International Business Letter Etiquette
Your company has expanded and you now have clients and business associates all over the world. Before you start sending out international business letters, learn more about the etiquette involved in writing them. When written appropriately, your business letters will be easy to read and won't unintentionally offend business associates from other countries.
Though you do have some options for the format of your letter, the block format is most commonly used for businesses letters, according to the Purdue Writing Lab. Block format keeps all lines of the business letter left-justified with a full blank line of space between each paragraph.
Use professional structure for your international business letter. Type out your address at the top of the page followed by the date. Underneath that, type out the full address of the associate to whom you're sending the letter. Avoid using "dear" as your salutation and type the associate's full name instead. For the body of the letter, three separate paragraphs provide the best readability. End the letter with a professional closing, such as "sincerely" or "thank you," followed by your full name.
Avoid colloquialisms and slang in your letter. While someone in your region may understand your word and phrase choices, that's not the case for an international business letter recipient. Even if you're sending your letter to an English-speaking country, the recipient may not know phrases such as "like nobody's business" or "hair of the dog." To ensure that the recipient understands your letter and isn't unintentionally offended, read through and remove any slang terms.
There's a chance that you might have to write your letter in another language. If you're not fluent in the language of your recipient, enlist the help of someone who is. Have her read through your letter and correct any errors. Not only do you want to sound professional in your letter, you also want to avoid offending the recipient by accidentally using an offensive word.
Although it's acceptable to reserve one line of your first body paragraph for pleasantries, such as asking about the recipient's family, it's best to keep the rest of the letter professional. Get right to the point of the letter and avoid getting too personal.
Use international business lingo when writing out your letter to ensure that the recipient understands everything you're proposing. Words like "exporting," "subsidy," "polycentric staffing" and "translation exposure" are all understood internationally. Consult an international business glossary, such as the Global Edge Glossary of International Business Terms or the Wall Street Journal Glossary of Terms in International Business (see Resources).