Writing Business Letters

This pathfinder is designed for people looking for guidelines to write a business-related letter. This may include letters written at the workplace and personal letters written to businesspeople (such as a letter to the landlord). Both print resources and web resources are included.

Getting Started

If you know you need to write a letter and are not sure how to do it or what to say, a few of these resources may give you some ideas on both form and content.

Print resources

There are several books that discuss several different types of letters in one volume, with examples for each one. Some provide tips and templates; some even give phrases and words that may be useful. The following may be found at your public library or at

Useful call numbers

Library of Congress: HF 5383, HF 5717-5746
DDC: 383, 384, 652

The 100 Most Difficult Business Letters You’ll Ever Have to Write, Fax, or E-Mail : Clear Guidance on How to Write Your Way Out of the Toughest Problems You’ll Ever Face by Bernard Heller. Booklist calls it “a good starting point“.

For both personal and business letters, try The Only Personal Letter Book You’ll Ever Need by Judi Barton. This book includes letters both for personal and professonal occasions, with chapters on: Apologies, Complaints, Introductions/References, Employment, Letters to Builders and Landlords, Requests for Information, and more.
Round Lake Publishing, 474 p.
ISBN: 0929543432

The following books are similar to the above, with tips and samples:
Great Letters for Every Occasion by Rosalie Maggio
Prentice Hall, 568 p.
ISBN: 0735200815
Includes a chapter on email.

Everyday Letters for All Occasions by Jack Maguire
Berkley Books, 288 p.
ISBN: 0425150194
Includes resumes.

For letters of intent, try The Grant Application Writer’s Handbook by Liane Reif-Lehrer.
Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 472 p.
ISBN: 0867208740

For cover letters, check out the classic Cover Letters that Knock ‘Em Dead by Martin John Yate. It explains the purpose of the cover letter, what to include, what not to include, how it should look, and lots of examples. It’s been called the “paint-by-numbers” approach to cover letters.
Adams Media Corporation, 262 p.
ISBN: 1558508163

Internet Sources

Most of the internet sources are samples, tips, or some combination thereof, of what to include in a letter. Look at the samples if you want to get ideas for format of the letter.

200 Free Cover Letters for Job Hunters
This site gives a wide variety of sample letters relating to looking for a job, changing jobs, asking for a raise, or resigning from a job.

Business Letters “Business letters from is a collection of 240 professionally written business letters…” There are free samples, and more letters can be downloaded for a fee.

Letters of Intent

Universities and researchers may create letters of intent to apply for funding for academic projects:

Foundation Center: What should be included in a letter of inquiry?
Information on and samples of letters of intent to secure funding for research from The Foundation Center.

Letters of Resignation

Turning in your Resignation
This page is a very basic template one can follow to write a generic letter of resignation. It’s a good starting place, especially if you’ve never written a letter of resignation before and you don’t mind if you letter is pretty generic.

Customer Complaints

Sample Complaint Letter
This helpful sample letter highlights various components of a complaint letter, and is part of a larger guide to How to Complain.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are not just for high school students going on to college! (Although useful tips for them are found here, too.) As an employer or an employee, it is important to know the kind of information that goes into a good recommendation, as you may ask for such a letter or be asked to write such a letter at some time.

This page is most suitable for a graduate student applicant who wants recommendations from professors.
The Letters of Rec, Too?!?!?!?
This web page gives tips for the kinds of things to include on a letter of recommendation, as well as what not to include.

Guidelines for Writing Letters of Recommendation
This page includes suggestions for what should be in the opening, body, and closing of a letter of recommendation. There is also a sample letter.

Similar to the above:

Letters of Reference
These tips come from the University of South Dakota Anthropology department.

How to ask for a reference:
Sample Reference Request Letter
A sample reference request letter provided by Boston College.


American Communication Association
The American Communication Association is devoted to studying the theory and principles of human communication.

You may also wish to see Employment Resources

This pathfinder was created by Laura K. T. Stokes