It’s important to use a proper business letter format as it’ll make your letters look more professional and they’ll carry more weight.
The proper format is only one part; you also need to choose the business letter layout you want to use. The page with business letter examples might also help you write a good business letter. There are also some business letter templates that you can use and modify.
Below is an example of the proper business letter format. The red numbers identify the different parts of the letter; see the notes for additional explanations.
This example of a proper business letter format has been written using the block format and a free template of it is included in the page with free business letter templates.
There should be 1 inch (2.54 cm) margins at the top, left and right hand sides of the paper. The font should be Times New Roman, size 12 for most letters. In some situations you could chose a font such as Arial, but if you’re not sure if this appropriate use Times New Roman.
The green numbers indicate the number of blank lines that should be left between each part of the letter when using a proper business letter format.
1) The return address is your address. This is the address that the receiver of the letter needs to use to contact you. It’s located at the top so it’s easy to find and see where the letter came from. Use a full address so any mail sent to the address will reach you as fast as possible. If you use company or headed letter paper you don’t need to include this again as it’s already on the top of the paper.
2) The date that the letter is written on. For American English this should be in the format of month, day, year; while for British English it would be day, month, year.
3) The title (Ms., Mr., Dr.) and full name of the recipient, the person receiving the letter. Always try to send a letter to a specific person. Use their first name and surname if you know them both, if not just surname. Then on the next line their position in the company or job title; then the name of the company and the address of the company (full address).
4) A greeting, almost always ‘Dear’ then the title and last name of the recipient if you’ve not met the recipient. If you know them you can use their full name and if you know them well you can just use their first name. This should be followed by a colon in American English or a comma in British English.
5) The subject of the letter. This is like a title and acts as an aid for the person reading the letter. It lets them quickly understand what the letter is about.
6) The main body of the letter will consist of at least 3 paragraphs usually. The first will introduce the topic of the letter, the second will explain why the topic of the letter is important while the third will restate the main point and what you would like to happen or a request related to the main point.
If needed there can be more than 3 paragraphs: use as many as you need to fully explain the situation but remember that business communication letter writing is about clear and concise communication so don’t be too long winded.
The lines should be single spaced and not justified to both sides, just to the left side.
7) A closing phrase. The most common is ‘Yours Sincerely’. Use this unless you specifically need to use a different one. The closing should be followed by a comma.
8) Your signature. If the letter is being posted, print it and then sign it using a pen. If the letter will be sent electronically you can use an electronic signature that can be inserted here.
9) Your name and title typed so the recipient of the letter can tell who it came from in case they can’t read your signature.
10) Specify how many additional documents have been included with the letter. If you send a letter applying to a job interview and include your resume, the letter would state one enclosure (the resume). If there are no additional documents you don’t need to specify this so don’t include this line.
For a large number of enclosures it’s a good idea to provide a list of the documents as well.
11) If someone types the letter for you they would include their initials here. If you type your own letters you would not include this part.
If you need to make sure that a proper business letter format has been used in your letter you can use my proofreading service where I can check the format, grammar and spelling. I offer a free trail of my service for first time customers. If you’d like to ask me any questions you can use the contact me page or go to the Excellent Proofreading and Writing Facebook page.
By Jolyon Dodgson, copyright © 2011-2013
Proofreading and writing help for excellent first impressions.