How to Write a Business Letter
A business letter is an essential form of communication within the corporate world. It is a formal means of communication between two people, a person and a corporation, or two corporations. Unlike a personal letter or an email, a business letter follows a specific format.
Although styles and formats can vary and still be acceptable, the most widely-used format of business letters includes the following:
Business Letter Format
- Heading. The heading is the sender's name and address. When using business letterhead, it's unnecessary to include the name and address twice. If typing the sender's address, it should be at the top of the page to the left or centered. The sender's name is not included with the address.
- Date. This goes below the heading. Always spell the date out (eg, January 4, 2007). This eliminates confusion, as some countries put the day before the month when using numerals.
- Inside Address. Also called the opening, this is the recipient's name, address, and title and goes below the date.
- Body. The body of the letter should begin with the salutation, generally "Dear Mr. Smith." Try to avoid "To Whom It May Concern" and instead find out who the letter should be directed to, if it is unknown. The remainder of the body should be clear and to the point. In addition, make sure the letter is polite, regardless of the reasoning behind the letter.
- Closing. The letter should close with a thank-you, such as, "Thank you for your time" or "Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter." It should also end with a salutation, such as "Sincerely," and then the sender's name and title.
While there are a number of tools, include books, websites, and templates, that can guide a person through writing a business letter, the general format should look like this:
123 West 3rd Street (Heading)
New York , New York 12345
January 4, 2007 (Date)
Ms. Jane Brown (Inside Address)
Director of Marketing
1234 Street Los Angeles , California 90563
Dear Ms. Brown,
Thank you for your time. (Closing)
(4 space signature line)
Some Things to Keep In Mind
Make sure the letter adheres to the following specifications:
- Use block style (no indentions) and align everything to the left.
- While the letter itself should be single-spaced, double space after the heading, the date, and the inside address. There should also be double spaces between paragraphs within the body, and double-spacing between the body and closing.
- Leave room for a signature. After the salutation, leave 4 spaces before typing the sender's name. Be sure to sign the letter before sending it.
- Keep the letter as brief and to-the-point as possible. The opening sentence should include a reference for the letter ("I am writing in regards to our recent conversation" or "Enclosed please find the materials you requested.").
- Be formal and concise. Avoid contractions, slang, and exclamation points, as these are considered informal. In addition, avoid using large words unless positive the reader will know what the word means.
- Always run spell-check and proofread the letter before sending it. It is not a bad idea to have a second person look over it as well.
A business letter is an important part of business communication. A well-written business letter that follows the correct format shows professionalism and portrays your company in a positive light.
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