Business Letter Format (How to Write)

In business, when writing to clients, stakeholders, employees, or another company, it’s important to use the right type of letter formatting. Any professional correspondence should be done using a Business Letter Format.

To begin with, business letters should be written on the company’s letterhead. There should be between 1 to 1.5 inches of a margin on all sides of the page. There are basic elements that all business letters should have:

  • Contact details of the sender
  • Date
  • Recipients address
  • Salutation
  • Main body
  • Closing
  • Enclosures/Attachments
  • Typist’s initials

Senders contact details

If your company’s letterhead already has the business address, it isn’t necessary to repeat this in the sender’s contact details. The same goes for writing your title and name, as this will be in the closing of the letter. 

Date

The date of the business letter should be written one line under the address of the sender unless you are using the company letterhead. In this instance, you would leave a 2-inch space from the top of the letterhead and place your date there. This should be aligned to the left of the page. Also, if you are writing to someone in another country, be sure to use their date writing format. For example, the United Kingdom format is day/month/year, whereas the United States is month/day/year.

Address of the recipient

The line under the date is where you will place the address of the recipient. You should use any name titles in the address (i.e., Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms,). The address should be written as follows, with each part of the address one it’s own line:

  • Name of recipient
  • Title of recipient
  • Name of the company
  • Company’s street address
  • Company’s city, state, and zip code

Salutation

The purpose of the salutation creates the impression you want to make on the recipient and should be done using their last name, for example, Dear Ms. Smith. If you use the recipients first name normally, you can add this to the salutation (Dear Ms. Margaret Smith). Using just the first name should only be done if you are on familiar terms with the recipient. If you are not sure of the gender of the recipient, you can leave the title out (Dear Alex Jones).

Main Body

Leave a space after the salutation and begin the body of the letter on the next line. The body should be professional, precise, and to the point. Only include information that is relevant and use a formal tone. The body of a letter usually consists of 2 or 3 paragraphs, using a block format (double-spacing) between each paragraph. It should have the following structure:

Paragraph 1 – should contain the purpose of your letter.

Paragraph 2 – should include all of the relevant details regarding the purpose of the letter, such as orders, requests, information, or feedback that allows the recipient to make a decision.

Paragraph 3 – should be a summary of the purpose of the letter and should request action to be taken by the recipient. You should also add a thank you for the recipient’s time and consideration of your request.

Closing

Your closing should be written one line below the last paragraph, with the first word capitalized (Thank you, Kind regards, etc.). If your business letter requires the recipient’s signature, leave a gap of 4 lines and then your name one line beneath this.

Enclosures/Attachments

Under this area is where you will mention any attachments of enclosures that you have sent with your letter. Make sure you list each attachment that you are sending with your letter (invoice, reference list, resume, etc.)

Typist’s Initials

If someone else has written the letter to you, their initials should be included at the end of the letter.

You can download one of our free templates or samples to see how a business letter format should look.

Standard Business Letter Format Example

(Date)

June 10, 20xx 

 

(Contact details of the sender)

Sender’s Address

Stone Printing Press

405 West Avenue, Suite 200

Brooklyn, NY 11237

 

(Date)

June 20, 2020

 

(Recipients address)

Mr. Patrick Jones

PJ Publishing

201 Glendale Road

Brooklyn, NY 11237

 

(Salutation)

Dear Mr. Jones,

 

(Main body)

I understand from our mutual acquaintance, Ben Phillips, that you are looking to work with a local printing service for your publishing company. I would welcome the opportunity to show you how Stone Printing Press was able to help Ben with his printing needs at the end of last year.

 

If you have a look at our website, my associates and I have extensive experience in the printing business that goes back over 50 years.  We specialize in the type of printing that your company requires and enjoy working closely with our clients from start to finish.  As many of our clients can attest, our skilled services have expedited and streamlined their printing needs, resulting in better sales.

 

For your convenience, I have enclosed our brochure with additional information that details Stone Printing Press’s full range of products and services.

 

(Call to action)

If you would like to set up an appointment to discuss your specific needs, please contact me at 212-469-5527. I understand that you are quite busy at this time, so I will call you on Thursday to follow should I not hear from you by then.

 

(Closing)

Kind Regards,

Signature

James McNally

Enclosures/Attachments:

(Typists initials)

CC:

3 Styles to Format a Business Letter

There are 3 ways in which you can write a business letter:

  • Block Format – the entirety of the letter is aligned to the left, uses single spacing, and double spacing between paragraphs.
  • Modified Block Format – in this format, the sender’s, recipient’s, and body are aligned to the left and use single spacing. The date and closing of the letter, however, are located at the center of the page.
  • Semi Block Format – this is similar to the modified block format. However, every paragraph is indented.

Block Format Example

Sender’s address

Sender’s phone number

Date

RE: explains what the letter is about

(4 lines down)

 

 

Recipient’s name

Recipient’s company name

Recipient’s address

(1 line down)

Attention: Name of the person the letter is intended for

(1 line down)

 

Dear (person’s name):

(1 line down)

 

Body: With a block letter style, all of your paragraphs will line up at the left margin. Paragraphs are not indented, and margins need to be 1-1.5 inches around the entirety of the page.  When using a company letterhead, you will need to make adjustments to your margins.

