news of interest to the reader. (For example: “The government has passed a bill to open new credit banks for farmers.”)
  2. The “no” letter should give facts and provide reasons and factors for refusal. (For example: “The manufacturer’s instructions have not been strictly followed.”)
  3. The refusal should be mentioned in the same paragraph. It is important not to highlight the refusal. Therefore, no separate paragraph should be given to this negative point; instead, it should just be stated at the end of the paragraph that mentions the reasons for it.
  4. The end of the “no” response seeks to maintain good business relations with the reader by suggesting an alternative course of action or a better deal in the future.


    The aim of indirectly organizing a “no” response letter is to assure the reader that the bad news or the unfavourable decision was arrived at after careful consideration of the total situation and facts that could not be altered by the writer (the decision-maker). The purpose of indirect organization is to ensure that the reader does not believe that the refusal is based on arbitrary, subjective, or personal reasons.

Consider Exhibit 9.10, a letter of refusal written by New India Tile Company to the replacement request. Exhibit 9.7 is a “yes” response to the same request, but the factors involved in making the decision are different in this situation. Hence, the company’s response to replacing the tiles is “no”. The letter seeks to convey the negative message through indirect organization.

Exhibit 9.10 A “No” Reply (to a Routine Request)


444, New Main Street
Charki Dadri – 120072

April 13, 2002

Ms Sonia Suri
General Manager
Escorts Medical Hospital
Neelam-Bata Road
Faridabad, Haryana

Dear Ms Suri,

You are certainly correct that we guarantee our tiles for 20 years after installation. We always stand behind our products when they are used according to the recommendations of the manufacturers and design consultants.

When I received your letter, I immediately studied the sales contract and checked the reports of the design consultant. Our records show that the consultant did explain on December 6, 2000 that Paloma Tile (Model 520) was not recommended for heavy traffic. Although another tile was suggested, you preferred to order the Paloma Tile, and you signed a waiver of guarantee. For your information, I'm enclosing a copy of that page of the contract. Because our recommendation was to use another tile, our usual 20-year guarantee is not in force in this situation.

For your needs, we recommend the Watermark Tile, which is specially sealed to withstand heavy traffic. The Watermark Tile is available in a design that would complement the Paloma Tile that is already in place. Our design consultant, Mr Ramesh Singh, would be happy to visit Escorts Medical Hospital and recommend a floor pattern that could incorporate a new Watermark Tile, without sacrificing the Paloma Tile that does not show wear. Enclosed is a brochure showing the Watermark designs. Mr Singh will call you for an appointment this week, and because you are our customer, we will be happy to schedule prompt service for you.


Mokshit Sharma
Production Installation Manager


: Catalogue No. 107


: Mr Ramesh Singh


Persuasion is used when the writer suspects that the reader will not be interested in the message and the action to be taken. In such a situation, the writer may use the device of startling the reader by informing him or her about something unexpected at the beginning of the letter. This way, the reader is made to see right away why he or she should accept the letter’s proposal. The letter goes on to show how the reader will greatly benefit by taking the suggested action. Such letters, which arouse the reader’s interest and induce him or her to act as directed, are essentially letters that sell ideas to others. They are called persuasive letters. Writing them well requires skillful patterning of information. The persuasive pattern, also known as persuasive organization, involves the following sequence of ideas:


Write simple, complete, and persuasive letters and memos.


Letters that arouse the reader’s interest and induce him or her to act as directed are essentially letters that sell ideas to others. They are called persuasive letters.

  1. The opening sentence in a persuasive business letter (usually sales) catches the reader’s attention by saying one of the following:
    • A startling statement of fact—“Every second, 6 children die of malnutrition in our country.”
    • A remedial measure to a problem—“At last, you can build your own house.”
    • An alarming question—“Would you like to die without providing for the safety of your children and spouse?”
    • A special product, scheme, or plan—“Within the next 14 days you should expect to receive important authorized mail from our sweepstakes manager.”
  2. The middle section of a persuasive letter gives details regarding the product or scheme that is being promoted. This section mainly describes the benefits to the reader. It explains why the reader should accept the proposal.
  3. After arousing the reader’s interest in the proposal, the letter then requests action such as a “yes” response to the proposed request.
  4. The last paragraph acts as a reminder to the reader of the special benefits he or she would gain by acting as urged and requests action within the given deadline.


    Such persuasive sales letters are also known as form letters. They differ from other business letters in the following ways:

  1. They may not be dated: These letters can be used by the company for many months. Therefore, the date of the form letter (sales letter) may not be necessary and relevant.
  2. There may be no personal salutation: The sales letter is not addressed to a specific individual. The receiver’s name is superimposed as a mailing device.


