Busines/Formal LETTER FORMAT & How to Write
Possibly one of the biggest “mistakes” made in workplace/marketplace communication concerns letter format (business letter format). If I asked each you to send me an example of a business letter (or formal letter) you’ve received, I’d bet that we would get many, many different versions/formats. It seems that professionals believe the format of a letter (business or formal) is left up to “artistic license.” In fact, there are essentially two accepted business letter (or formal letter) formats by the various organizations that oversee professional communication.
Business Letter Format: Full Block Style (Also Applys to Formal)
The first business letter format (or formal letter format) we’ll look at is the full block style letter format. This is the easiest style to produce (and the one we’ll use from this point on). This style is where everything is lined up with the left-hand margin of the business letter (or the formal letter). I’ll give you detailed instructions about how to use this format in the text below.
Business Letter Format: Modified Block Style
The second business letter format (or the formal letter format) is the modified block style letter format. The only difference between full format and modified block format is that some of the parts of the business letter (or formal letter) are centered—instead of lined up with the left-hand margin. The centered parts of the business letter (or formal letter) would be the date and the closing (Sincerely yours) and signature lines.
The following points are true of both the full and modified block styles of business letter format (or formal letter format). Hopefully, this list will assist you in producing professional looking and dismiss some of the myths of business letter (or formal letter) writing:
Business Letter Format: Rules (Apply to Formal Letters As Well
Never indent the first line of a paragraph of your business letter / formal letter (keep everything lined up with the left-hand margin)
Do not double space within paragraphs (single space within the paragraph and double space between paragraphs—because you don’t indent the first line—the “empty line” between the paragraphs indicates when one ends and the next begins).
Typically the only indenting you would do within the body of a business letter (or formal letter) is when you’re using a bulleted list, stressing special content within a business letter (or formal letter), etc.
You might ask—“Who cares what format I use when writing a business letter (or formal letter) —why can’t I make up my own style/format?” Well, a professional look is important for all written workplace / marketplace communication. Also, it’s been shown that consistency among written pieces of company communication (such as business letters (or formal letters) and memos) is important for several reasons. First, it demonstrates a uniformed image when all the letters sent from a particular company look the same. Secondly, when the company chooses and then explains its preferred business letter (or formal letter) format/style to its employees, it makes it easier for employees to know how to design their correspondence; and it takes away the temptation to create their own business letter (or formal letter) formats.
Business Letter Format: Easiest Format to Use
My suggestion is to always use the full block style for business letters / formal letters. This is the easiest letter format because all you need to do is line everything up with the left-hand margin—there’s no indenting needed.
Here is the suggested format to use when typing your business letters (or formal letters. It would probably be a good idea to print this out and save it for future reference (cover letters for resumes, etc.):
Date (Type the date like this: October 1, 2004. Don’t abbreviate the month or use 10/1/04. Then hit “ENTER” 4 times)
Name of Person You’re Writing the Letter To
Address of Person You’re Writing The Letter To (If appropriate, you can include the person’s title and company name. Then hit “ENTER” 2 times)
Dear (Fill-in Name): (Notice that the punctuation used here is a colon not a comma. Then hit “ENTER” 2 times)
(FOR THE BODY OF THE BUSINESS LETTER (OR FORMAL LETTER): DO NOT INDENT THE FIRST LINE OF THE PARAGRAPH—SINGLE SPACE WITHIN PARAGRAPHS AND DOUBLE SPACE BETWEEN. BELOW IS AN EXAMPLE OF THE BODY OF A BUSINESS LETTER (OR FORMAL LETTER).)
Here is an example of what the body of the business letter (or formal letter) should look like. How we indicate that we’re going to a new paragraph is to double space to get a “blank” line.
Do not indent the first line of your letter. Although we often see people indent the first line, there is no business letter (or formal letter) format that uses that method. (At the end of the body, hit “ENTER” 2 times)
Sincerely yours, (Notice that you only capitalize the first letter of the first word of the closing line—then use a comma. Then hit “ENTER” 4 times)
Type Your Name (If appropriate, you can include your title below your name. The three “blank” lines you’ve created by hitting “ENTER” 4 times are used for your signature.)
There are some additional pieces of information you may need to include under your typed name. One would be, if someone other than the person the business/formal letter is from typed the bsuiness/formal letter (for example, an administrative assistant typed the business/formal letter for a company executive) the lowercase initials of the typist are added. This might look like:
You would hit “ENTER” 2 times before typing this—leaving one blank line between the previously typed line and the initials. The reason for doing this is it acts as a reference. The initials help to recognize who typed the letter and who could be approached for changes or copies.
Another thing that might be added would be the word “Enclosure” or “Enclosures,” if you have included some materials in addition to the letter. This might look like:
If there is more than one enclosure, you can either indicate this by typing “Enclosures” or by putting a number after the word—“Enclosures (3).” This is done to alert the reader that they should find more than just a business/formal letter in the envelope. You would hit “ENTER” 2 times before typing this—leaving one blank line between the previously typed line and “Enclosure.”
One last addition to the end of the business/formal letter would be if copies of the letter were being sent to people other than the person to whom it is addressed. This would be done for informational reasons. In the “olden” days, the letters “CC:” were used—signifying that a “Carbon Copy” was being sent. But since carbon copies have been replaced by “Photocopies,” the letters “PC:” are currently used. This might look like:
PC: Bob Jones
Notice that you list the names in a column form. You would hit “ENTER” 2 times before typing this—leaving one blank line between the previously typed line and “PC:”
This information should help you with your written correspondence for both personal and professional letters.
Here’s a brief full block style business letter (or formal letter) sample.
June 2, 2007
Mr. Charles Smith
1234 Oak Street
Toledo, Ohio 43333
Dear Mr. Smith:
Thank you for your recent inquiry about Peat Moss, Inc. We have been in business for 35 years and pride ourselves on our excellent customer service.
In the next few days, we will be sending you our newest catalog and a brochure entitled, Peat Moss, Inc.—Our First 35 years.
Please review the catalog and contact me with questions or if you would like additional information. I look forward to meeting you.
That's the End of the Section of Business/Formal Letter Writing. Let me know if the information helped you
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