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Letters to companies are formal letters in which you need to follow certain rules and conventions. As a student there are several kinds of letters that you might write to companies: to make arrangements, to confirm arrangements, to thank someone for a service or to apply for a job. The most important letters you will write are job application letters. On this page we offer you some general advice on writing letters to companies and some specific advice on job application letters.


Online practice

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General rules

Whenever you write a letter to a company you should bear these points in mind:

  • Avoid informal language but do not use old-fashioned or over-formal language
  • Be polite but do not be humble
  • Be brief but make sure you make your point clearly

Business people are busy and do not appreciate unnecessarily long letters. Most business letters are less than one A4 page long. If you need a second page for your letter, you should think about whether you can say want you want to say using less words.

There are also some things that you must do in every letter to a company:

  • Include your address and the date. You may also include your telephone, fax and email address
  • Include the receiver's name (if you know it), job title and address
  • Make sure the receiver knows who you are and why you are writing
  • Sign your letter and make sure the receiver can read your name

Formats for business letters vary a great deal. Look at the models and resources in this module for examples of acceptable formats.


Parts of a letter

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Job application cover letters


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Job advertisements usually ask you to send a resume or fill in an application form. They do not necessarily ask for an application letter, but every job application should be accompanied by a cover letter. The cover letter has one main purpose: to get you an interview. The way to achieve that purpose is:

  • To let the employer get to know you as an individual
  • To let the employer know what benefits you can offer the company

If you worked through our section on resumes, you may remember reading about features and benefits. Your application letter is the place to translate the features of your career into benefits for the employer you are applying to.



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An application letter should tell the employer four things:

  • The position you are applying for and how you found out about it.
  • Why you believe you are suitable for the position.
  • Why you are interested in the position
  • When you are available for interview

Your application letter should also highlight the most relevant points in your resume.


Functions of a cover letter

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Language and style

The current advice on application letters is to 'sell yourself'. However, the most difficult part about writing application letters is to sell yourself without sounding too pushy or big-headed. The way to do this is to make sure that your interest in the position and the benefits you can offer are supported by evidence of achievements in your resume. Here are some other tips:

  • Show that you know something about the company, but do not try to flatter or exaggerate your interest in the job.
  • Base your interest in the job on achievements and activities described in your CV.
  • Avoid using adjectives to describe the company. They already know they are the best in the field.
  • If you have the required qualifications, mention them in the letter.If the job description asks for a person with certain qualities, try to show that you have those qualities indirectly through evidence from your resume. Avoid using adjectives to describe yourself.
  • Don't exaggerate your talents. Refer to evidence of your talents in your resume.
  • Emphasise benefits to the company, not benefits to you.
  • Don't tell the employer what to think or state conditions for accepting the position.
  • Don't repeat yourself.
  • Be sure to spell-check and proof-read your letter carefully.


This module is adapted from materials written by English Centre Staff for the Resume and Interview Skills in English (RISE) course.


Language and style

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