    Dear Friend,

    Dear Reader,

    Dear Valued Customer,

    The opening sets a pleasant tone by saying that the reader is known for his or her interest in the kind of proposal made.

  3. There is usually a postscript message to remind the reader of the action to be taken by the specified deadline or to highlight the benefits or any other important point.
  4. Most persuasive sales letters include some mention of further material to be received by the reader. For example, the box with the word “important” in the sales letter shown in Communication Snapshot 9.1 highlights that two sweepstakes entry cards would be sent in the near future.

Communication Snapshot 9.1 Writing a Persuasive Letter

The focus of the letter in Exhibit 9A is “be advised”. The advice is in bold and is placed at the centre of the letter in an eye-catching position. The letter bears no date. It has no personal salutation. The expression “Dear Valued Customer” establishes a friendly tone at the very outset. It goes on to arouse the reader’s curiosity by stating, “expect to receive important authorized mail”.

The middle paragraph gives details of the reader’s undoubted chance to win the Rs. 1,000,000,00 First Prize. This paragraph uses strategy to hold the reader’s attention and interest by saying, “You already stand ahead of many…”. This paragraph also gives details of how the reader is going to benefit from this message.

In a friendly tone, the writer calls this letter a “pre-disclosure”. It motivates the receiver to act further by disclosing that “You already stand ahead of many…”. The letter does not include the usual “Subscription offer”, “yours sincerely”, and so on. Instead, it ends on a sincere note of advice: “Be sure to reply as instructed”. This sample letter is an actual letter written by the sweepstakes committee of the magazine Pottery Weekly. It is a good example of a persuasive sales letter. The organization, language, and sales strategies followed by the writer persuade and urge the reader to participate in the sweepstakes.

Exhibit 9A The Letter


Dear Valued Customer,

In the next 14 days, expect to receive important authorized mail from Pottery Weekly’s sweepstakes manager. This mail will provide you with details on your current sweepstakes eligibility status.

You should know that as of June 2009, there is no doubt that you are enviably well positioned to have a shot at our Rs. 1,000,000.00 First Prize. You already stand ahead of many who have not been invited to participate in Pottery Weekly’s 2-million-rupee sweepstakes.

Be advised that the sweepstakes documents that are due to arrive at your address have strictly controlled deadlines!

This is why you are entitled to receive this pre-disclosure—to provide you sufficient notice to reply on time. The post office has assured expedient delivery of the package to you.


Please watch out for a red envelope from Pottery Weekly, marked with the same package code as in this letter. It contains two sweepstakes entry cards. Then, reply in strict conformance with the instructions provided therein.

This is the only step required of you to secure your eligibility to enter the 2-million-rupee sweepstakes for your chance to win well over Rs. 1,000,000.00. Please do not discount the vital importance of this pre-disclosure. Be sure to reply as instructed.

Most persuasive sales letters include some mention of further material to be received by the reader.


There is another style of formatting a persuasive form letter, which is shown in Exhibit 9.11. To look more informal, the letter leaves out the salutation completely. It also drops the formal ending “subscription”. Instead, it closes with “best wishes” from the writer of the message.

Exhibit 9.11 An Alternative Style for a Persuasive Letter


Mr P. D. Apte
508, Sector 9
Faridabad, Haryana 121006

31 July 2010


You have been a valued member of the Konnect Cellphone family. As you may be aware, Konnect Cellphone is now a part of Konnect Telecom, one of the largest cellular operators in India and the third largest in the world. We have taken the leadership in launching new and exciting tariff plans in Delhi, thereby making cellular telephony more affordable.

As per the Honourable TRAI ruling dated 25 January 2001, an amount of Rs. 595.36 is refundable against your contract number 00124813301 and mobile phone number 9811071974. This refund is on account of a reduction in license fees. This amount will be refunded to you via an account payee cheque at the address mentioned above.

If you have any queries regarding the same, please feel free to contact us on our toll-free hotline number, 9811398133, and we would be glad to address the same.

Keep smiling!


Joydeep Chatterjee


Joydeep Chaterjee
GM—Customer Services
Konnect Telecom
Nariman Street, Fort,
Mumbai 400001


Persuasive letters partly share the form and intimacy of memos, which are frequently written to persons within the office/organization to communicate routine matters. A memorandum, often referred to as a memo, is a form used by a person known to the receiver personally. Therefore, it is less formal in tone and does not have formal elements such as the salutation, subscription, greeting, or even a signature at the end. It directly states the subject after mentioning the following:


How to Write a Memo

A memo addresses the subject under discussion immediately. It is short and written in a friendly tone. All business messages and information solicit a friendly, cooperative, and positive response from employees, clients, or senior or junior colleagues. For this purpose, the memo writer (manager) should write in a friendly and cooperative tone. A harsh or unfriendly tone will dishearten the reader of the memo and lower morale.


