General guidelines: Write as soon as you hear or read the news (In the UK and USA, it is not customary to send individual notices to announce that someone has died. Instead, you put a notice in a newspaper announcing the death, the date and time of the funeral service)
- use good quality paper without a black border.
- do not use company paper with bank details, VAT number, etc.
- write by hand
- keep the letter or note short
- be sincere, but not too dramatic
- never send an email or fax
A letter of condolence to a business associate should
- acknowledge what a loss the death is for the bereaved
- express your sympathy
- raise the accomplishments and character of the deceased
- offer some help
I was sad to read in The Washington Post this morning that your husband, James, has died. I am writing to express my deep sympathy.
We first met ten years ago when we were both working for the National News in New York. He was years older than me and already a living legend in the political features department. Despite his success and fame, he always remained down to earth. He once told me: "The most important thing is how you see yourself. I am no different from you. We put people on pedestals and think they’re something special because of what they do. We should really be looking at what they are."
He will be remembered for his intellect, but also for his compassion, and as an inspiration to all who cherish their individualism.
He will be sadly missed by all who were fortunate enough to have known him.
Please convey my sympathy to your family.