Hello again! In our last meeting, we learned about some common phrases in standard business letter and certain guidelines for a business letter. This time we are going to learn more about it.
We all know that the correspondence that comes out of a government office is the public face that an organization presents to its users and to other organizations. Since we want to present the best possible face to other bodies and to people with whom we deal with, it is important to ensure that our office correspondence is of a high quality. We can achieve this high quality by keeping three things: the layout (or formatting), the logical sequence of ideas, and reader-friendly language. This article will deal with the first aspect: the layout. The information is organized in the order in which we should write a business letter. After that, we will learn more about the format and font in business letters.
As we know that different organizations have different format requirements for their professional communication, and so does our Ministry of Finance (MOF). The Regulation of the Minister of Finance No.151/PMK.01/2010 is the guidance for MOF official documents and correspondence in Indonesian language. The examples provided here in this article contain common elements for the basic business letter (genre expectations). The examples here, which were taken from some units in MOF, are merely guides for correspondence in English.
So, here we go now first with the parts of business letters. These, starting from the top, are as follows:
This is the file number for the letter. Our Ministry of Finance has certain guidance for external correspondence stated in the Regulation of the Minister of Finance No.151/PMK.01/2010 concerning general guidelines for Pedoman Tata Naskah Dinas Kementerian Keuangan.
The sender’s address is usually included in letterhead. In our Ministry of Finance, all formal letters use letterhead. But if we are not using letterhead, we can include the sender’s address at the top of the letter one line above the date. It is not necessary to write the sender’s name or title here, as it is included in the letter’s closing. Sender’s address only includes the street address, city, and zip code.
The date line is used to indicate the date the letter was written. Usually we use the American date format for English business letters. (The US-based convention for formatting a date puts the month before the day, for example: June 11, 2012.) Write out the month, day and year two lines from the top of the page. Depending which format we are using for our letter, either left justify the date or tab to the center point and type the date.
The inside address is the recipient’s address. It is always best to write to a specific individual at the institution or unit to which we are writing. If we do not have the person’s name, do some research by calling the institution or speaking with employees from that unit. Include a personal title such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. Follow a woman’s preference in being addressed as Miss, Mrs., or Ms. If we are unsure of a woman’s preference in being addressed, use Ms. If there is a possibility that the person to whom we are writing is a Dr. or has some other title, use that title. Usually, people will not mind being addressed by a higher title than they actually possess. To write the address, use the MOF format. For international addresses, type the name of the country in all-capital letters on the last line. The inside address begins one line below the sender’s address or one line below the date. It should be left justified, no matter which format we are using.
Use the same name as the inside address, including the personal title. If we know the person and typically address them by their first name, it is acceptable to use only the first name in the salutation (for example: Dear Misail:). In all other cases, however, use the personal title and full name followed by a colon. Leave one line blank after the salutation.
If we don’t know a reader’s gender, use a nonsexist salutation, such as “To Whom It May Concern.” It is also acceptable to use the full name in a salutation if we cannot determine gender. For example, we might write Dear Dr. Eka Setya: if we were unsure of Eka’s gender.
A Subject Heading
This subject heading is optional in English correspondence.
For block and modified block formats, single space and left justify each paragraph within the body of the letter. Leave a blank line between each paragraph. When we write a business letter, we must be careful to remember that conciseness is very important. In the first paragraph, consider a friendly opening and then a statement of the main point. The next paragraph should begin justifying the importance of the main point. In the next few paragraphs, continue justification with background information and supporting details. The closing paragraph should restate the purpose of the letter and, in some cases, request some type of action.
The closing begins at the same horizontal point as our date and one line after the last body paragraph. We should remember to capitalize the first word only (for example: Thank you) and leave four lines between the closing and the sender’s name for a signature. If a colon follows the salutation, a comma should follow the closing; otherwise, there is no punctuation after the closing.
This is the part that must not be forgotten in any business correspondence, along with the official stamp.
If we have enclosed any documents along with the letter, such as a resume, we indicate this simply by typing Enclosures one line below the closing (this will be different from the Regulation of the Minister of Finance No.151/PMK.01/2010). As an option, we may list the name of each document we are including in the envelope. For instance, if we have included many documents and need to ensure that the recipient is aware of each document, it may be a good idea to list the names.
The following is one example that illustrates the layout of business letter:
INDONESIAN MINISTRY OF FINANCE
Finance Education and Training Agency
General Finance Affairs Training Center
Jl. Pancoran Timur II No. 1 Jakarta 12780
Our Ref: S-…/PP.7/2012
Mr. Joseph Powell
1000 KR Crescent
Dear Mr. Powell:
Re: Second Meeting of Curriculum Development for ESP Customs
I invite you or your delegate to attend the above meeting.