A harsh or unfriendly tone will dishearten the reader of the memo and lower morale.

  • Do not assume that everyone knows everything related to the issue discussed in the memo.

  • Explain the causes of problems or reasons for changes being suggested.

  • Be clear, concrete, and specific.

  • Be pleasant rather than commanding or authoritative. Use you-attitude.

  • Ask for feedback or suggestions.

For example, consider the following memorandum from a works manager to the supervisors under his management:

“Every Saturday morning all supervisors in my plant must meet and report on the clean-up of their individual shop floors. All reports must be submitted by afternoon.”


In this memo, the tone is of distrust and authority. The works manager uses “all” and “must” twice. It shows that he does not consider any of his supervisors responsible. The use of “must” indicates that he doubts their sense of duty. The manager can direct his supervisors without doubting their sense of duty. Further, the memo is vaguely worded. The reader will not know which Saturday the meetings begin and when they are to be held—morning is a long period of time and is not specific. In addition, questions such where the meetings are to be held are not addressed. No reference of place is made. Again, afternoon is a vague deadline. The manager should indicate the specific time by which the reports are due. Finally, the phrase “clean-up” does not completely convey all that is to be considered while inspecting the work. Such vagueness should be avoided by observing the following principles of writing memos:

In the case discussed here, show how the supervisors would benefit from the proposed change. Explain the need to hold a Saturday supervision meeting to discuss and report on the clean-up of the shop floors. Ask for feedback. It is necessary to know supervisors’ ideas on the monitoring and reporting of the clean-up. If they are invited to give their views, they will have sense of participation and involvement in the decision-making and execution processes.

Uses of a Memo

The various functions of memorandums are given in Exhibit 9.12.


Exhibit 9.12 Functions of a Memorandum

Function Example
To provide information I attended the meeting of the executive committee. The main points discussed were…
To issue an instruction Staff members are requested to attend the orientation session to be held in the conference room at 11 a.m. today.
To convey a policy decision The executive committee has decided to pay one day’s salary for working on a Saturday.
To offer suggestions I think in-house training should be a regular feature for all cadres.
To record/report an agreement During the meeting held on August 5, it was decided that buy 3 LCD projectors.


A memorandum acts as a permanent record of whatever is communicated.

As a written record of business decisions, policies, institutions, and so on, a memorandum acts as a permanent record of whatever is communicated. Therefore, it should be written with great care and skill.

The two versions of the memo in Exhibit 9.13 show the difference in the effectiveness of a well-written memo and a poorly written one. The revised memo is specific and friendly in tone. It gives adequate details and explains why the change is needed and how it would help the engineers.

Exhibit 9.13 Ineffective and Effective Sample Memos

Part A: The Original Memo


May 12, 2008

To: Lab Personnel

From: Sushil Kumar

Subject: Final Report Requirements

Beginning Monday, December 19, all our final test reports must indicate:

  1. Test results

  2. Dimensions in metric terms

  3. Photos in proper order—also identify each one on its reverse

  4. The distribution list

  5. Write the report immediately after the test

  6. Be sure all terms are spelled correctly

  7. Complete formulas

Part B: The Revised Memo



May 12, 2008

To: Laboratory D-66 Personnel

From: Sushil Kumar, Supervisor

Subject: Final Test Report Requirements

I’ve received some requests for changes in our test reports from the chemical engineers who use them. Therefore, beginning Monday, December 19, all final test reports must include the following:

  1. Full test results at each stage of the testing process

  2. Dimensions stated in metric terms

  3. Photos in proper order and each identified on its reverse

  4. The distribution list

  5. Correctly spelt terms

  6. Full formulas

Please write your reports immediately after completing the test while the data are fresh in your mind. I'm sure with these minor adjustments in report style, we can give the engineers what they need.


Businessmen and women do not have time to read long letters and messages. They want to know facts, results, and important details. Therefore, business letters should provide only what is essential in the shortest space. The key is to keep to the point and be simple.


Know the essentials of good business correspondence.

Simplicity, clarity, and conciseness are interrelated concepts. “Simple”, according to The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1998), means, “(1) understood or done easily and without difficulty (2) not complicated or elaborate; plain (3) not compound or complex (4) absolute, unqualified, straightforward.” Most writers want their written communication to be simple in all the four senses. In fact, clarity and conciseness result from simplicity.


