Writing a Business Letter (and emails)

A business-English activity

Here's a bit of a plan to get you started writing your letters and emails. Start out by watching some Youtube videos on the topic. I've added some notes to help you out with the videos, but don't forget to turn on the subtitles. Further down I've got a few letter writing prompts, but contact your English teacher for more if you need them. Below that, I will have loads of vocabulary to help you out with your letters.

 Activity set by Steven Starry - Profesor en Alcorcón
Please let me know at: if you see any mistakes. Mention: "Writing a Business Letter (and emails)" in your email.

How to Write a Business Letter (after 3 minutes).
(Remember to click on CC to see subtitles in the Youtube videos.

(Everything is typed on the left side of the page. This is American letter writing style. According to this style, the date in the sample letter on the right is on the wrong side.)

Your address, phone number and email address on left
Skip a line
Person you are writing to
Address, etc.
Skip a line
To Whom It May Concern:
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name: (it's best to try to get a name to write to even if you have to call).
Skip a line
Paragraph: Why are you writing?
Skip a line
Paragraph: Develop your ideas.
Skip a line
Paragraph: Where can you be reached?
Skip a line
Paragraph: Thank the person and conclude.
Skip a line
Sincerely, (British style: "Yours faithfully" to strangers; Best wishes or Kind regards if you know them.)
Skip 4 lines for Signature
Type your name
Enclosed (if something is enclosed in an envelope), Attached (if something is attached to an email.)

How to Write a Formal Letter for IELTS

Writing Letters: formal & informal English

Formal vs Informal
No contractions vs Contractions
No Idioms vs Idioms
Latin-based or academic words vs phrasal verbs
intelligent vs smart
Longer elaborate sentences vs imperatives
formal vs informal choice of adverbs
really vs strongly
furthermore vs on top of it
TV vs television
No ! vs !
many, much vs a lot

Other letter writing worksheets:

And there are so many more videos on Youtube!

Some phrases and sentences that have parts that are somewhat frequent in letters:

Business Letters 1

  • I will forward your email to the complaints department in accordance with company policy.
    in accordance with – (conforme a, de acuerdo con) in a way that agrees with or follows something, such as a rule or request
  • Your payment is due on the first of next month.
    due – (pendiente) a time by when money must be paid
  • With regard to that proposal, I think we should postpone it for now.
    with regard to – (con respecto a) with reference to something
  • I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company.
    to enquire (about, if) – (informarse sobre) to ask somebody for some information
  • I am writing to confirm my appointment with you made over the phone the other day.
    to confirm – (confirmar) to make a position, an agreement, etc. more definite or official; to establish somebody/something firmly
  • I am writing to you regarding the advertised position of waiter.
    regarding – (respecto a) about something, with regard to.
  • Do you need any help with the report detailing the incident at the supplier’s?
    to detail something – (detallar) to give full information about.
  • Could you take a quick look at this report and let me know if/whether it’s OK to email it to the customer or not?
    to take a look at – (echar un vistazo a) to look at something, especially in an informal manner.
  • Could you get back to me about that incident right away?
    to get back to someone about something - (reanudar o responder a) to continue talking with someone at a later time about something.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.
    to hesitate – (vacilar) to pause in indecision before saying or doing something
  • Some police officers are questioning the employees in connection with the fatal accident.
    in connection with – (en relación con) with reference to; concerning.
  • This is just a quick note to let you know that if an invoice is not paid within seven days, we automatically send out a reminder.
    a reminder - (recordatorio) a letter or note informing somebody that they have not done something
  • Could you give me a rough estimate of how much this will cost?
    to give a rough estimate – (dar una estimación aproximada) a judgement that you make without having the exact details about amount of something
  • I think you had better sort this problem out or you may be dismissed from your post.
    to sort something out (with somebody) - (organizar algo con éxito) to organize something successfully
  • I hope you will keep in touch.
    to keep in touch – (mantenerse in contacto) to continue to stay in contact with somebody.
  • I would like to apply for the post in Human Resources advertised in the classifieds on 1 October.
    to apply for – (presentarse a una oferta de empleo) to make a formal request for something

