Formal Business Letter Format

While sending emails is the quickest and most convenient form of communication today, the traditional printed letter is the preferred way to transfer important information. In fact, a formal business letter on an attractive letterhead can make a great impression. This article provides advice on the proper format for a business letter using MLA guidelines.

Formal Business Letter Format

The formal business letter format should include the following:

Contact information of the sender

Sender’s Name

Sender’s Address

Sender’s City, State, Zip Code

Sender’s Phone Number

Sender’s Email Address

 

Date

 

Contact Information (Recipient of Letter)

Name

Title

Company
Address

City, State, Zip Code

 

Greeting

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name (Only use first names for informal letters)

Body of Business Letter

The body should be separated into several paragraphs. As you write your letter, remember to keep it simple and to the point so that the recipient understands your intent. (More details below.)

Complimentary Close:

Sincerely yours,

(Typed name plus signed initials)

How To Format a Business Letter

There are a couple of common examples on how to format your business letter. Block format is perhaps the most typical way, although not the only correct way. In this format you would justify left, use single-spacing for the body and double spacing between paragraphs. The modified block format includes the date and complimentary closes centered while the rest of the text is left-justified. Semi-block format is virtually the same, except that each paragraph should be indented five spaces. Times New Roman, size 12 is the recommended font, although you should also take into consideration the audience. Either way, it is best to keep it simple and easy to read.

How to Write a Business Letter

Below are some suggestions on how to write a business letter.

Proper Business Letter Format

The business letter format requires the following:

Date

The date line indicates the exact date when you wrote the letter. However, if by chance it took you several days to write it, use the finishing date in the date line. If you are addressing companies based in America, always use the month-day-year format (for example, August 12, 2015). Type out the date two inches (5 cm) from the top of the page. Justify left or center depending on a format you have chosen.

Recipient Address

When possible, always address the letter to a specific person at the company as opposed to the generic “to whom it may concern”. If you don’t have the individual’s name, do some research online or make a phone call to ask. Address all males as Mr. unless you know they are a doctor. Young females should be addressed as Miss, married women as Mrs. and use Ms. if you are uncertain. Use the U.S. Post Office Format for the address. For international addresses, type the country in all-caps. The address should be written one line below the date, left justified.

Greeting

Use the same person as the one on the recipient address, including personal title. If you are on a first-name basis with the addressee, you are welcome to greet them by their first name (for example, Dear Thomas). In all other circumstances, use their formal title and surname. If you are uncertain of the recipient’s gender, greet them using their job title followed by their name. Using their full name is also acceptable. For example, if you do not know if Jamie is male or female, you may write Dear Jamie Johnson:

Body

As previously noted, your letter should be succulent and get straight to the point. In the first paragraph, start off with a polite opening and proceed with explaining the purpose of your letter. The next paragraph, justify the importance of the main point. In the subsequent paragraphs, offer further justification by including background information and other details. Use the closing paragraph to reiterate the main purpose and, in some circumstances, request some kind of action.

Complimentary Close

Finish the letter at the same vertical point as the date and one line following closing paragraph in the body. Only capitalize the first word (for example: Faithfully yours) and leave four lines between the closing and the recipient’s name for a signature. If you choose to include a colon in the greeting, use a comma in the complimentary close. Otherwise, no punctuation follows the closing.

Enclosures

If you are sending additional documents beyond the letter, such as a CV, indicate this by typing “Enclosures” one line below the complimentary close. If you so choose, you are free to list the name of each document that you have enclosed in the envelope. This is especially practical if you are enclosing several documents.

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