How to Write a Business Letter

When people ask me how to write a business letter, I tell them to consider three aspects:

1. The format

2. The content

3. The correctness of their writing.

This article looks at the format.

There are eight parts you must include when you write a business letter:

The return address: This is your address, or the address of the person writing the letter. If you are writing on behalf of a company, this information will be part of the letterhead at the top of the printed sheet. If you are writing on your own behalf, your address should be typed at the top of the page, either in the middle or in the right hand corner. In either case, each part of the address (street, city, province or state, postal or zip code, country) should have its own line.

The date: The date on which you write a business letter is an important part of the history of the topic, so always put it on your letter. It usually goes at the left margin, several lines below the last line of the return address.

The inside address: This is the name and address of the person to whom you are writing. It begins two lines below the date, and includes first and last name, company name, street address, city, province or state, postal or zip code. If the person is in a different country from you, include the country in the last line. Although you will see examples where there is no title (such as Mr., Mrs., Ms or Dr.), it is still considered polite to include this.

The salutation: Two lines below the last line of the inside address, begin your letter with the salutation, or Dear... line. Unless you know the recipient very well, write Dear Mr. Ross or Dear Ms Roberts. In North America, punctuation after the salutation is generally a colon, while U.K. writers tend prefer the comma. Both are correct.

The Body: This is the content, or the message of the letter. I will go into this in detail in another article, but for now just remember it should be clear, concise and correct.

The complimentary close: This comes two lines below the last line of the letter, and might be yours sincerely, sincerely, yours truly, yours faithfully or even regards. Much depends on where you live, your company's usual style, how well your know the person or just your own preference.

The signature: Leave four to six blank lines after the complimentary close for the handwritten signature.

The name and title of the writer: Beneath the handwritten signature is the typed name of the writer. Sometimes the person's title is included in a separate line, but this is optional.

When you write a business letter, using the proper format will add to its readability, and also your credibility.


Katrina said...

I find business closings too PERSONAL - sincerely, very truly yours, etc. . . all rub me the wrong way. I am a professional and I write a fair number of letter s each week. What is the most formal closing I can use with collegues who are adversaries and/or associates?

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