Simplicity in writing essentially means plainness and saying exactly what one means. The writer should not bring in irrelevant details or information. Instead he or she should be straightforward and choose just one word instead of many whenever possible. Unnecessary adjectives and adverbs should be avoided. Qualifiers, adjectives, adverbs, and other unnecessary words often creep in without the writer realizing their presence. It is commonly believed that to be clear, the writer should be elaborate and repetitive, using several words with the same meaning. However, this creates clutter in writing instead of providing clarity. The key to writing simply, clearly, and concisely is to tighten the writing. Hence, while writing business letters, memos, or reports, one should choose one from among several nearly identical possible words and only use those that convey the message exactly. This basic principle of choosing one word carefully is usually called the principle of “unity”—the unity of thought and expression. This basic principle is discussed here:


Simplicity in writing essentially means plainness.

  • One main subject in one letter: Practical wisdom tells us if we have to write about two different subjects to the same company, department, or office at the same time, we should write two letters discussing each subject separately. Why? Two separate subjects placed together may adversely affect each other’s importance. The two subjects may belong to two different sections and after taking action on one of the subjects, the department may just file the letter, resulting in the other subject being forgotten.


Only when two subjects are related and are to be considered for action by the same person, should they be discussed in the same letter. In all other situations, it is better to write separate letters.

  • One thought in one sentence: Each sentence should be formed so that it contains a single, complete thought. Complicated (complex and compound) sentences are confusing in a business letter. For example, compare the following sentences:

    Complicated: The benefits that he derived from his early training were soon lost and he began to do things as he was accustomed to doing them.

    Simple: The benefits of his early training were soon lost. He started doing things in his usual way.

  • One idea in one paragraph: Each paragraph should open with a sentence that summarizes the central idea of the paragraph. The sentences that follow should support, illustrate, and develop the thought by providing additional information.


Each paragraph should open with a sentence that summarizes the central idea of the paragraph.


The clarity of a business letter is two-fold:

  1. Clarity of message: Ideas should be logically sequenced in a coherent way.
  2. Clarity of form: Presentation of matter, format, paragraph divisions, layout, margins, and spacing between the lines should be done neatly. The letter should appear well organized and properly formatted.


It is best to be “short”. This means writing short letters, choosing short words, forming short paragraphs, and constructing short sentences. The goal is to give only relevant information in the fewest possible words.

Besides simplicity, clarity, and conciseness, there are many other issues that need to be kept in mind while writing business letters and memos. These are discussed here.

Standard and Neutral Language

Writers of business letters should use standard, neutral language and should avoid jargon, technical terms, and slang. They should also eliminate hackneyed and old-fashioned expressions from their writing.


Writers should keep in mind the point of view of their readers (customers and clients). All writing is for a specific reader, and it is at his or her level that the letter or correspondence should be written. In addition, the writer should know his or her readers’ expectations, fears, beliefs, and feelings about the matter at hand. The writer should be able to visualize the readers’ reaction to the message before writing.

Sincerity and Tone

The writer’s tone and sincerity reflect his or her personality. These two aspects of a letter or memo are important to convince readers that the writer really means what he or she is saying. The tone of the letter should reflect the writer’s personality. Today, good writers believe that a business letter should be characterized by confidence, directness, enthusiasm, and humanity.

  • Confidence: Before writing a letter, the writer should have complete information on the subject and should be certain about the facts that will be discussed. If the writer is definite about what he or she is saying, the letter will not be evasive or vaguely worded with indirect expressions and passive verbs. Passive verbs are weak. They convey withdrawal in the writer’s subconscious mind. In contrast, active verbs are strong. Expressions such as “it is recommended that” (I recommend), “it was considered that” (I considered), “it was felt that” (I feel), “it is an indication of” (it indicates), “conducted a survey of” (surveyed) show hesitation and should be replaced with their active forms, which show directness and confidence.


    Passive verbs are weak. They convey withdrawal in the writer’s subconscious mind. In contrast, active verbs are strong.

  • Directness: Directness in letters results from confidence. One’s letters should not only say what is intended, but should say so in a straightforward and courteous manner. However, while directness is desirable, one should not be abrupt.
  • Enthusiasm: The writer should be enthusiastic in his or her sincerity. The letter should make the reader feel that the writer is genuinely interested in him or her. This cannot be done by just saying something like “Believe me I am really interested in solving your problem.” Instead, the writer must choose words that show interest in the reader.
  • Humanity: Business letters are generally written in a stiff, formal, and mechanical manner. They often lack personal warmth and the feeling of speaking to another living being. To counter this, writers should use the personal pronouns “we”, “I”, “you”, “he”, “she”, and “they”. These give a personal touch to business letters. For achieving the right tone, the letter and other forms of business correspondence should be written in a simple, formal, and friendly way. Remember that criticizing or apologizing should be done carefully, as should complimenting.