This is a follow-up meeting to the first we had earlier last month in Tangerang. The details of the next meeting are as follows.
Time : 10.00 am to 1.00 pm
Date : February 20, 2012
Venue : 1st floor Meeting Room
PKU Main Building
Jl. Pancoran Timur II No. 1 Jakarta
What we hope to do at this meeting is to discuss further the draft of the curriculum for ESP Customs training developed by our widyaiswara (trainer) and ways of implementing some decisions that we reached at the earlier meeting.
Please let me know whether you are coming to the meeting or sending a delegate in your place.
Head of Planning and Development Division
Direct Line: 021-7996109
Encl: Draft of Curriculum.
We have seen the parts of business letters; now let us move on with other related things to formatting. When writing business letters, we must pay special attention to the format and font used. Here are the details.
The most commonly used format is known as block format. Using this format, the entire letter is made justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.
Another widely utilized format is known as modified block format. In this type, the body of the letter and the sender’s and recipient’s addresses are left justified and single-spaced. However, for the date and closing, tab to the center point and begin to type.
The final style is semi-block. It is much like the modified block style except that each paragraph is indented instead of left justified.
Most of our computers are equipped with Microsoft Office 2007, it don’t take much of the guesswork out of formatting business letters.
Another important factor in the readability of a letter is the font. The generally and internationally accepted font is Times New Roman, size 12, although other fonts such as Arial may be used, like in The Regulation of the Minister of Finance No.151/PMK.01/2010, which necessitates us to use Arial size 7, 9, 11, and 13 (with computer) or Pica (with typewriter). When choosing a font, always consider our audience. If we are writing to a conservative organization or company, we may want to use Times New Roman. However, if we are writing to a more liberal organization/company and less formal, we can stick to our own regulation.
Now look at the following sample to see the format of the letter:
Jakarta, February 20, 2012
To Whom It May Concern:
I am pleased to write for Anissa Kurniasari, who has applied to your university to take a master degree. She has worked under my supervision for one and a half years.
In October 2010, she started working as a government employee of Finance Education and Training Agency, Ministry of Finance (BPPK). In BPPK, she works as a staff in Training Implementation Division at General Finance Affairs Training Center in Jakarta.
I pressure that she is an excellent government employee. She also has excellent written and verbal communication skills. In addition, she is a well organized and responsible person. She has great leadership qualities. She is able to work, both independently and as part of a team.
As a staff in Training Implementation Division, Kurniasari is responsible for putting the training programs into effect according to the procedure and the definite plan. She astutely organizes training implementation, starting from preparing training implementation until the training take place. She carefully manages practical administrative arrangements, diligently prepares the facilities and classrooms, meticulously monitors teaching delivery in classrooms by trainers, and provides the first report to her supervisor regarding the progress in training implementation. In addition, she establishes rapport with participants by encouraging informal conversation and listening to their needs, comments and feedback. As one of the most dedicated employees, she is able to meet even the most demanding challenge during training implementation and always on time providing responses. She is also able to organize her colleagues and get them to perform the scheduled task on time. She has so many superb ideas for improvement of training programs.
Her intelligent, willingness, and ability to learn and perseverance will serve her well serve her well in post graduate study. For this reason I would like to consider that her studying a higher education will benefit to our institution, and will be to the advantages of the many as well. I encourage you to look favorably up application.
Head of Training Implementation Division
The above letter uses Arial size 11, and the format is block type, i.e. justified (well if you don’t see it justified, it’s because I can’t adjust it in WordPress) and single spaced yet double-spaced between paragraphs.
That is all for now. In the next edition, we will continue with the other two aspects of high-quality correspondence. See you later!
Grammar Check. 2011. Tips for Writing a Basic Business Letter. Diakses 20 Desember 2011 dari http://www.grammarcheck.me/2011/04/tips-for-writing-a-basic-business-letter/
Peraturan Menteri Keuangan Nomor 15/PMK.01/2010 tentang Pedoman Tata Naskah Dinas Kementerian Keuangan.
Stern, George. 2003. Learner’s Companion Series Writing in English: An Invaluable Guide to Effective Writing. Singapore: Learners Publishing Pte. Ltd.
The Writing Lab & the OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. 2011. Writing the Basic Business Letter. Diakses 20 Desember 2011 dari http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/653/01/