Email has become the standard method of communication for businesses and those who communicate with businesses. That said, there are times when a traditional professional business letter is necessary. This may be for job prospecting, business proposals or even legal reasons. Properly format the letter for the best chance of getting results. Current business styles use the "block format" letter for business rather than the "indented style" used for less formal letters.
Create a Letterhead
The letterhead provides your information including your name, business name (if applicable), address and other pertinent contact information such as phone number, fax and email. Most computer word processing programs open the "header" section by double clicking on the top inch of the blank file page. In block style, there is no indentation or centering of the information. It is merely a block of information along the left margin. This header is used only on the first page.
If you are unable to create a letterhead in the header section, you have two options. Move the letterhead to the main body as the first block or place the date first with your contact information between the date and the recipient's information.
Date, Address and Salutation
The date, address and greeting are the first three blocks in the main letter page section. Make sure you are not in the header section by clicking on the main body page. The first line is the date formatted by spelling the month out with the day and year following, for example, May 10, 2017.
Keep a blank line between the date and the recipient's address block. Include "Mr.", "Ms." or "Mrs." where applicable. Use the full address and contact information, placing the street information on one line and the city, state in the next. Skip a line for the salutation that is followed by a colon, for example "Dear Ms. Smith:".
Format the Body of the Letter
Between the address and salutation, or after the salutation, you could include a reference for the letter summarizing the topic, such as a "RE: Supervisor Position." Continue then to write the body of the letter. Use a 10 or 12 point conservative font such as Times New Roman, Cambria or Arial. Paragraphs are not indented, positioned on the left margin and separated by one line space. Margins should be one inch on all sides of the document.
Moving to the Second Page
Include the letterhead contact information only on the first page of the letter. As already noted, the first page is the only place that should have a letterhead with the sender's full name and address. The header of the second page should state the page number centered. You might also include the addressee of the letter on the left margin, and the date on the right margin, which helps the reader to identify the document should the two pages ever become separated.
Closing the Letter
Letters are closed with a signature block. Close the letter on the second page by using a neutral but friendly close such as "Sincerely," or "Best Regards,". The closing is followed by a comma, four spaces and your name. Include your title if any, under your name. Sign the letter in blue or black ink in the space above your name.
If you included anything with the letter such as a resume or proposal, you'll want to note that there is an "enclosure(s)" two lines under your name.
- The ideal business letter format is block style, with all text left justified and a space between each paragraph, but no indentations.
- If your organization does not have continuation sheets for letters, use a blank piece of paper for page two; do not use a second letterheaded page.
With more than 15 years of professional writing experience, Kimberlee finds it fun to take technical mumbo-jumbo and make it fun! Her first career was in financial services and insurance.