(1 line down)

You will only use single spacing between your sentences and double spacing between paragraphs.

(1 line down)

In some cases, you may wish to center the sender’s details.

(1 line down)

Sincerely,

(4 lines down)

 

 

Signature

Sender’s name,

Sender’s title

Enclosures/Attachments:

cc: Name

Name

Modified Block Format Example

Sender’s name

Sender’s address

(1 line down)

 

Date

(4 lines down)

 

 

Recipient’s business name

Attention: the person the letter is going to

Recipient’s address

(2 lines down)

 

Dear XXX:

(2 lines down)

 

Body:  In this example of a modified block letter, you can see that the recipient’s information and the sender’s information at the end are centered.  The remainder of the letter is aligned at the left margin.  No indentations are used.  Make sure your margins are set to 1-1.5 inches around the entirety of the page.  If you are writing your letter on the company letterhead, you will need to take that into account when deciding the margins for your page.

(2 lines down)

 

For this style, you will have 1 space between your sentences and two spaces between paragraphs.

(2 lines down)

Sincerely,

(4 lines down)

Signature

Sender’s name,

Sender’s title

Enclosures/Attachments:

cc: Name

Name

Modified Semi-block Format example

Date

(4 lines down)

 

 Recipient’s business name

Attention: the person the letter is going to

Recipient’s address

(1 line down)

Dear XXX:

(1 line down)

Body:  As you can see in this semi-modified block letter example, all of your paragraphs will once again line up at the left margin. The difference with this style, however, is that the first word of each paragraph is indented. Your margins will need to be set to 1-1.5 inches around the entirety of the page as before.

(1 line down)

Sentences only need single spacing between them, and paragraphs need 2 spaces between them.

(1 line down)

Sincerely,

(4 lines down)

 

 

Signature

Sender’s name,

Sender’s title

Enclosures/Attachments:

cc: Name

Name

 

Which Format to Choose?

An acceptable business letter needs to be written in the block or modified-block format, as shown above. Semi-block formatting should be avoided for more formal business letters as it can look a bit unprofessional and less formal.  Use acceptable fonts (see below) and avoid using any type of creative fonts, as this also can give an unprofessional look to your letter.

Standard Business Letter Format

Business Letter Block Format Template

Business Letter (Modified Block Format)

Business Letter (Modified Semi-block Format)

    Tips From the Professionals

    There are some important tips that will help make your business letter look more professional.

    Proofreading

    It’s important to go over your letter once you have completed it to check for any errors, such as misspellings, punctuation, and grammatical errors.  A letter can be well presented but be dismissed if it is full of errors. It’s a good idea to have one other person proofread your letter as well, just to be certain nothing has been missed.

    Personal Pronouns

    Even formal business letters make use of personal pronouns.  It is, after all, correspondence between two individuals.  Be sure to use personal pronouns when you are referring to yourself or the recipient in the entirety of your letter:  I am contacting you in regards to, We appreciate your kind consideration.  You should always refer to yourself as “I,” the recipient as “you,” and the company or organization as “we”.

    Letter Length

    Bear in mind that when writing a business letter, you want to keep it brief and to the point.  Time is essential in business, and no one wants to spend time trying to figure out what it is you are trying to say.  Keep your sentences short and professional and avoid using so much formality that your letter becomes tiresome to read and long-winded.

    Getting to the Point

    As mentioned above, time is precious in business.  No one has time to try and decipher what your letter is about. Don’t assume the recipient will be able to read between the lines.  You want to use a direct approach and take care not to stray from the point of the topic of your letter. Don’t use generalizations or be vague and be sure to state exactly what it is you are needing or expecting of the recipient.

    Show Them What You’ve Got

    One thing to keep in mind, depending on the type of letter you are writing, is that it isn’t about you.  What we mean by that is, your letter should focus on what you are able to offer the recipient.  For example, a letter applying for a job or offering a service should tell the recipient what it is that you can offer them that makes you unique.

    Easy Terminology

    Try to use terminology that is easy for all people to understand.  Using too much professional or technical terminology can be confusing and cloud the purpose of your letter. Don’t use a lot of buzz words and jargon, as this makes the letter sound less professional.

    Fonts

    Be sure to pay attention to the type of font you are using when writing a business letter.  Even using the exact form, the wrong font can throw the letter off and make it look less professional.  The majority of businesses prefer the Ariel or Times New Roman Font and a 12 font size.

    Letterhead

    Using your company letterhead gives your letter a polished and professional look, so always use company letterhead for business and formal letters.   You want to make the best impression, so be sure your letterhead has been printed on good quality paper and not your average copy machine variety.  Also, make sure you have included contact details in your letter at the end, where you will be placing your call to action.  Include your website, email address, and contact phone number.

    FAQs

    How to close a business letter?

    The closing you choose for your letter will depend on how formal it is. The simplest closings that can be used in all situations are Regards, Sincerely, Yours sincerely, or Yours truly.

    If your letter is a bit more personal, you can use: Cordially, Best regards, or Yours respectfully. Other closings that you can use when you are more familiar with the recipient are With appreciation, Best wishes, and Warm regards.

    What is the correct format for a business letter?

    Most standard business letters use block style formats that have the entire letter aligned to the left.

    What are the three formats of a business letter?

    The 3 common formats used for business letters are block format, modified block format, and semi-block format.