Businesses are of numerous types. They may be big or small, old or new, local or national, public or private, proprietary or partnership, monopolistic or competitive and manufacturing or service units.
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Nevertheless, by and large, all these businesses have certain common concerns and approaches within any given business environment. They deal with people internally as well as externally. They have their stakeholders in owners, employees, customers and the community.
Businesses are also organized into various functional areas such as personnel, marketing, sales, purchase, accounts, and administration and secretarial. Business letters are of a wide variety and emanate from all these sources.
Similarly, people who deal with these businesses also correspond with all these departments at some stage or other. To be able to correspond effectively with all these departments under various business situations, one has to familiarize oneself with various types of letters and their features.
Although the general principles of good letter writing discussed earlier hold good, the approach will have to vary depending upon the functional area to which the letter relates.
When we refer to various types of business letters and their replies, we are covering letters that move both ways, i.e., letters from business organizations to various other agencies as well as individuals and other agencies to business organizations.
Some common areas of business correspondence or the specific types of letters with which a business letter writer should be well versed are as follows:
1. From the Purchase Department:
1. Calling for quotations for products and services
2 Inviting tenders for jobs and supplies
3. Asking for samples and drawings
4. Placing test orders
5. Placing orders
6. Status enquiries
7. Technical bids and commercial bids
When we refer to tenders, quotations and orders it must be emphasized that there are financial implications. The subject matter and the details of the quotation, tender or order have to be specifically and clearly stated such that there is no ambiguity.
2. From the Sales/Marketing Department:
1. Sales letter
2. Circular letters
3. Preparation of sales letters with the conditions of sale on the reverse.
4. Preparation of market survey reports
5. Reports from salesperson to sales executives
6. Offer of discounts and business concessions
7. Launch of a new product or scheme
8. Mailing of company literature
9. Letter of acknowledgement
In this category, there are two types of business letters. One set relates to the letters emanating from within the sales departments, or from salespersons and marketing personnel in the field to other departments or to their own executives.
The other set of letters relates to letters written by people in sales and marketing to people outside the organization— customers, prospects, agents and distributors and other agencies. It is the latter category that needs particular attention.
Letters to the customers and prospects either substitute or supplement personal contacts and as such can make or mar the business promotion efforts. They carry the image of the organization and the people behind the letters. Sales letters should also be elegant and appealing. The presentation should be such that it elicits the attention of the addressee.
3. From the Accounts Department:
1. Dues and collection letters to various agencies and customers
2. Follow-up letters
3. Correspondence with banks
4. Opening/closing of accounts
5. Regarding overdrafts, cash credit and current accounts
6. Stop payment instructions
7. Request for issue of letters of credit (LCs)
8. Protest for wrongful dishonouring of cheques
9. Letters relating to interest payments and service charges
10. Complaint letters covering wrong credits and debits and delays in realization of instruments
11. Correspondence with insurance companies regarding payment of premium, renewal of policies, claims and settlements
12. Correspondence with agencies like the Telephone Department, Post and Telegraph authorities, the Provident Fund Office, Income Tax Office and Commercial Tax Department
By their very nature, these types of business letters should be accurate, brief, simple and to the point. In particular, letters relating to collection of dues and recovery of money need to be drafted with a keen sense of understanding and sensitivity.
Such letters should necessarily vary in terms of terseness or intensity and choice of words depending upon the nature of dues, age of dues and other such relevant factors. Some of them have to be polite, some persuasive and some firm.
4. From the Personnel Department:
1. Calling candidates for written tests 2 Interview call letters
3. Offer of appointment
4. Provisional and final appointment orders
5. Confirmation in service
6. Changes in emoluments
7. Disciplinary matters—show cause notices, charge sheets, calling for explanation, discharge, other punishments and letters of dismissal
8. Leave and travel sanctions
9. Training programs and deputation
10. Letters of reference
When we refer to personnel department letters or employee-related letters, we are indeed discussing a very wide variety of letters. These letters may be general or specific, routine or special, pleasant or unpleasant.
Letters from HRD department are normally pleasant or otherwise motivating and training related, whereas letters from the Industrial Relations Department or from the Disciplinary Authority are normally of the none-too-pleasant category.
These two are obviously widely different in nature and the letter writer must use the appropriate language and approach. While HRD and training-related letters should carry a positive, encouraging and developmental stance, disciplinary letters will have to carry an authoritarian and even a legal or procedural approach. It is necessary to acquire adequate familiarity with the terms and ensure that there are no inadvertent inadequacies in the letter.
5. From the Administration and Secretarial Departments:
1. Change in management
2 Changes in business hours
3. Opening and shifting of branches and offices
4. Invitations and public notices
5. Correspondence with directors and shareholders
6. Agenda and minutes of company meetings
7. Correspondence with shareholders and debenture holders pertaining to dividend and interest payments, transfer and transmission of shares
8. Correspondence with agents and transport companies
9. Representations to trade associations, chambers of commerce and public authorities
10. Letter seeking appointments/personal interviews Correspondence relating to directors and shareholders and matters concerning company meetings, especially in listed companies and larger organizations are often handled by qualified company secretaries.
The point to be noted here is that such correspondence is generally specialized in nature and will have to be attended in a systematic and organized manner. The business letter writer keen on acquiring such letter-writing skills will have to necessarily understand secretarial functions.
6. Other Types of Business Communication:
1. Job applications
2. Preparation of biodata and curriculum vitae
3. Export- and import-related correspondence
4. Preparation of bill of exchange, promissory note and hundi
5. Telegraphic and fax messages
6. Mild and strong appeals
7. Correspondence with foreign institutions and agencies
8. Advertisements of various types—newspapers and print media, hoardings and banners
9. Press releases
10. Questionnaires and opinion polls
11. Legal correspondence
12. Publicity literature such as brochures and booklets
13. Newsletters and house journals
14. Preparation of charts, graphs and stickers
7. Letters of Social Significance:
1. Social letters in business
2 Inviting a guest
3. Congratulatory letters on achievements
4. Letters that say ‘Thank you’
5. Letters of appreciation
6. Accepting or declining invitations
7. Condolence letters
8. Letter of introduction
9. Goodwill messages
We have generally listed in the foregoing paragraphs various types of letters and correspondence that emanate from a business on a regular basis. While most of it is routine involving primary level of writing, /there are some, as we have noted, which call for specialized and cultivated skills.
The objective in listing various types of letters from different departments and functional areas is to give an idea of the expanse of business communication. Like in other areas, in letter writing too, conscious efforts and willingness to learn are a must. A good business letter writer has to appreciate the essential characteristics of each such letter and develop relevant skills.
Instead of providing drafts or models of various types of business letters, we have thought it appropriate to present a fairly comprehensive list of business letters for all occasions.
We have also highlighted the significant features and principles to be borne in mind while drafting some letters such as orders and quotations, sales letters, and collection and recovery letters. Models tend to inhibit learning.
Skills are acquired through attentive learning, application and practice. We are also giving in the following paragraphs some more useful tips or guidelines that should help in developing letter-writing skills.
Notwithstanding the routine nature of most business correspondence, it is possible, and indeed desirable, to develop variety and style in writing the letters. Letters must have certain intensity or depth depending upon the situation, and it is not possible to bring out such variations in one or two ‘draft models.’
Students and practitioners desirous of improving their skills in letter writing are advised to practice drafting a variety of such letters, i.e., letters for all occasions, taking note of the following additional guidelines and compare them with standard drafts or models available from authentic sources as confidence-building measures.