    Write your letters in short and simple sentences. Use simple, familiar and short words. Avoid abstract words. Choose verbs that express forceful action.


In business correspondence, specially a letter or memo, ideas must be placed in order of their importance. The main idea must be stated at the beginning. Even in the case of a sentence or paragraph, the rule is to place the main idea first. Position reflects importance. Emphasis can be indicated also by repetition, use of punctuation, and the mechanical devices of using bold letters or underlining.


Plan written communication by first considering the needs, levels, and expectations of readers.

Planning, Writing, and Revising: The Three Steps of Successful Writing

The writers of letters and other forms of business communications are advised to follow the three steps of successful writing to communicate clearly and accurately: (1) planning, (2) writing, and (3) rewriting (revising).

  • Planning: Writing a letter or memo is a one-way communication exercise. The words written on the page are all that convey the message. The reader does not have other non-verbal means to interpret the message. Usually, the reader is not in a position to immediately clarify something that is unclear. For example, suppose you write a letter to the Hill View Resort to make arrangements for a business meeting and lunch three days before the event. You would need to give complete information about everything the manager would need to know before making arrangements for the meeting and lunch. This includes the number of persons, the time, duration, and size of the conference, the hall desired, the number of collar microphones needed, the seating plan, the duration of the meeting, the kind of food needed, the number of vegetarians and non-vegetarians, the beverages and snacks required, and so on.

    Hence, to write a complete and short letter, plan before writing it. In addition, it is generally helpful to write a draft first.

    The writers should always consider:

    • The reader
    • The purpose of writing
    • The situation (context)

      These three elements determine the choice of the letter’s/memo’s/report’s content, organization, and format.

  • Rewriting and revising: Writing is a mode of thinking. Rewriting or revising what has been written or dictated is a mode of improved thinking. Revising the first draft is not just useful for fixing grammatical errors. It is also an attempt to check if the writer has been able to say what was intended in the best manner possible. Revision is, therefore, a process of clarifying ideas, meanings, and purpose. It involves eliminating clutter that hides the writer’s true intentions.


Revision is a process of clarifying ideas, meanings, and purpose. It involves eliminating clutter that hides the writer’s true intentions.

Very few of people are capable of expressing themselves accurately in the first draft. This is not due to poor command of the language. It is related to the process of accurate thinking. Writing is an act of transcribing ideas into words. The transcription will be accurate only when the thinking is accurate. Each revision sharpens the writer’s thinking and thereby helps tighten his or her expression to a close transcription of what is in his or her mind.

How rewriting changes the thinking and message of a manager from verbiage to intent, eliminating wordiness, correcting the tone, and revising the policy itself can be explained with the help of the example discussed in Communication Snapshot 9.2.

Communication Snapshot 9.2 Redrafting a Memo

The management of Excel Corporation is concerned about the misuse of office telephones by its employees. In the past few months, expenses have soared because employees have been using their desk phones to call friends and relatives. In fact, employees have been making outstation calls for personal conversations. Lisa Christopher, the head of administration, drafts a memo (Exhibit 9B) to stop employees from misusing their office telephones, which has cost the company a lot of money and employee time.

Exhibit 9B The Original Memo


To: All employees

From: Lisa Christopher, Head, Administration

Subject: Misuse of office telephones

We have noticed that, in the past few months, the company’s expenses have been soaring because employees have been misusing their desk phones. Office telephones are being used for personal communication.

The use of office telephones for personal calls is against company policy. Employees are advised to use their desk telephones (and other office phones) for official purposes only. The use of office phones for personal calls must stop with immediate effect. The management will take strict action against anyone who is found guilty of misusing office telephones, and their employment may be terminated.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any queries about the issue.

Lisa Christopher

Before signing the memo, Lisa reads it a few times. She wonders if she will be able to change the behaviour of the employees by writing such a stern memo. She revises the memo a couple of times, until it is in the final form. The redrafted memo is shown in Exhibit 9C.

Exhibit 9C The Revised Memo


To: All employees

From: Lisa Christopher, Head, Administration

Subject: Misuse of office telephones

In view of the soaring administrative costs, we have revised our policy on the use of office telephones. So far, our policy has been to discourage the use of office telephones for personal purposes because of the costs involved. We realize that this may not be a convenient solution, so employees can now use office telephones for personal calls by paying for each call.

The details of charges for local and outstation calls have been put up on the notice board.

