How to Format a Business Letter in Five Easy Steps

More business communication than ever is now done through email and instant messaging tools, but more serious business communication is still often done with letters.

If you need to write business letters, it’s important to stay professional and use the right format if you want to be successful. People won’t take you seriously if you don’t produce a proper professional document, and it can hinder your progress in all areas of your professional life.

Practically, there are specific and universal rules that you can follow if you want to write and send the perfect business letter. We’ve outlined them in five steps here – all you have to do is follow our instructions.

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start right

Any business letter should start with contact information. You must first include your name, title, address, telephone number and email address – although you can omit some of this information if your company has letterhead that already includes contact details .

Immediately after your address, include the date, then fill in the recipient’s contact information in the same order and in the same format as yours.

Use the correct greeting

Once the contact information is sorted and accurate, you need to make sure you open the letter correctly, which means using the correct salutation that reflects the recipient.

If you don’t know who you are writing to, use the classic “to whom it may concern”. If you don’t have a personal relationship with the recipient, use a formal “dear” followed by their professional title and last name. Only use their first name if you already have an informal, friendly relationship with that person.

This isn’t always required, but you can also include a subject line above or below the greeting to help the recipient quickly identify the contents of the document. This is especially useful if the recipient receives a lot of mail.

Man typing on laptop

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On the way to writing

After sorting out the addresses and greetings, it’s time to write the main body of the letter. Although the content is obviously up to you, a business letter should always use the first paragraph to address the general purpose of the communication.

A business letter should have consistent formatting. Your text should be single-spaced and ideally should be left-justified. You should leave a clear line between each paragraph.

Use clear, professional language, stay on topic, and summarize your points in your final paragraph. Include a polite instruction or call to action to let the recipient know what would ideally happen next if further action is needed.

A solid finish

When you’ve finished the main body of your letter, wrap it up properly and maintain a professional tone. You can conclude a letter with a greeting like “your sincerely, respectfully yours” or a less formal phrase like “all the best” or “thank you” if you have a closer relationship with the recipient.

If you are going to print the letter and mail it, leave four lines for your signature, then type your full name and title. You don’t need to do this if you are going to email the document – just include your full name and title with no extra spaces.

At this point in the letter, you can also leave a brief note to list the names of any documents you have included with the letter. This is useful if you had to send a letter with additional documents, as it means the recipient can check that nothing has gone missing. If you didn’t write the letter yourself, you can also include the typist’s initials at this point.

Cover letter

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Get the details right

These are the four key rules you need to follow if you want to format a business letter correctly. Beyond that, however, you should adhere to these additional tips to ensure you do a really good job and ensure your letter gets the results you want.

You should proofread the document before posting it – you won’t look professional if you have spelling or grammatical errors littering the letter. Keep your formatting consistent and use the same font everywhere – something professional like Times New Roman, Garamond or Calibri is ideal.

Whatever you write, make sure you don’t use too much detail. A letter can get bogged down in details that just don’t matter. Don’t use redundant words or unnecessary industry jargon and avoid abbreviations – you can’t be sure the recipient will know what you mean.

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