A Formal Business Letter is a piece of correspondence that is sent from one company to another. It is also a letter written for commercial purposes, either to close a business deal, for a complaint from one organization, or for other company matters.
It is important to note that there are two types of business letters; the first is the formal business letter, while the other is the informal business letter.
The formal business letter follows a structured set of rules and guidelines to ensure the correspondence’s formal tone. Such business letter entails legal and formal correspondence related to sales requests, information requests, and other corporate affairs.
This effectively communicates an important aspect of a company’s affairs to another company seeking to partner with them. Therefore, this type of letter is usually of great importance to the relationship-building between companies.
On the other hand, the informal business letter takes a lighter approach; it does not follow strict rules like the formal business letter. They are usually business letters sent within an organization from an employee to other employees or from an employee to the management and vice versa.
Business Letter Examples
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Formal Business Letter Styles
There are four main styles of writing a formal business letter:
When using this type of formal business letter style, you either want to make a complaint or inform the recipient about a recent happening. This style is usually used when someone wants to communicate with a company and vice versa. The process of using this style is relatively simple; you need to adjust all the text to align to the left margin while you skip a line between each section that you write.
Furthermore, the paragraphs are not indented and are separated by double or sometimes triple. When using this style, writing the addresses requires adding punctuation. The comma follows the salutation, but U.S. writers prefer to use a colon instead. Finally, the comma comes in after the closing.
However, this resembles the full block style and is like the modified block style, but when using this style to write a formal business letter, you will have to indent the paragraphs. Furthermore, the paragraphs have to be aligned to the left margin.
Modified block style
The style of writing formal business letters you see in thank you letters and cover letters is the modified block one. This style is also common in resignation letters and is implemented in email and print correspondences. The text is also aligned to the left margin like the previous two styles discussed; however, there is a distinct variation.
For the modified block style, the author’s address, date, and closing are all on the right side, and there is no indentation of the paragraphs. However, when indented, the author’s address, date, and closing are all in the same position.
Modified semi-block style
The modified semi-block style has the same elements as the one before it, except that you indent the paragraphs in this writing style. The author’s address, date, and closing are away from the left margin and are all in the same position on the right side of the page.
How to Format a Business Letter
As we mentioned, the formal business letter has guidelines to follow to achieve its purpose. Therefore, the following elements are required to achieve a business letter format:
Anytime a company wants to send internal correspondence like memos, promotion letters, and others, the letter will carry that company’s letterhead. This part of the paper contains the company logo, contact information, and the company’s name. Most reputable companies have this on their letter. More importantly, a letterhead shows the company’s reputation, especially when communicating with another company.
Your contact information
If you write a formal business letter, your contact information must be present as an individual or a company. Your name, address, city and state zip code, phone number, and email address must be in the letter. This will help the recipient in responding to the information that has been detailed in the letter.
In writing the date in a formal business letter, you must consider the recipient’s nationality. For example, Americans prefer seeing the month, date, and year when you write the date. But for a U.K. audience, the date comes before the month, like 11 November 2021. Regardless of the audience you are writing to; it would be best to always spell the month in full as no abbreviations are permitted.
The recipient details are the next phase of the formal business letter. It is best to address the person personally, except when you don’t know the person’s name. This is more of a psychological orientation. For example, if you would address a letter and state, Mr. Johnson, the person will be more upbeat about reading the letter.
However, if you don’t know the person’s name, then put the person’s title in the company, which is the next part of the recipient’s details. The company name would follow, and then the city and zip code. If you have a phone number, then you can add that.
This part is what many people take for granted; the salutation is not a plain “Dear Sir/Madam” that people add. Instead, the salutation indicates respect that can dictate whether or not your letter will be well received. There are different factors to consider when writing the salutation of a formal business letter.
First off, you can address the recipient based on how well you know the person. So, you can say, “Dear Jamie“. However, if it is a matter of official status and you still know the person because it is a formal setting, you can add the title and the person’s last name like “Dear Mr. Johnson.”
Another factor you need to consider is if you do not know the person. In this case, “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam” will suffice. However, if you’re not sure of the person’s gender but the bane, you can put the first and last name like “Dear Jamie Johnson“. Finally, if you are unsure to who this letter should be addressed, there may be confusing titles, but you don’t want to pick the wrong one. Therefore, you can go for “To Whom It May Concern“.
Many people find it hard to start the body of the letter, which contains the entirety of why you are writing the letter. However, if you are unsure how to start, you can start by stating why you are writing a letter,
“I am writing this letter to inform you …….”
The body is the main idea of the letter, and it should normally be 3-4 paragraphs to properly explain the essence of the letter.
As we have stated above, the first paragraph should be an introduction of why you are writing the business letter.