Lisa Christopher

The revised memo is certainly better. The writing is simplified, the wordiness is removed, the tone of the memo is made courteous, and the revised policy is clearly stated. In short, the purpose is exactly and effectively communicated.

If you very carefully compare the first and final versions of Lisa’s memo, you will discover a basic change in her thinking on the use of office phones. Lisa had first considered the use of phones for personal matters to be misuse of office phones (see the subject line of the memo). Now, she treats it as regular use of phones. This psychological shift in Lisa’s perspective has improved the tone of her memo and her attitude towards other employees in the company, who now become part of “we”. Her tone now is free of harshness and the threat of termination.

Work out the changes in Lisa’s mind as she moves from a poor first draft to a final revision that has simplicity, brevity, courtesy, and the you-attitude. Notice the following steps in Lisa’s process of revising and reaching the final draft, which are part of all successful revisions.

  • Focusing on intent

  • Eliminating wordiness

  • Correcting the tone

  • Revising the policy itself

For realizing how rewriting sharpens thinking and changes both content and form, you should trace each one of the above changes in the two memos. This exercise will improve the effectiveness of your written business communication.


The appearance of business letters should be impressive. The stationery should be of quality that speaks to the status of the company and the individual writing the letter. The layout should be neat, with proper margins on all sides. The text should be carefully positioned on the letterhead. In addition, there should be a sufficient margin (at least half an inch) on the left side to allow for binding or filing. The typeface should be attractive and easy to read. Proper line spacing (double spacing instead of single) helps readability.


Acquaint yourself with different formats of letters, memos, and e-mails.

Business-letter Styles

A business organization usually selects one of the following formats for its business letters:

  1. The full-block style
  2. The semi-block style
  3. The simplified style

Usually, the full-block style is preferred. It is convenient to set left-hand margins for paragraphs and other parts of the letter, such as the date, address, salutation, text, close, signature, and notations. It also looks simple and clear. Every line begins at the same distance from the left margin, which results in each paragraph looking like a distinct block. The convention of open punctuation further simplifies the use of the full-block style. Earlier, the address, salutation, and closing followed close punctuation and used a comma after each line and a full stop at the end. The full-block style has a disadvantage when following close punctuation, as it looks heavy on the left side. However, the trend now is to leave the choice of open or close punctuation to the writer, as long as the writer is consistent with his or her choice.

In the semi-block style, the beginning of the paragraph is not left aligned; only the lines are left aligned. The first line of each paragraph is indented. The date, closing, signature, name, and title are indented to the right half of the page.

In the simplified style, the letter has neither a salutation nor a closing. A subject line takes the place of the salutation. All lines begin from the left margin. Exhibit 9.14 illustrates each of these styles.


Exhibit 9.14 Business Letter Styles

Part A: The Full-block Style

Part B: The Semi-block Style

Part C: The Simplified Style


In the simplified style, the letter neither has a salutation nor a closing. A subject line takes the place of the salutation.

A business organization can use any of the styles, but it should use a consistent format for all business correspondence.

Layout and Formatting Guidelines

The following are a few guidelines regarding the layout and formatting of various elements of a business letter:

  • The attention line: The attention line should be placed between the inside address and the salutation. It is no longer necessary in business letters. When used, it is generally found in letters addressed to the company as a whole, to draw the attention of a particular person to the matter discussed in the letter.
  • The subject line: The subject line is positioned between the salutation and the inside address or the first line of the letter. For instance:

    Dear Ms Ray,

    Subject: Order No. 4567

  • The date line: The month should be spelled out and the date placed one double space beneath the letterhead. The date line should be typed at the left margin in the full-block or simplified style. Place it at the centre if the semi-block style is used. There is no need for a comma between the month and year. One can separate the date from the year by using a comma as in June 21, 2003.
  • The second page of a letter: The second page of a letter is usually plain and without the letterhead. Therefore the heading should come after leaving approximately six lines of space from the top. The heading should mention the addressee, page number, and date. This is done so that the second page is identified as a continuation of the first. The heading can be written in one of these ways:
    1. Mrs S. Uberoi –––– 2–––– July 9, 2003
    2. Mrs S. Uberoi, July 9, 2003, page 2
    3. Mrs S. Uberoi

      July 9, 2003

      Page 2


      The first heading style is the simplest. The same form should be followed for subsequent pages, if any.

  • The letterhead: If printed stationery is not available, white paper sized 8½” × 11” should be used and the company’s name and address should be typed and centred at the top of the page.
  • The envelope: The block form is best for the address. The standard official size for an envelope is 9½” × 4⅛”, which is used for standard sheets and letters that include an enclosure. The commercial size envelope, 6½” × 3⅝”, is used for letters typed on pages smaller than the standard size.
  • Punctuation: Choose either open or mixed punctuation. In open punctuation, there is no punctuation after the date, lines of the inside address, salutation, and closing. Mixed punctuation also drops this punctuation except when a colon or comma is used after the salutation.

