By Judy Vorfeld
Have you ever wondered if there’s a “best” way to write a business letter, in terms of layout? Let’s look the full block style for some guidelines.
Before we begin, let me say that there are many ways to put together a business letter. While you want it to look good, it’s equally important that you provide all relevant information in a way that’s easy to understand.
You may even go with little headings, or bullets, or numbers. Whatever works for the reader’s convenience.
Generally one inch on all sides, at a minimum. If you have a very brief letter, you’ll probably want to have at least 1.5 inches on the left and right.
Do you have letterhead? If so, make sure your left and right page margins are close to the same width as the letterhead. If you don’t have letterhead, type your business name, address, and other information (phone, fax, e-mail, URL, etc.) starting at least an inch from the top, and center it. You might make your business name larger than the rest of the letterhead, and possibly in a different font, and bold. Play around with it.
You might use a thin line to divide your created letterhead from the body of the letter. If you don’t want or need a formal letterhead, then right aligning your address and the date usually looks good. The remainder of your letter will be written from the left margin.
See above if you have no letterhead. Otherwise, press Enter at least twice from where the letterhead printing would end, then type in the date in the left margin. Type the month, day, and year (January 14, 2002).
If you use the word “CONFIDENTIAL,” press Enter twice after typing in the date, and type CONFIDENTIAL. Otherwise move on to the Inside Address.
Press Enter 2 – 4 times, then type the name and full address of the person or company.
SALUTATION — SUBJECTLINE
Press Enter twice, then your salutation (like “Dear Mr. Hodgson”) followed by a colon. If your letter has an important subject line, referencing a legal situation or a specific number or code, you may choose to use this instead of the salutation. Or you can use both. If you use the Subject line, type it in all capital letters on the third line below the Inside Address.
Press Enter twice, then type the body of your message. Press Enter twice between paragraphs, and do not indent the first line of paragraphs.
Use a phrase like “Sincerely,” or “Very truly yours” followed by a comma, then press Enter about four times. If you want to be informal, use something like, “See you Monday!” and since it’s a complete sentence, don’t follow it with a comma. Hit the “enter” key 4 – 6 times.
Type your name here, with your title below it, if appropriate.
Since the person dictating or writing already has his/her name directly above, use the typist’s initials alone two lines below the company signature. It’s easiest. If you are composing and typing the letter, omit reference initials. When using the typist’s initials, use either upper or lower case (mrd or MRD) and when using both the writer’s and typist’s initials (mrd/jhv or MRD/JHV), follow the same format. Your choice.
Press Enter twice. Sometimes people use the area below the signature to indicate the computer filename. Completely optional.
Press Enter once (or twice, if you don’t use File Name Notation). Type in the word “Enclosure” or “Encl.“if you enclose anything. You might specify the number of enclosures and what they are, e.g.,
Enclosures — 2 Check #2343 dated May 13, 2001 for $5,000.00
Certificate of Award
Press Enter once. In this area, indicate if you are sending it any way other than regular mail. Example, “By Federal Express,” or “By Facsimile.” (Note: when possible, insert the FedEx airbill number and the fax number. Anything that may save time later!)
Press Enter once, then type “cc:” You write in the names of those who will receive copies, e.g.,
cc: Ms. Jane Doe, Veterans Administration
Mr. John Doe, American Legion
ALLNOTATIONS are single-spaced and grouped at the bottom of the letter.
If you have a very short letter, you can increase your margins and your font, and/or use a different line spacing (e.g., 1.25 or 1.5). Verdana’s a good font if you’re trying to fill up space, since it’s wider and taller (or is that “higher”?) than most fonts. If you want a nice serif font that’s a bit larger than the default, try Georgia. Both were created for use on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your office.
Print out a copy of your letter and look at it as a whole. Then go back to your computer and make any adjustments needed. You want a good presentation. And don’t hesitate to use a footer if you use more than one page.
On January 14, 2012 / Business Documents, Typography / Leave a comment
Proper Business Letter Format
The Profcomm Center
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona 85721
September 1, 2000
The Profcomm Center
3333 E. Main, Suite 16
Tucson, Arizona 85712
To all Center Interns:
(when you know the name of the person you are writing to, you can address the letter to "Dear Ms. Brown:")
Thank you for your interest in learning about business letters. In this sample, I have outlined the basic format requirements for a standard block-style business letter. You may be familiar with the business letter templates that many word processing packages offer--you will notice that there are several variations on the basic format, but the required elements are the same. In any letter, you should include
* name and position of the recipient as well as the organization's name and address,
* salutation (use the recipient's first name only if you would do so on the phone),
* body text,
* closing and signature, and
* a method of contacting you. (If you are not using letterhead, include your address and phone number at the top of the page, and position this information approximately five inches from the left edge of the page and two inches from the top of the page; if you are using letterhead, include your phone number and/or email address in the text of the letter, usually in the last paragraph.)
The "enclosure" and "CC" lines at the end of a business letter are optional. The "encl.:" line tells the reader that you have included an additional piece of documentation with the letter. The "CC" line tells the reader that you have also sent the letter to a secondary audience.
If appropriate, you can also include a "Subject:" line between the address and the salutation.
Margins and Text Spacing
When you use the block form to write a business letter, all the information is typed flush left, with one-inch margins all around. These margins can be adjusted slightly if you need to fit the letter onto one page, or if the page breaks create an awkward flow of information.
First provide the date, then skip a line and include the name, position, and business address of the addressee. Skip another line before the salutation. Then write the body of your letter as illustrated here, with no indentation at the beginning of paragraphs. Skip one line between paragraphs. Skip two lines before each heading within the body of the letter.
Do not double space the body text of your letter.
If your letter is more than two or three paragraphs, including headings can be helpful for your reader--be sure to use headings that capture the key topic of that section and capitalize each major word of the heading. Bolding or underlining the heading will help the visual design of your letter.
It is also helpful to include the date and page number in the footer of a letter that is more than one page long.
A Strong Finish
When you close a letter, it is a good idea to summarize the action that you would like the reader to take in response to the letter, thank the reader for their time, and provide a means of contacting you. If you have any further questions regarding business letters, please contact me at 555-5555 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(Triple space here)
(put 2 - 4 spaces between your signature and the enclosure or CC line, depending on the length of the letter)
Encl.: Center assignment specifications
cc: Tom Miller, Center CFO