When you're writing a business letter, it's important to use the correct format. This is just as important as the content of the letter itself. Review some visual examples and discover some must-know writing tips that will prepare you to complete correctly formatted business letters that get results.
Basic Business Letter Format Example and Guidelines
The business letter format below represents how a block-style business letter should be set up if you're printing it on a plain sheet of paper rather than on letterhead. An example with letterhead appears later in the article.
Business Letter Layout
As you can see via the example letter above, there are specific guidelines for how a business letter should be laid out.
- Paper size - Business letters should be printed on a standard 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. Use high quality paper for a professional appearance.
- Margins - They should start two inches from the top of the page. The left, right, and bottom margins should be one inch.
- Justification - Business letters should be left-justified. This means that every paragraph should start at the left margin. The right margins will not be even, as word wrap will dictate when words need to drop to the next line to prevent encroaching the margin.
Parts of a Business Letter
The example letter above also illustrates the various elements that should be included in a business letter.
- Sender's address - When you are not using letterhead, the first thing on the page should be the sender's name and address.
- Date - The date should follow a blank line below the sender's address. Write out the month and use numerals for the day and year. Leave a comma between the day and year.
- Recipient's address - The recipient's address should begin just below a blank line left after the date. Leave another blank line after the address.
- Greeting - The greeting comes next. Generally, it's best to use an honorific (Mr., Ms., M.) and the person's last name, followed by a colon.
- Body - The body of the letter comes next, after a blank line. It should be organized into paragraphs, with a blank line between each paragraph. Leave a blank line after the final paragraph.
- Complimentary close - Next comes the complimentary close to bring the letter to an end. Use a word or phrase such as "Sincerely" or "Kind regards" followed by a comma. Then, type your name and job title.
- Enclosures - If something else will be in the envelope or package with the letter, notate that below your typed name. Leave a blank line, then type the word "Enclosure" if there is just one item. If there are multiple items, type "Enclosures: #," with the #sign being replaced by the number of enclosures.
Business Letter Format With Letterhead
If you're printing on letterhead or adding letterhead to the word processing document before you print, your letter should resemble the image below.
Differences With Letterhead
Not much is different when you start with letterhead rather than a blank page. With letterhead, the company logo is usually at the top, and its address is usually in the footer. The inside address should still start two inches from the top of the page. Don't move it down to two inches below the logo. Depending on the size of the logo, the sender's address will usually begin an inch or so below the logo.
DIY Letterhead Tip
If you like the look of letterhead for business letters but your company doesn't have preprinted letterhead, you can make your own letterhead template.
- Just open a word processing document and insert the logo at the top of the page, being sure to center it. Set up the document so that the logo prints only on page 1, as it should not be included on subsequent pages of multi-page letters.
- Then, place the company name and mailing address in the footer. It's up to you if you want to let the footer with the address print on each page or just the first one.
Writing Tips for Business Letters
Every business letter is different, but they all have one thing in common. Business letters are intended for professional communication. With that in mind, always follow best practices for writing a business letter. Additionally, apply the following tips to your letter writing.
- Use block style - While there are a few alternatives to block style letters, such as modified block and semi-block, they are not as widely used or recognized. It's best to stick with the format that's most likely to be recognized by anyone as a proper way to set up a business letter.
- Get to the point - A business letter doesn't allow for chatty meandering. Get directly to the point so that the recipient immediately knows the primary purpose of the letter.
- Be specific - Include specific details about the information you are sharing or the request you are making. That way, the reader will clearly understand what it is you are communicating.
- Avoid form letters - Don't send out basic form letters and expect a positive response. Even if you start from a basic business letter template, customize each letter to the recipient.
- Convey an appropriate tone - Be sure the business letters you write have a sincere and professional tone. They shouldn't be overly casual or flippant, nor should they contain sarcasm.
- Verify accuracy - Make sure all details, such as the address, company name, person's name, and spelling are all correct. Check your spelling and grammar. Proofread and edit your letter carefully for errors.
Effective Business Communication Tool
There are many types of business letters. You may find it helpful to review a few specific example letters, such as sample sales letters, business apology letters, or recommendation letters. By following the appropriate format and carefully considering what you say before you write, you can create a polished, professional business letter that presents you and your company in a positive light.