E-mail is the most commonly used mode of interaction among executives and departments, and between a company and its customers, clients, distributors, retailers, suppliers, and vendors. It is the quickest channel of written communication. Any amount of information, documents, pictures, and so on, can be sent to the recipients as attachments.

Receiver’s E-mail Account

For e-mail connectivity, one needs to have just the e-mail address of the intended receiver. Many persons have more than one e-mail account—an official account and a personal account. Therefore, the sender of the e-mail should know which address is appropriate to use. In addition, one has to be careful in typing the address. For example, in the address mukesh. chaturvedi@bimtech.ac.in, if there is any mistake, say an extra space, a spelling error, or a missing dot, the mail would not be delivered.

Subject Line

In an e-mail, the subject line is the first thing that is noticed by the receiver. Therefore, it should be composed as precisely as possible. The writer needs to carefully work out the wording of the subject line so that the title and context are clear and the reader gets the gist of the message. Examples of good subject lines are “Visit postponed to next Monday” and “Annual report to be ready this Saturday”.

Sending Copies

The sender may need to send a copy of the e-mail to several persons at the same time. This is generally simpler if group e-mail IDs are provided. For example, if a company has internal group IDs set up, then by writing “marketing” in the “To” line, an e-mail can be sent to all the people in the marketing department. Usually, this is an internal facility. In external e-mails, the e-mail addresses of all intended receivers are listed in the “Cc” line. A “blind carbon copy” of the e-mail can also be sent to one or more persons without the knowledge of other receivers, by entering their addresses in the “Bcc” line. However, caution should be exercised in marking blind carbon copies as this can lead to difficult situations. For example, if the sender marks a copy to a person without the knowledge of the receiver and the person marked in the “Bcc” field hits “Reply All” in response to that mail, it places the sender in a difficult spot.

An e-mail is like a memo that needs neither a salutation nor a closing subscription. However, if the two persons are communicating for the first time and do not know each other personally, the sender may indicate a favourable disposition towards the receiver by being friendly. Exhibit 9.15 shows an example of a short, friendly, and clear e-mail written by a famous Bollywood actor and youth icon in response to an invitation from a business school.


Exhibit 9.15 A Short, Clear E-mail


Communication Snapshot 9.3 shows a series of e-mails between the COO of Time Industries and one of his former employees.


The following is a summary of the broad guidelines that need to be followed while writing business letters, memos, and e-mails:

  • Consider the readers’ (receivers’) needs and expectations.
  • Understand the purpose for writing the message and the total context in which it is being written.
  • Put essential information first.
  • State each point clearly and directly.
  • Use conventional formats.
  • Be courteous.

Communication Snapshot 9.3 A Series of E-mails

The style of the e-mail in Exhibit 9D is businesslike, formal, and brief, but not brusque. It is written with conversational ease, in a pleasant tone. The closing sentence reassures Abhinav that the issues he raised in his e-mail (Exhibit 9E) would be addressed.


Exhibit 9D Harish’s E-mail to Abhinav



Exhibit 9E Abhinav’s Original Message to Harish



An e-mail should be written the way we talk. This makes the writing vivid. It should read like the sender (writer) and the receiver (reader) are conversing face-to-face. Exhibit 9F is an example of a conversational style of writing an e-mail; it is from Chris Chacko to Abhinav in response to Abhinav’s e-mail (Exhibit 9G).


Exhibit 9F Chris’s Message to Abhinav


Exhibit 9G Abhinav’s Original E-mail to Chris


The opening phrase of Chris’s e-mail in Exhibit 9F, “Hi Abhinav”, sets an amiable tone. Further, the use of passive voice does not allow him to sound accusatory. In addition, Chris shares the chain of his thoughts in a candid manner with Abhinav. Chris’s e-mail is written in a style that makes the official communication between a senior executive and a junior business manager more like a personal chat.

In fact, the success and popularity of e-mail in the world of global business is partly because e-mail has the speediness of a telephone conversation and the crispness of a well-written memo.

  • This chapter showed that the ability to communicate information in a simple, clear, concise, and precise written form is of great value for a successful manager and for the smooth functioning of his or her organization.
  • It is extremely important to plan ahead before writing, as this is essential for achieving clarity of thought and expression. The writer must know his or her audience and purpose and choose the correct words and the appropriate tone to write effectively.
  • Revision is also essential to the writing process as it helps the writer clarify or reconsider his or her thoughts.
  • There are various types of routine, good-news, and persuasive letters, which all require a certain organization, tone, and content.
  • E-mails have become popular in business communication because they combine the speed of telephone conversations with the crispness of a well-written memo.

