Business letters are still important, even in our digital age, as they are used to document purchases, legal and insurance information, retirement awards, cover letters and many other business transactions that require formal delivery. A properly formatted business letter contains several major parts which, when used properly, convey a level of formal professionalism required in business.
Most business letters are usually typed on company letterhead that already contains the company name, the address, website, telephone and fax information already pre-printed on the paper so there is usually no need to begin with the sender’s name and address in the top left of the letter.
Business Letter Formats
The two most commonly used letter formats are the block style and the modified block style. The most popular style used in business today is the block style, shown below, where the entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.
The other common letter style is the Modified Block Style where the Body of the letter and sender’s and recipient’s address are still left justified and single spaced, but the date and complimentary closing are centered.
Major Parts of a Business Letter
No matter which style of business letter style you choose, the major parts of a business letter are still the same. They include the Date, Inside Address, Salutation, Body, Closing and Enclosures. Sometimes the Typist Initials and optional Attachment and Copy notations are also included.
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Date Line: If you are printing on company letterhead, letters usually start with the date as the date lets the receiver know when the letter was sent and is useful when referring back to it at a later date. The date is typed 2 inches from the top of the paper which can be accomplished by tapping ENTER 5 times from the top of the document when using single line spacing in Word.
Inside Address: This is the name and address of the person receiving the letter. It is usually typed four lines below the date.
Salutation (also called greeting): For formal business letters, the salutation or greeting should end with a colon. The greeting usually begins with the word Dear followed by the name of person receiving the letter. For example, Dear Ms. Brown.
Body: The body of the letter is started two lines after the greeting. The body is the main part of the letter and is usually at least two paragraphs in length.
Fonts: In this example, our letter is typed using word’s default font, Calibri, in the New Blank document template. The most common serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial in 10 or 12 point font size are often used in business correspondence. Be sure not to use overly decorative or specialized fonts in business letters as they’re perceived as unprofessional and are more difficult to read.
Complimentary Closing: Type the closing two lines after the ending of the body of the letter. The most common closing lines for general business purposes are Sincerely or Yours truly.
Signature Block: Four lines after the closing, type the name of the signer. This allows enough space for the signature.
Enclosure Notation: Sometimes typed as enclosure, Enc or Encl, and often accompanied by a number such as Enclosures (3). This indicates that additional information was enclosed with the letter and how many pieces were included.
Attachment Notation: The attachment notation is optional and sometimes used instead of the enclosure notation.
Copy Notation and Typist Initials: The copy notation is used if you need to send a copy to another person. The typist’s initials are also optional and, if used, are keyed after the sender’s name.
Business Letter Example
Learn how to prepare and format common business documents in Word by taking the Creating Business Documents with Word online course on officeskills.org.
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