Business Letters

Order Letters

An order letter, also known as a purchase order or PO, begins the paper trail of a specific purchase. The objective is to provide the vendor with detailed instructions for fulfilling an order. It also serves as a legal record of the transaction and, consequently, should be written with care.

Your intentions need to be clear and concise. Attention to detail is crucial. The reader will fill your order only according to your instructions; your satisfaction will depend largely upon their accuracy.

The scope should include only the information needed to fulfill the order. The vendor does not need to know why you are placing the order, what it is going to be used for or for whom it is intended. The vendor only needs to know when you expect delivery and how you intend to pay the bill.

Identify Your Reader

An order letter does not necessarily need a clearly identified reader. In fact, most first-time and one-time-only orders are simply addressed to the attention of a sales department.

In such cases, the inside heading of the letter will contain just the name and address of the company to whom the order is being sent, and the salutation will be replaced by a simple attention getting device.

Establishing an account with a company will announce that your intention is to have an ongoing business relationship. At that time you will be assigned a specific contact person, to whom all future orders can be directed.

Establish Your Objective

The objective of an order letter is to clearly indicate to the recipient that you are making a purchase. You should be brief.

Determine Your Scope

The scope of an order letter should provide only that information relevant to accomplishing the objective of making a purchase: what the item is, the terms of the purchase and any specific shipping instructions. It provides the reader with an exact description of what is expected.

Organize Your Letter

Organizing your order letter will establish a logical order in which to present your information. You have already begun this task by establishing an objective and determining your scope. Refer back to them. Together they include much of the content that will become the body of your letter.

A simple outline will get you organized. Begin by creating a list of points that your letter will address and put them in the sequential order that will best help your reader comprehend your order. These points will become the backbone of your draft; your outline will become a checklist.

Draft Your Letter

Working from an outline is the simplest way to draft an order letter. You have already organized yourself by creating a list. Refer back to it and turn each fragment into a full and complete sentence expressing a single thought or idea.

In order that your thoughts and ideas are conveyed in a cohesive manner, write in as natural a sounding voice as possible. Try writing your draft quickly and then read it out loud. Concentrate on communicating your objective to your reader. Make sure that the scope of your letter contains all the relevant information included in your organizational list.

Keep in mind that you are writing a rough draft. For the moment you can ignore spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence and paragraph structure. Those are technical details that you will pay attention to in the final step when you review and revise your work.

Close Your Letter

An order letter should close in a professional manner. Once your last paragraph is written, sign off between a complimentary close such as "Sincerely," or "Thank you," and your printed name.

If you are writing in conjunction with an official duty, place your title below the printed name. Additional information such as dictation remarks, notification of attachments, enclosures and copies sent to other individuals should be placed beneath the title line.

Review and Revise Your Order Letter

Reviewing and revising your order letter is the final step in the writing process. You will check your draft in this step, making sure that your objective is clear and your scope is concise. Put yourself in the reader's shoes as you examine the rough draft. Ask yourself, as the recipient, whether you are able to comprehend the request quickly and if enough information has been included to enable a timely response.

Look for the obvious errors first. Check for spelling, sentence structure and grammar mistakes. Remember that a passive voice is not as commanding as an active one. You want your order to be strong, so write with an active voice.

The important thing to keep in mind is the overall cohesiveness of the whole unit. Look for accuracy, clarity and a sense of completeness. Ask yourself if the transitions between paragraphs are working and if your point of view, tone and style are consistent throughout the text.

Examine your word choices carefully. Ambiguous words lead to confusion. Jargon and abstract terms may not be understood at all and affectations, cliches and trite language serve no real purpose and will obscure your objective. You want to help your reader understand exactly what it is that you want, so remove all that is not helpful.

And finally, if you have not written an opening or a conclusion now is the time. The introduction should lead into the letter with a firm statement about the details of your order. The conclusion should reiterate your objective and, when appropriate, contain any explicit instructions.

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