Business Letter Format: How To Write A Professional Business Letter

by | May 26, 2009 | Uncategorized | 3 comments

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Writing a professional business letter is important to making a good impression, and yet so many writers who send their fiction or nonfiction writing projects to Writer’s Relief don’t seem to know how to write a professional business letter. Cover letters for resumes, letters of introduction, sales letters, and pitch letters all require a professional touch. To format a professional business letter using proper layout, start by reading our helpful tips below.

All business letters contain four mandatory parts:

Heading (letterhead or return address and date)

Opening (address of recipient and salutation)

Body (message you’re writing)

Closing (complimentary closing [e.g., “Sincerely”] and signature)

Many word processing programs have several business-letter templates for you to choose from. Here are four typical style arrangements for letters:

Simplified—All lines are flushed left. The salutation is replaced by a subject line, which is in all caps; open punctuation is always used (there is no punctuation at the end of any line outside the body of the letter unless an abbreviation ends that line; e.g., Co., Inc., Jr.). The complimentary closing is omitted (no “Sincerely,” “Thank you for time,” etc.), and only a writer’s signature block in all caps is used.

Modified-Block Style (Standard)—The dateline, closing, company signature, and writer’s identification are all tabbed to and begin at the center. All other lines (body of the letter) are flush left.

Modified-Block Style (Indented Paragraphs)—Exactly the same as the standard format except that the first line of each paragraph is indented a half inch. This style is also referred to as “Semiblock Style.”

Block Style—Every line is flushed left, no indents; nothing centered except for any quotations, tables, and the like that are displayed. Also known as the “Full-Block Style.”

The Modified-Block Styles are the most popular.

Margins should be one inch on the right and left and two inches on the top (to leave room for letterhead).

If your letter will be more than two pages, make each subsequent page with a one-inch top margin.

Use single spacing, with one blank line between paragraphs.

Be sure to use an easy-to-read font (Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, or Verdana are acceptable), in 10-12 point size.

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Items in the Standard Format of Modified-Block Style:

  • Letterhead or your return address
  • Dateline (begin six lines down from top margin; month, day, and year)
  • Inside address (name and address of the person you are writing to)
  • Salutation (Dear Zujun Young)
  • Message
  • Complimentary Closing (Sincerely, or Truly,)
  • Company Signature (optional)
  • Writer’s Signature Block (your name and title, if applicable)
  • Reference Initials (initials of the person who typed the letter for you, if applicable)
  • File Name Notation (indicates where the document is saved in computer memory, optional)
  • Enclosure Notation (indicates if you’re enclosing something other than the letter)
  • Delivery Notation (if your letter is being mailed a special way)
  • Copy Notation (list names of additional recipients of the letter)
  • Justified right margin (optional for any letter type, makes each line in the body of the letter end at the same point)

Other variables that can be included in any letter format are:

  • Personal or confidential notation (in all caps, two spaces below the date line)
  • Reference notation (e.g., “In reply to”; two spaces below return address)
  • Attention line (positioned as the first line of the inside address)
  • Subject line (stating the purpose of the letter, two spaces below salutation)
  • Postscript (for presenting a final idea or afterthought, two spaces after the writer’s signature block)

Writing a professional business letter isn’t difficult, but it does take some amount of patience and care in terms of formatting and layout. These guidelines are not designed to be inflexible and can be modified to fit specific occasions as good sense requires. But always be sure to proofread business letters before sending—don’t let oversights in spelling or grammar confuse your purpose! And remember: If you’re writing a query letter to literary agents and editors, call Writer’s Relief today for help!

3 Comments

  1. Paul Day

    Neat

    Reply
  2. nghomes247

    thanks alot,
    i now fully understood how should one write a perfect business letter.
    thanks alot.

    Reply
  3. Sid

    Great Article!
    I feel the detailed structure of the letter is spot on. This would change slightly depending upon who writes the letter and to whom it is addressed. Check out more details here

    Reply

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