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The AMA Handbook of Business Letters


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Table of Contents


Preface to the Fourth Edition

PART I. The Basics

Approaching This Book

Approach of This Book

Chapter 1. Planning the Letter

Researching the Facts

Analyzing the Subject and Reader

Knowing Your Objectives and How to Accomplish Them

Chapter 2. Components of an Effective Letter

Language-Clarity Versus Ambiguity


Focus of Attention-The "You Attitude"


Chapter 3. Structure: The Parts of a Letter


Reference Line

Personal or Confidential Note

Inside Address

Attention Note


Subject Line


Complimentary Close

Signature Block

Identification Line

Enclosure and Attachment Notations

Distribution Notation


Chapter 4. Appearance of the Letter



Full Block



Simplified Letter

Official Style

Hanging Indented




Chapter 5. Grammar


Wrong Pronouns

Pronouns and Antecedents

Subject and Verb Agreement

Dangling ModifIers

Split Infinitives

Parallel Structure







PART II. The Letters

Chapter 6. Sales, Marketing, and Public Relations Letters

Letters of Introduction

Sales Letters

Letter Accompanying Renewal Notice

Letter Announcing a Special Presentation

Letter Expressing Appreciation to Customers

Catalog Letters

Sales Inquiry Response

Appointment Requests

Letters of Interest

Letter to Difficult-to-See Prospect

Letter to Find Decision Maker

Letters Confirming Proposals

Follow-Up Sales Call Letters

Letter to Renew Contact

Letter Welcoming New Client

Letter Asking for Referral

Letter Promoting Special Sale

Letter to Wish Existing Customer Holiday Greetings

Letter to Acknowledge Anniversary of a Sales Relationship

Public Relations Letters

Chapter 7. Customer Service Letters

Complaint Resolution Letters

Apology Letters

Letter Acknowledging Order

Letters Correcting Wrong Shipment

Product or Service Information Letters

Thank-You Letters to Customers

Letter to Lapsed Customer

Pricing Letters

Change-in-Location Letters

Project Status Letters

Product-Handling Letter

Letters Announcing Personnel Changes

Subscription Response Letters

Letters to Stockholders

Letter Dealing with Unreasonable Customer

Chapter 8. Credit and Collection Letters

Letter Requesting Commercial Credit

Credit Information Letters

Letters Announcing Credit Policy Change

Returned-Check Letters

Credit Reference Letters

Letter Denying Credit

Letters Granting Credit

Letter Raising Credit Limit

Letter Clearing Disputed Items

Stop-Payment Letter

Collection Letters

Credit-Suspension Letter

Letter Reinstating Credit

Letters Accepting Partial Payment

Letter Acknowledging Payment

Letter About Deposit Due

Letter to Lender to Renegotiate Payment Terms

Letter from Customer About Billing Error

Chapter 9. Letters to Vendors and Suppliers

Letter Dealing with a Request for Proposal

Letters Involved with Presentations

Letters Dealing with Vendor Bids

Letter Placing Order

Letter Requesting Distributor's Name

Letter Seeking Information About Product

Letter Asking About Quantity Discounts

Letters Complimenting Vendors

Letters Clearing Up Billing Errors

Letters Complaining to Vendors

Letter Cancelling Contract

Letter Firing Vendor Because of Economic Conditions

Chapter 10. Personnel Letters

Job Interview Request Letters

Letters Accompanying Resumes

Letter Withdrawing Candidacy for a Position

Letters Responding to Job Applications

Letters Thanking People Who Recommended Applicants

Job-Offer Letters

Letters Accepting or Rejecting Job Offers

Letter Welcoming New Employee

Recommendation Letters

Commendation Letters

Letters About Job Promotions

New-Employee Announcement Letter 1

Letters Requesting and Refusing Raises

No-Longer-With-Us Letters

Letter of Resignation

Letters to Retiring Employees

Letters Regarding Leaves of Absence

Letter Offering Employee a Lesser Position


Termination Letters

Letter Acknowledging Anniversary Date

Letter Announcing Staff Changes

Letter Requesting Mentorship

Farewell Letter to Employee

Chapter 11. Transmittal Letters

Letters Transmitting Payment

Letter Transmitting Contracts

Letters Transmitting Requested Materials

Letter Transmitting Manuscript

Letter Transmitting Manuscript to Reviewer

Letter Transmitting Final Invoice

Chapter 12. Confirmation Letters

Letter Confirming Supplier's Oral Instructions

Letter Confirming Prices and Quantity Discounts

Letter Confirming Arrangements for Speaker

Letter Confirming Appointment

Letter Confirming Travel Plans

Letter Confirming Telephone Conversation

Letters Confirming Receipt of Materials

Chapter 13. Request Letters

Letter Requesting Information About Accommodations

Letter Requesting Information About Seminars

Letter Requesting Assistance

Letters Requesting Return of Material

Letter Requesting Material from Speaker

Letter Requesting Correction on Charge Account

Letter Requesting Reprint of Article

Letter Requesting Subscription Cancellation

Letter Requesting Free Products

Letter Requesting Information About a New Product

Letter Requesting Pricing Information

Chapter 14. Replies

Letter Acknowledging Order

Letter Acknowledging Registration for Conference

Remittance Letter

Response to Request for Clarification

Response to Request for Information About Member of Organization

Letters Responding to Requests for Materials

Letter Replying to a Sales Letter

Letter Responding to a Request for Free Products

Letter Responding to Request for Information About a New Product

Letters Responding to Requests to Be a Speaker

Chapter 15. Permissions Letters

Letters Seeking Permission to Reprint

Letters Indicating More Information Needed for Permission

Letters Granting Permission

Letters Denying Permission

Cover Letter for Contract

Letter Requesting Reversion of Rights

Chapter 16. Social, Personal, and Miscellaneous Letters

Thank-You Letters


Letters Accepting Invitations

Letters Declining Invitations

Letter Expressing Interest in Speaking

Letter Reserving Meeting Facility

Letter Requesting Membership in a Club

Follow-Up Letter to Speech Attendees

Letter Expressing Compliments on an Article

Birthday Greetings Letter

Public Service and Fund-Raising Letters

Letters Declining Requests for Donations

Letter Urging Political Representative to Action

Congratulations-on-New-Position Letters

Letters to Sick Employees, Acquaintances

Condolence Letter

Letter Congratulating Someone on Opening a Business

Letter Announcing Retirement

Part III. Appendixes

Appendix I. Words to Watch

Appendix II. Punctuation


About the Author

JEFFREY L. SEGLIN is director of the communications program and a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School. EDWARD COLEMAN is the English department chair at North Central High School; and was one of fifty-two national Milken Educators honored by the Milken Family Foundation.

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