There are many functions of a business letter. We discuss here some functions depending on its paragraphs.
Functions of a Business Letter
Functions of Various Paragraphs of a Business Letter
The main function of a business letter is to carry and deliver a message to an intended receiver. Such message is written in the body of a letter and such body is usually short but written in three (3) parts. Each paragraph reflects a particular task i.e.
- The first paragraph states the main idea,
- Second paragraph states supporting details; and
- Third paragraph highlights concluding message.
The functions of each part or paragraph are detailed as follows:
Functions of a business letter (First Paragraph)
The first paragraph presents the main idea and aims to:
- Get the favorable attention
- Indicate what the letter is about
- Set a friendly, courteous tone
- Refer to previous correspondence, if appropriate.
Get Favorable Attention
The beginning paragraph is like a newspaper heading. It must be attractive so that it can catch the reader’s attention and encourage him or her to continue to read the rest of the letter. The first paragraph determines how the reader will react to the letter.
Three (3) typical reactions to letters are positive, negative, and indifferent. Naturally, you want to get a positive reaction.
The reader has a positive reaction to your message whenever he or she is interested and will probably take the action you desire.
- Yes, lam interested in your product.
- Yes, I will attend the seminar.
- Yes, I will provide the information you requested.
- Yes, I will consider your proposal.
The reaction is yes
The reader has a negative reaction when he or she responds in an unenthusiastic way and will probably not take the action you desire.
- No, I am not much interested in your product to buy it.
- No, I would buy later from you.
- No, I am not coming to any meeting that you chair.
The reaction is No
An indifferent response assumes really don’t care what this says posture.
- I’ll just ignore this letter.
- I don’t have enough time to be bothered with this.
- I doubt there is anything new here.
- The reader does not act positively or negatively, neither acts nor reacts to the message.
The reader is indifferent
The objective of the first paragraph is to obtain favorable attention that will gain a positive response from the reader. Make the beginning paragraph work for you to accomplish this objective.
Indicate the Purpose of the Letter;
Let the reader know what the letter is about by getting to the point immediately. Don’t ask the reader to search information throughout the letter. Give the message now to get the positive reaction.
Set the Tone of the Letter;
The first paragraph should set the courteous and friendly tone which will create a positive image towards outsiders.
The introduction of the business letter should be a complete sentence to provide useful information.
Do not use Use
Referring to your letter of 15th Jan, Can you help us to know further?
we want to know more about……….. about……………………..
A better informative opening put the reader on the defensive and help to enjoy the positive response.
Refer to Previous Correspondence
It is helpful to make the reader aware by referring to previous correspondence, or conversation. You can write, “As we agreed in our telephone conversation yesterday ……..” or “I am pleased to provide you the following information requested on January 11.”
To write the first sentence in a letter i.e. to get the proper start is difficult. A useful technique can be to use such mental lead-in,” I Want to tell you that…………….,” and finish the sentence by telling the reader what you want to say. Such mental lead-in will help you to get a good start.
Functions of a business letter (Middle Paragraphs)
Middle paragraph provides answers to the following questions to be made by a reader, such as:
- Why are you telling me this?
- How will it affect me?
- Why was this decision made?
- What do you want me to do?
Therefore such paragraph should maintain two (2) things clearly i.e
(a) Provide Background Information:
Inform the reader in such a way so that he gets clear about the message of the letter and therefore capable of making intelligent evaluation.
(b) Provide Supporting Information
Provide supporting information to answer the why, how, what, who, when or where questions clearly and completely to satisfy the reader.
The first Paragraph “I want to tell you that.”
Supporting and background information
Final Paragraph Closing
Functions of a business letter (Last Paragraph)
The final paragraph is as important as the opening one. Like the first paragraph, the last paragraph should say something. Every host is familiar with the guest who says good night and then sits down to tell one more story or one last joke. Many business writers use the same technique. Everything has been said but, instead of closing the letter, they repeat the message.
The functions of the last paragraph are to:
– request action
– conclude the message
– present a positive company image.
The final paragraph should make it as easy as possible for the reader to take or accept the point of view of the writer. The closing is specific; it gives the time, date, and action desired.
- Merely sign the enclosed card and put it in the mail so that you
- This tells the reader what action to take and how easy it is to take that action.
- Be sure the card is postmarked by November 21 so that you will be eligible rescind your free gift.
- This tells the reader that there is a time limit and presents the information in a positive way.
Conclude the Message:
The last paragraph is the summary of the letter. It emphasizes the action you want this reader to take; it states exactly what you want the reader to do. A direct question provides a good closing because it gives the reader a specific query to consider.
- May we have your answer by the end of the month?
- Will you confirm the date of the meeting?
- Shall we deduct these expenses from your account?
- Provide the reader with direct questions to which a direct response can be made
Present a Positive Company Image:
The last paragraph should be short and friendly, written in the same positive and tone that was used in the first paragraph. The closing paragraph provides for leaving the reader with a feeling of goodwill.
The least effective closings are incomplete ending. Letters should not end with “Hoping to hear from you”, “Thanking you in advance,” “Trusting we shall have your cooperation in the matter.” or “With best wishes, I remain.” These endings are weak, incomplete, outdated, and offer no incentive for action.
Occasionally, if there is just no more to say because the first and middle paragraphs have said it all, a separate closing paragraph may be omitted. All letters need not have at least three sections, an opening, middle, and a closing paragraph. It is essential, however, that all the information required by the reader be included and that the message is complete. An example of a letter that requires no closing paragraph is shown in the following figure.
December 22, 2004.
Mr. and Mrs. Hasan
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hasan.
Today is our anniversary! One year ago. You purchased your RCA video tape recorder from us and we want to recognize this special time with a gift.
Come in and have coffee with us between 10 am and 8.30 p.m. any day during the next two weeks and give us an opportunity to present your gift. It will be our pleasure!
Letters are written to inform, instruct, request, inquiry, remit, order, advise, correct, or question. To accomplish any of these purposes, letters must catch and hold attention. State the case clearly and concisely, establish confidence, and get action.
Each of the paragraphs is a letter has a special task. When each paragraph (first, middle, and last) accomplishes its task, the objectives of the letter are more achieved.
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