  • Practice this vocabulary: Business letters 1

    Business Letters 2

  • I have spoken to the person in question and he has assured me that he was acting in accordance with procedure.
    in question – (en cuestión, dicha, de que se trata) being considered or discussed.
  • With reference to your email dated 12 September, I am pleased to inform you of our decision to accept your offer.
    with reference to – (con referencia a, en relación con) with regard to, with respect to.
  • Following our meeting yesterday, this email is to confirm that the written reprimand has been deleted from your record given the vast improvement in your punctuality and attendance over the past six months.
    is to confirm – (tiene como objeto confirmar) to validate
  • If you’re having problems, I could arrange a suitable time for you to talk to Mr. Smith on the phone.
    to arrange a suitable time for – (fijar una hora adecuada) to plan for a convenient time
  • I attach a recent CV outlining my experience.
    outlining – (destacando) to summarize, to give the main features or aspects of
  • I am delighted to announce that we will soon be commencing operations in your area.
    delighted – (encantado) highly pleased
  • I expect to see a handwritten apology for your persistent absenteeism (and further details on your intention to improve) on my desk by closing time or else you can expect to see much more than just a written warning.
    to expect – (exigir) to regard something as likely to happen, to demand.
  • We take customer complaints about the breakfast buffet very seriously.
    complaint – (queja, reclamación) a statement that something is unsatisfactory or unacceptable.
  • The victim’s family claimed $1,000,000 in damages after the accident.
    to claim – (reclamar) to demand money
  • This letter is to inform you, my solicitor, of my decision to sue those responsible for the fraud.
    to sue – (demandar, poner pleito a) to initiate a lawsuit or legal proceeding against someone
  • Could I leave the last part of the report to you to finish? I’d appreciate it.
    to leave something to someone – (dejar algo a alguien) to give something to someone
  • Not only does he lack sufficient qualifications for this job, but whenever I talk to him, he always comes back with something insulting.
    to come back to somebody with something – (contraacusar) to reply to something, often in a rudely disrespectful (snarky) or irritable way.

  • Practice this vocabulary: Business letters 2

    Business Letters 3

  • The witnesses claimed they saw the defendant running away from the scene of the crime.
    to claim – (afirmar, acusar) to accuse, to affirm.
  • We regret to inform you of our Manager’s decision that henceforth we will not be needing your services any longer. We apologize if this has caused you any inconvenience.
    We regret to inform you – (lamentamos informarle) used when you are giving someone bad news
  • Yes, I see your point. Let me double-check that and get back with you.
    to see or get someone’s point – (entender el punto de vista de alguien) to comprehend the meaning that someone is trying to convey.
  • Due to your persistent disregard and neglect of your duties I have been forced to make a formal complaint to the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
    to make a complaint – (presentar una queja o denuncia) – to express your dissatisfaction with something.
  • If I can be of any help, please let me know, the sooner the better.
    the sooner the better – (cuanto antes major) as soon as possible
  • If you require any further details on the Smith deal, please let me know. I’ll be happy to provide you with the information.
    details – (información) information
  • I apologize for not replying sooner. I had taken on too much work and fallen behind. I am just now catching up.
    apologize – (pedir perdon) to say you are sorry.
  • Could you get the Smith letter, read it over and copy it to me?
    to copy something to somebody – (mandar una copia de algo por correo electrónico a alguien) – to send a copy of something via email to someone.
  • We are pleased to inform you that your email address was chosen for 1st prize in the MadridTeacher Lotto. (Note: This is a fake example, so don’t email me.)
    to be pleased to inform someone – (estar complacido en informar a alguien) – a way of announcing good news
  • I’m looking forward to seeing you again in October when you visit our plant in Madrid.
    to look forward to – (estar desoso de algo) – to await eagerly.
  • I am unable to get a hold of your Human Resources Director. I was wondering if you could help me.
    to get a hold of – (conseguir comunicarse con alguien) to find or manage to contact.
  • Please, give my regards to your colleagues. It was a pleasure working with all of you last week.
    give my regards to – (saludos de mi parte a, dale recuerdos a) say hello to someone for me
  • Please, disregard my last email and feel free to delete it. I made a mistake and emailed it to the wrong address.
    to disregard – (ignorer) ignore
  • Practice this vocabulary: Business letters 3

    Creative business letter writing ideas:

    Write a text based on one of these basic prompts and email it to your English teacher: Respond to a classified ad, write a letter of application for a job, request information, request permission for something, invite someone to a workshop or seminar, invite former clients to return, complain to a supplier, reply to a complaint.

    Informal Email - Write two emails/letters based on these prompts:

    You, John, write an informal letter to a friend, Michael, inviting him to go on a one-month Interrail trip with you in a couple of months during the summer holidays. Your parents have offered to pay for up to 1,500 euros of the trip if you find a friend who will accompany you. Ask for suggestions for what to do and where to go. Keep everything to between 140 and 190 words.

    You, Michael, have just received a letter from your friend John. Read it and write your own informal letter back answering his questions. Keep everything to between 140 and 190 words.

    After you write yours, have a look at mine: A couple of informal letters/emails. Did you get any fresh perspectives?

    Any textbook will have more prompts, so if these prompts aren't enough for you, ask your teacher for more.

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