Not sure how to format a business letter? Check out our quick and easy guide to get you started. We’ll cover everything from addressing the letter to sign-off.
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The Anatomy of a Business Letter
A business letter is a formal document, sent from one company to another or from a company to its clients, customers, and other external parties. The main purpose of a business letter is to communicate information, but it can also be used to build relationships.
Business letters should be formatted using the following elements:
-The recipient’s name and address
-The sender’s name and address
-A salutation (or greeting)
-The body of the letter
-A closing (such as “Sincerely”)
-The sender’s signature
The heading of a business letter should include the sender’s name and address, as well as the date. The heading can also include a attention line and/or a subject line. The sender’s name and address can be included in the heading or above the body of the letter in the upper left corner of the page. The date can be placed in the upper right corner, above the body of the letter, or at the beginning of the body of the letter.
The attention line is used to indicate who the letter is addressed to. For example, “Attention: Sales Department.” The subject line is used to indicate what the letter is about. For example, “Subject: Request for Price Quote.”
If you are including a attention line and/or a subject line, they should be placed below the date and before the body of the letter.
The Inside Address
The inside address is the recipient’s address. It is usually placed four lines below the letterhead (or logo and sender’s address). If you are using letterhead that already has your address printed on it, you would omit the sender’s address from the letter itself. When typing the inside address of the person or company you are writing to, use proper titles and spellings to avoid sounding unprofessional.
The greeting is the first thing your reader will see, so it should be formal and courteous. The most common greetings are “Dear Sir or Madam,” “To Whom It May Concern,” and “Ladies and Gentlemen.” You may also use the person’s last name if you know it, as in “Dear Ms. Ryan.” If you are on a first-name basis with the recipient, you can use a first-name greeting, such as “Dear Mary.”
The body of your business letter should be single-spaced with a space between each paragraph. Indent the first line of each paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Leave one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark, unless your organization has style guidelines that indicate otherwise.
To close a formal business letter, type your name above your typed signature. If you have printed the letter, sign in blue or black ink in the blank space above your typed name. On the line below your name, type your job title (if applicable), and include any other appropriate identification information (such as your company name and address, telephone and fax numbers, website address, or e-mail address).
The closing of a business letter is where you thank the recipient for their time, make a final pitch, and say goodbye. The lasting impression your letter makes will be determined in part by the way you choose to close it.
Here are some tips on how to choose the right way to end your business letter:
-If you are writing to request something, thank the recipient in advance for their help
-If you are writing to provide information, let the recipient know that you welcome their feedback
-Keep it short and sweet – no need for long, drawn out goodbyes
-Consider using a complimentary close followed by your signature and title – this is standard practice in formal business letters
The signature includes your typed name, title, and contact information. You should leave two lines between the closing and your signature. If you are sending a printed letter, you can sign your name in ink above your typed name. If you are sending an email, you do not need to sign your name.
The postscript (P.S.) is an afterthought that is added at the end of a business letter. It is typically used to emphasize a point that has already been made, or to make a final request or plea. The postscript can also be used to add a personal touch to the letter, or to thank the recipient for their time and attention.
If you are sending the letter with enclosures, you will need to note this on the bottom left-hand side of the page after your signature and before your printed name. The enclosures line is usually preceded by the abbreviations “Enc.” or “Encl.” Below is an example of how this would look:
Enc. – 3 stapled packets, business card
If you are sending a resume, it is not necessary to list it as an enclosure because it is assumed.
cc: Blind Copies
In business correspondence, a “blind copy” (cc:) is a copy of a letter or email that is sent to someone without the knowledge of the original recipient. The term “blind copy” comes from the fact that the original recipient’s name is not listed on the carbon copy (cc) list.
There are several reasons why you might want to send a blind copy of a letter or email. For example, you might want to keep someone in the loop on a project without letting them know that you are also cc’ing their boss. Or, you might want to send a copy of a sensitive email to someone outside of your company for guidance without involving them in the conversation.
When deciding whether or not to send a blind copy, always err on the side of caution. If there is any chance that the contents of the letter could be interpreted as confidential or sensitive, it is always best to err on the side of caution and send a blind copy.