In a nutshell, a personal letter is written from an individual to an individual, while a personal business letter may be written by an individual to a business. Consumers, supporters or everyday folks often reach out to businesses to express interest in a service, concerns about a product, satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the company or for any number of appropriate reasons. These letters should follow a formal-letter style. Why? For one reason, the businessperson to whom you address your letter will take it more seriously if it is written at least somewhat formally, and it's just plain old good manners to address a businessperson in a more official fashion.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A personal business letter is written by an individual to a business.
Rules of a Personal Business Letter
When writing to friends or family, you can be informal or more casual, but when composing a personal business letter, it is wise to do so in a more formal letter-writing style. Your letter doesn't have to be perfect, but it should at least show a good balance of personal and professional writing etiquette. Typically, a personal business letter is short and to the point. After all, the business world is a busy place. So, avoid long, wordy, run-on sentences, leave out unnecessary details and attempt to write no more than four sentences per paragraph. If you're writing a personal business letter, try to complete it in a maximum of three paragraphs.
Expressing Satisfaction or Dissatisfaction
Who hasn't received above-and-beyond service from an employee of a company and wanted to let the person's boss know how impressed you were? On the other hand, we occasionally receive flat-out rude or unacceptable service and may want to alert the owner about the matter in writing. After all, one bad employee can hurt a company in short order if the problem goes undetected.
Expressing a Concern
It's not uncommon to have a worrisome experience with a product. Maybe a newly purchased bottle of your favorite organic beard oil smelled unusually funky or made you break out in a rash. Letting the company know about your experience alerts them to an issue about which they may not be aware.
If a food product made you ill, on the other hand, it would be wise to alert the company and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service by phone or online rather than allowing time to pass (and other people to possibly be affected) as you compose a letter and send it via the postal service.
Complaining About a Product or Service
A quick phone call can often resolve a problem with shoddy work or a defective item. If not, however, it is best to continue the conversation in writing with a personal business letter or email. That way, you have your complaint on record. In your letter, state what you want done and a reasonable time frame for the company to resolve the issue before you'll pursue legal action. Include supporting documents, such as a warranty.
No matter how upset you may be, keep your tone professional and nonthreatening as you work through any difficult issue with an addressee.
Requesting More Information
A personal business letter may also be written by someone who wants more information about a purchase they plan to make. Perhaps you are comparing air-conditioning units and can't find the details you want on a company's website. In your letter, you could ask for the information you need and see if they could send a catalog or pamphlet with pertinent details too.
Sometimes, you may want to try a new product, such as a moisturizer, before you buy it. In this case, you would write a personal business letter explaining your interest in the item and requesting a sample of it if available.
Personal Business Letter Format
Essentially, a personal business letter is formatted similar to the way that other business letters are formatted – but without a letterhead – in about eight parts:
- Your full mailing address (without your name) along the left margin.
- The date on the left. Leave a bit of space below the date for neatness. If you're typing the letter, hit the enter button four times.
- The addressee's name, title and mailing address on the left, followed by a double space if typed.
- Salutation (example: Dear Mr. Biz Ness). If you don't know the name of the person you're addressing, write a general salutation such as "Dear sir or madam" followed by a double space.
- Body of the letter (the "meat" or important details and the reason you're writing the letter), where you introduce yourself and tell the reader why you're contacting him or what information you're requesting. Double space between paragraphs and at the end.
- A complimentary close, such as "Thank you" or "Sincerely" along the left margin, followed by four blank spaces.
Your full name along the left margin. Sign your name within the blank space between the complimentary close and your printed name whether you're typing the letter or composing the letter by hand.
8. If you're adding any supporting materials to the letter, write "enclosures" below your name and, if you like, list what they are, such as "documents."
Try to center the complete letter between the top and bottom of the page for a neat, professional appearance.
Personal Business Letter Example
When you write a personal business letter, remember to maintain a polite tone, be precise and get your point across in as few words as possible:
Dear Ms. Entre Preneur,
I recently purchased a Meep-Meep scooter, which was supposed to include a complimentary helmet as advertised on your website. The scooter arrived on the specified delivery date of May 14th but without the helmet.
Please send me the helmet as soon as possible – I'm excited to start riding!
(Your full name)
Enclosure (1 copy of delivery receipt)
What a Personal Business Letter Is Not
There are times when writing a personal business letter is the wrong way to handle a situation:
- If you have reason to believe a company is involved in illegal activity, such as scamming its consumers, breaking privacy policies or committing fraud or abuse, do not contact them by any means. In such cases, visit the Federal Trade Commission website to file a report.
- If you're asking a company for donations for a charity, the type of letter you would compose is not called a personal business letter but rather a fundraising letter.
- A letter written after some sort of communication with a company, such as a job interview, is called a follow-up letter.
- If you plan to quit your job, you'd write a letter of resignation.
Final Considerations for Personal Business Letters
Letter styles come in multiple types, but the personal business letter format is the one individuals often use to reach out to businesses. Whether you're concerned about a product or service, delighted with a purchase or need more information from a company for any appropriate reason, compose your personal business letter as politely and concisely as you can.
Being polite and following the eight steps of business-letter writing gives your correspondence a professional edge, helping to expedite a response from the addressee.
- Key Differences: Difference Between Formal and Informal Letter
- Business Writing Institute: Business Writing Training: 8 Parts of a Personal Business Letter
- Newoldstamp: How to Write a Personal Business Letter to Reach Your Goals and Show Your Expertise
- Federal Trade Commission: How to Write an Effective Complaint Letter