In businesses, it is important to write tactful letters that promote good customer relations. This is particularly true for letters that refuse the customer’s request for whatever reason, because these letters should try to retain the customer’s goodwill. The writer should believe that the customer is king and that the customer is always right. Examine the following letter with this perspective and answer questions given at the end of it:


Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 23rd, with a cheque for Rs 25,000 on account, is to hand.

We note what you say regarding the difficulty you experienced in collecting your outstanding accounts, but we are compelled to remark that we do not think you are treating us with the consideration we have a right to expect.

It is true that small remittances have been forwarded from time to time, but the debit balance against you has been steadily increasing during the past twelve months until it now stands at the considerable total of Rs 85,000.

Having regard to the many years during which you have been a customer of this house and the generally satisfactory character of your account, we are reluctant to resort to harsh measures.

We must, however, insist that the existing balance be cleared by regular installments of say Rs 10,000 per month, and the first installment should reach us by the 7 April. Meanwhile, you shall need to pay cash for all further goods; we are allowing you an extra 3 per cent discount in lieu of credit.

We shall be glad to hear from you about this arrangement, as otherwise we shall have no alternative but to close your account and place the matter in other hands.


Yours truly,

Questions to Answer

  1. Comment on the appropriateness of the sender’s tone to a customer.
  2. Point out the old-fashioned phrases and expressions.
  3. Rewrite the letter according to the principles of effective writing in business.
  1. Discuss the organization and pattern of ideas in “yes” letters.
  2. Analyse the pattern of “no” letters. Give ideas on how to organize these letters.
  3. What is the basic outline of a persuasive letter? Justify the structure of ideas in a persuasive letter.
  4. What strategies can be used to de-emphasize a refusal to a customer?
  5. How does a memo differ from a letter?
  6. Mention three important characteristics of written communication that you would like to achieve in your letters and memos.
  7. Bring out the basic relationship between clarity of thought and clarity of writing.
  8. What causes wordiness in business letters? Give examples of wordiness and provide the concise forms.
  9. Should a business letter necessarily be written in a formal and impersonal style? Discuss your viewpoint clearly.
  10. “Many business letters don't produce immediate and/or discernible results.” Give reasons for their ineffectiveness.
  1. Formal, stiff letters, written in ceremonious language are a thing of the past in modern business transactions. Discuss whether this is true.
  2. “Most letters written in the course of business are important to the writer as well as the reader.” Show how this is the case.
  3. Writing marketing and sales letters offers challenges to the writer. Discuss some of these challenges.
  1. “Last week, I paid my balance in full with a personal cheque. However, the enclosed statement shows a current balance of Rs 300. Will you please correct my account balance to the correct figure—zero?” Write a “no” response to this letter explaining why the request cannot be granted.
  2. Comment on each of the following sentences:
    1. “Yes, we appreciate the reasoning behind your letter.” (As an opening sentence.)
    2. “Our policy is always to refuse such requests. We are sorry your request, therefore, is refused.”

From the given options please choose the most appropriate answer:*

  1. Business letters produce immediate effect because they are:
    1. brief
    2. formal
    3. informal
    4. interesting
  2. Letters that please the receiver are called:
    1. good-news letters
    2. routine letters
    3. invitation letters
    4. “yes” letters
  3. The purpose of a “no” response letter is to leave the reader with:
    1. no future hope
    2. minimum disappointment
    3. unpleasant feelings
    4. reasons for the rejection of the request
  4. Form letters are also known as:
    1. persuasive sales letters
    2. bad news letters
    3. formal letters
    4. circular letters
  5. A memorandum (memo) is considered a brief form of written communication for:
    1. internal use
    2. formal use
    3. external use
    4. legal use
  6. Simplicity in writing means essentially:
    1. the use of simple words
    2. the use of simple sentences
    3. the use of simple tense
    4. plainness
  7. Writing a letter with “you-attitude” means writing:
    1. from the point of view of the writer
    2. from the point of view of the reader
    3. from the point of view of other persons not concerned
    4. using the word “you” repeatedly
  8. Good business letters are characterized by the following personal quality of the writer:
    1. sincerity
    2. seriousness
    3. humour
    4. formality
  9. The simplified style business letter has:
    1. a salutation
    2. a complimentary close
    3. a subject line
    4. indentation
  10. Modern business letters are usually written in:
    1. full-block style
    2. semi-block style
    3. indented style
    4. simplified style