Quick Guide to Business Letters and Press Releases

In the course of business, you may find yourself responsible for specific types of formal writing. Business letters and press releases are two of the most common types of business writing, so let’s look at how you can write both.

Business Letters

Business letters are used in all types of work-related situations, so you may find that a specific type in your industry is different from others. You may need to write memos, emails, information requests, or reports in letterform, all of which can be different. Still, there are some general guidelines you can use in almost any business letter.

First, since the letter is about business, you should assume that your reader has limited time to spend on your letter. That means that your writing should be concise and get to the point quickly. Try to use the fewest number of paragraphs possible while including all the necessary information. Paragraphs may be shorter than in an academic paper, and you may want to try to stick to a single page when possible.

Next, you need to understand your reader and the tone he or she will expect. A letter to a bank will read differently than one to a coworker you know well, so use a tone that suits your purpose. If you are unsure of the tone, it is cautious to be more formal in your letter, as a casual tone may be perceived as rude.

Business letters generally include the address of the recipient, the writer’s address, and the date at the top, since this is all considered standard information that will help the recipient in future correspondence. After these items, you should include a greeting that matches the tone of the letter.

Do not start a letter to someone you don’t know with “dear,” like you would in a friendly letter. When possible, use a person’s name in the greeting, rather than “To whom it may concern.” You may need to do a little research to find the proper recipient if you are initiating contact. You may use a job title in the greeting if you cannot find a name.

After the greeting, quickly state why you are contacting the recipient, and then include the rest of the message in the body. Business letters need to start with a reason, such as, “I saw the advertisement in the newspaper,” so that the recipient understands why you are contacting him or her.

Close with a salutation. It is polite to thank someone for his or her time or consideration. “Sincerely” is a frequently used in the closing of a letter. Do not end with “love” if you do not know the recipient. Many formal letters have a typed name and signature in the closing, and they often contain other types of contact information, such as an email address or phone number. All of this information is acceptable, but should be spelled out fully and be presented in a professional manner.

Press Releases

A press release may be needed if your business has information to release quickly to the public. Many times, these documents will be sent directly to members of the press, such as the editors of newspapers.

Editors are very busy, and they are always looking for a good story, so you want your press release to be easy to understand and interesting. If the editor is not immediately hooked, he or she will not cover your story. The easiest way to generate interest is by creating an informative and interesting headline. This should explain what the story is about and why it is important.

Your press release should start with the date and city the story references. Next, you will want to start the body with a lead, or hook. This should be a quick informative sentence or two that explains both what the press release is about and why the editor should care. After this, you want to expand on your point with more details.

Make sure the most important information is close to the top of the release before moving on to less important information further in the document. The purpose of a press release is to interest an editor, so you want to make it clear what is happening, why the editor’s audience will care, and why the topic needs to be covered right away.

Keep press releases short, but cover all the main facts that an editor will want to know. These questions will be the “Five W’s:” Who, what, when, where, and why. You should use simple sentences that read well and ensure your text is grammatically correct.

If a newspaper or magazine covers the story, a writer will be assigned to the piece, so your focus should be to present all the facts that a journalist might need to get started on the story. This should include any key people, important facts or figures, target audiences, and sometimes a quote or two from an official that make the story more compelling.

Try to keep a press release shorter than a page, and make it interesting to attract an editor’s attention. Always include contact information for a journalist to reference when beginning the story.