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Business Letter Format Tips

by Alice Feathers, M.A. TESOL, Professional Editor and Writer

When creating business letters, use 8 ½" by 11" unlined paper. Although 24-pound paper with 100+ brightness is a little more expensive, it will make a better impression than everyday copy paper. Use 1" margins on all four sides. Use a serif font such as Times Roman (12 point) or Georgia (11 point). A business letter should be single-spaced and, if possible, typed on a computer. Print the letter on only one side of the paper. Fold the letter horizontally into thirds. Mail the letter in a No. 10 security envelope (4 1/8" by 9 ½").

There are several business letter formats, but all of them can be subdivided into two basic groups: the block format and various indented formats. Although the block format is somewhat more common, (perhaps because it is easier), either one is acceptable. All conventional formats contain the same features:

1. Return address of the letter writer.
1600 Main Street
Springfield, Kansas 12345


2. The date of the letter.
This is usually typed in one of two ways:

(Begin with the day, no comma) 15 January 2013

  or

(Begin with the month; use a comma) December 1, 2013

3. Complete name, title, and address of the recipient.

Use "Mr." for a male recipient. If you do not know how a female recipient prefers to be addressed, it is best to use "Ms."

Ms. Anna Brown, Chair
Department of Linguistics
Right State University
1415 University Drive
Felicity, OH 45434

4. Salutation with a colon.

Dear Ms. Brown:

5. Body of the letter.

It is best to keep an initial business letter short. Business people are busy and do not have time to read long letters! In a one-page letter, you will usually only need three or four paragraphs, single spaced. Use a double space in between paragraphs. See examples that follow.

The easiest way to write the body of the business letter is to use a prewritten business letter.

6. Closing.

The most common closing is "Sincerely." Follow this with a comma. Skip four single lines after the closing and type your name. Sign your name in the space above your name.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan Wilson


7. Enclosure.

If you are enclosing additional information with your letter such as a resume or a curriculum vitae, skip two single lines after your typed name and type "Enclosure" or "Enclosures." If you use the plural, you have the option of stating the number of enclosures in parentheses.

Enclosures (2)

Block Format

Type every line flush with the left margin (begin at top margin)

1600 Main Street
Springfield, Kansas 12345


(four single spaces)

December 1, 2013

(double space)

Ms. Anna Brown, Chair
Department of Linguistics
Right State University
1415 University Drive
Felicity, OH 45435

(double space)

Dear Ms. Brown:

(double space)

I want you to know you have an exceptional employee, Jane Doe, in your support division. Her calm, patient manner was a great help to me when my frustration was at an all-time high. Her knowledge of the software and her remarkable problem-solving abilities are rare indeed. If the quality of a firm's employees is an indication of future success, then Doe Corporation has a very bright future.

(double space)

Sincerely,

(four single spaces)

[Signature]


John Doe

(double space)

Enclosure

Indented Format: Example 1

Indent your return address, the closing, your typed name, and the optional enclosure to the approximate center of the page (position 4.25" to 4.5"). Begin at top margin:

1600 Main Street
Springfield, Kansas 12345

(four single spaces)


December 1, 2013

(double space)


Ms. Anna Brown, Chair
Department of Linguistics
Right State University
1415 University Drive
Felicity, OH 45435

(double space)

Dear Ms. Brown:

(double space)

I am writing to thank you for the training seminar you arranged, and to especially thank you for sending Mr. Doe to be our primary instructor. He did his homework well, and was more aware of our needs than any of our previous instructors. We appreciate the time he took to study samples of our work in advance so his comments were immediately applicable. We would welcome his instruction again. Please convey our thanks to Mr. Doe.

(double space)

Sincerely,

(four single spaces)

[Signature]


John Doe

(double space)

Enclosure

Indented Format: Example 2

Indent your return address, the closing, your typed name, and the optional enclosure to the approximate center of the page (position 4.25" to 4.5"). Additionally, indent each paragraph approximately five spaces. Begin at top margin.

1600 Main Street
Springfield, Kansas 12345

(four single spaces)


December 1, 2013

(double space)


Ms. Anna Brown, Chair
Department of Linguistics
Right State University
1415 University Drive
Felicity, OH 45435

(double space)

Dear Ms. Brown:

(double space)

     As manager of our computer department, I commend your employee, John Doe, for the prompt and courteous service he gave us last week. He determined our cable needs and produced a fair written estimate very quickly. Once he started the work, he stayed on location until he had installed all additional computers. You can be certain that we shall ask for him personally to serve our future needs.

(double space)

Sincerely,

(four single spaces)

[Signature]


John Doe

(double space)

Enclosure

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