The second paragraph will be the arguments related to why you are writing the letter. So, for example, if you are writing a letter to solicit funds from a company. The second paragraph should start with what you intend to use the funds for—explaining what the company understands to gain from giving you the funds.
The third paragraph will be for another point if you have any other. But if you don’t, you can stop at the second paragraph and move to the last one, which you will conclude by summarizing your arguments and thanking the recipient of the letter.
This is where you will tell the recipient the best way to reach you regarding everything you have explained in your letter. You can add your email address or phone number for them to contact you.
For example, you can use this
“In case you have any questions, kindly contact me via the email address or phone number; both are attached below.”
This is the closing that reflects how well you know the recipient; for formal business letters, you can use either
“Yours Sincerely, Yours Truly, Yours Respectfully.”
But for an informal business letter, you can use
“Regards, Best Regards, Best or Thanks”.
After the complimentary closing, you should leave at least four lines so that the space can accommodate your signature. The format in signing the letter is your signature, full name, and title.
This may not be included every time, but if you are looking for a partnership or trying to sell an idea to another company, it is best to attach some brochures, flyers, and other important documents to the recipient. Hence, enclosures refer to the additional materials that the recipient can look at in understanding your letter.
For emails, you can simply say,
“Kindly find the attachment below.”
[Your full name]
[City, State ZIP Code]
[Full Recipient name]
[City, State ZIP Code]
Dear [Recipient’s Last Name],
[Full name Last name]
756 Getwell Street
Wherever, TX 87523
November 1, 2022
Director, Human Resources
Game I.T. Firm
132 George Rd.
Work City, NY 54321
Dear Mr. Johnson,
I’m writing today to invite you to our second annual luncheon as a guest speaker for our startup I.T. firm on December 5, 2022.
Our team is looking forward to having you speak on the essence of continuity and the power of networking in the I.T. world. We realized this would be the perfect time to have you on board as your firm has established the Platform for many startups to thrive.
This might be small, but in our little way, we are offering a five-star hotel for you and your family to lodge after the luncheon.
Please let me know if you have any questions or wish to know more about the speaking opportunity. My cell phone number is 803-124-111, and my email is [email protected].
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.
Your signature (hard copy letter)
Professional Tips to Ponder
We already discussed some guidelines about formal business letters. Now, we would like to share some tips that have helped people get the desired results from their letters:
Many companies receive emails and letters daily; therefore, it is important to be simple and go straight to the point without ambiguity. Plus, the employer or the recipient does not have to spend all day trying to decode everything in your letter. So, go straight to the point.
Keep the tone right
When using a template of a formal business letter, you must ensure that your tone remains official; otherwise, it defeats the purpose. Hence, understand why you are writing and set the time that supports your argument or points.
Plus, you need to sound like yourself, do not be monotonous, but let it feel like a human being who wrote the letter. Let the letter flow naturally like a conversation but also be professional at the same time.
Use formal language
Do not use abbreviations or slang even if you know the person personally. A formal letter requires the use of formal language that anyone can read. It is also best to use the active voice when writing the letter; here is an example,
“I am writing this letter to inform you ….”
“This letter is written to inform you ….”
Be sure to check through your writing to ensure that it is free from errors. Proofreading your work ensures some professionalism. Furthermore, ensure that you spelled the recipient’s name correctly to avoid throwing your letter away.
Choose a professional font size and style
It is best to use a font size and style that is generally acceptable. The use of Times New Roman and Arial are some of the most popular. It will aid the readability when they can easily see your font.
Ensure that readability is your drive to pick a font, not the fanciful nature. Therefore, there are some fonts that you can consider readable such as, Calibri, Corbel, Gill Sans, Helvetica, Open Sans, and Roboto. These are some of the most acceptable fonts for formal business letters.
Include sections for all necessary information
The layout of your letter has to include sections that carry all the necessary information. You need to be able to properly communicate from the first line of your letter to the last. Therefore, the proper layout with the appropriate sections will ensure the recipient is engaged till the end.
Pay attention to spacing and margins
Business letters need to be properly spaced for easy readability and professionalism. Therefore, from the contact information and salutation, you need to properly space those elements to ensure that the recipient can clearly see them.
In starting the first paragraph, let there be adequate space between it; and the contact information and recipient details. Finally, most business letters give a one-inch margin to ensure recipients do not have problems seeing every bit of detail.
Choose a high-quality paper
This is when you need to send a physical letter to a company for an individual. You need to use quality paper that cannot easily get torn and place the letter carefully in an envelope. This shows that you are a professional and value the recipient.
Formal business letters are essential in discussing important matters outside and within an organization. Without understanding how to structure the letter, you may not get good value from an organization. Therefore, this article seeks to put you in a better position to present your ideas to any company in whatever manner you need to discuss them. The templates provided are to ensure that your business letter stands out.