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Basic Format for Business Letters


Business letters should all adhere to a specific, simple outline. This format, often referred to as "block," delivers all necessary information in your letter in a quick, scanable format, ensuring minimal time is spent dealing with correspondence. While the appearance of a business letter may change slightly, set information should always be communicated in the three blocks of your business letter: the head, body and close.

Formatting

Left-align your document. Throughout the letter, use 1-inch margins all around, and in all counts start your letter on the first line. Set your document to use single spacing between paragraphs, or adjust typed line spaces as listed below accordingly. Use Times New Roman or a similar font for the most professional appearance.

The Head

Place your address at the top, about 2 inches from the top of the page. (You can leave this step out if you are using formal letterhead that includes your addressing information at the top or bottom.) Type all addressing information in block form, as shown below:

Joe Schmoe ABC Company Suite 210 1313 Mockingbird Lane P.O. Box 221 Albuquerque, NM 81818-3312

Hit "enter" three times so you are leaving two blank lines beneath the address and type the date the letter was completed: July 21, 2012.

Hit "enter" three times and type the addressing information of your sendee, formatted in the same manner. Hit "enter" three times again.

If you have a reference line, list it here, and "enter" three times. For example: "Reference: Account #2213885, Collections."

Type your salutation (for example, "Dear Mr. Cochrane:") then "enter" twice. Only refer to someone as "Mr." or "Ms." if you know their sex for certain; otherwise, use their first and last names or a different title, such as "Dr." or "Professor."

The Body

In the body of your letter, detail your problem, giving specific information for identifying it in the first paragraph and expanding on the issue in subsequent paragraphs. In the last paragraph, thank the person you are writing to and include your phone number or e-mail address for quick, simple responses. Do not indent paragraphs; instead, separate each paragraph by a full blank line. At the end of your body, hit "enter" three times.

The Close

Type "Sincerely" for the closing of your letter. You can also use closings like "Thank you" or "Respectfully"; the proper closing depends on the situation, but "Sincerely" works in nearly any situation. If you used a colon at the end of your salutation, use a comma at the end of this closing; otherwise, use no punctuation.

After the closing, leave three or four empty lines, then type the name of the person signing the letter. Sign the letter in this blank spot.

After the Close

If you are sending copies of your letter to other people, move two or three lines below the signature line and type "cc:" then tab once and type the name. If there are several people receiving copies, type them here in list form, one per line, tabbing before each name so that they are aligned with one another.

If you are enclosing something with your letter, move down two or three lines and type the word "Enclosure," or "Enclosures" if you are sending more than one extra item. You may also type the number of enclosures in parentheses after the word: "Enclosures (5)". List complex enclosures by name, especially when they are not mentioned in the body. For a multiple-enclosure listing, use the same indent style you used above to list cc: recipients.

If you did not type the letter yourself, move down two or three lines and type your initials in capital letters, then a slash, then the typist's initials in lower-case: "JSS/gf". This is an optional step, unnecessary if you are not concerned about who typed the letter.

If you expect an answer of some sort from the recipient, move down two or three lines and type "RSVP". Enclose an RSVP postcard in this case as well, or give a phone number or e-mail address to respond to: "RSVP (e-mail jschmo@generic.net)."

About the Author

Jamie Wilson has written online content for over a decade on a wide variety of subjects. Currently, she is the Augusta Military Lifestyles expert for a prominent website. She is also a published fiction writer and experienced Web designer working on a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.

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