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What's the proper format to use in a business letter?

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With the advent of the internet, the art of writing a business letter is becoming a lost art. As a business owner you will need to know how to format and write a proper business letter. Your business may give its first impression to a perspective customer in this letter so you must get it right in order to show that you are a professional business.

This article will make some basic suggestions on how to write a business letter. However, you will want to develop a `style' over time. However, as you get started, you should probably stick to the basics. A good book to reference business letter writing is "A Writer's Reference" by Diana Hacker. Remember, format and formal are not synonyms and you can be creative, but you need to keep the basic rules.

The layout should be kept very basic. Use a high-quality stock paper in white, off-white, or other neutral tone. Remember your company is getting judged when they see your choice of paper. The margins need to be of equal size all around, but one inch is recommended. Times New Roman (the default font in Word) at 12-point is the recommended font. Don't use funky fonts! These are not professional and does not promote easy reading.

Your return address will typically go in the upper left-hand corner of the paper. If you have included your address in the company letter head, you need not have the address on the paper again. You can, however, have it on the right hand side. Skip two or three lines down and write the full name of the person you are writing and their title on the same line. Then you put his or her company's name followed by their address.

The two or three lines between your address and their name is a matter of preference. You should pick the one that looks the best and not worry about what the recommended way is. Nobody will be counting lines when they receive your letter.

For a salutation `Dear' and the name of the person will usually work best. If you are on a first name basis with the individual you may choose to use their first name. However, if you are not then the person's last name will do. Most books recommend using a colon after the name, but some find this too `stuffy'. You may find that you prefer using a comma. This is a matter of preference. After the salutation, skip a line and begin your letter.

The body of the letter is usually written in `full block' style. This means that the margins are lined up on the left and there are no indentions for each paragraph. You do skip a line between paragraphs. Also, the new writing style recommends only one space between sentences. Most people will argue that they were taught two spaces when they took typing. However, the new style recommends only one space.

Remember as you develop your writing style that nothing is absolute. Even the books only recommend certain choices. You can write the letter as you want, but keep them consistent and create your own style. Your choices in style formatting should make your letter more readable and also define you.

In summary, you will need to develop your own writing business style. The format should be basic using New Times Roman with 12-point font. You should create a generic format on your computer and start each letter using this format so that you don't have to research your style each time you write a new business letter.

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