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The Differences Between APA Format & Business Letter Format


Whether you are a student or a professional who works in the business, medical, education or social science fields, there is a high chance that you are going to be required to produce documents using APA or business letter format. Both types of documents feature a set format, but beyond that, their differences outweigh their similarities. Those who write research papers, research proposals and dissertations often use APA format. Business letter format is suitable for informing or persuading your recipient. Another use for business letter format is to make a request.

Business Letter Parts

Business letters contain seven parts. The first part is the return address, which is your address or your company’s address. The next part of the letter is the date. Use the date the letter was written. The inside address – the address of the person to whom you are sending the letter, is the third part of a business letter. The salutation follows. Additional parts include the body, closing and signature. Write the body of the letter so that it consists of several concise paragraphs. Keep your tone professional as you attempt to inform, persuade or make requests using business letters.

APA Document Parts

Documents written in APA format contain eight parts, depending on the type of document you are writing. They include the title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, references and appendices. A research study will generally contain all eight parts, whereas a standard assignment for a college course might only include the title page, the body of the paper and references. When preparing documents in APA format, use an academic tone free of your opinions.

Business Letter Format

When writing a business letter, there are three formats from which to choose – block, modified block and semi-block. In using block format, justify all text to the left. In addition, single space your letter, but double space between paragraphs. When using the modified block style, left justify and single space throughout the body of the letter along with the return and recipient’s addresses. Tab to the center of your letter and type the date and closing from there. Semi-block resembles modified block with the exception of each paragraph being indented.

APA Format

With APA formatting, double-spaced your paper, and set all margins for 1 inch. Justify all text to the left, but indent the first line of paragraphs 1 inch. Use twelve-point, Times New Roman font only. Type figures using Helvetica, Arial, or Futura fonts.

About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Melissa Nicholas has been writing features articles since 1995. She was a features writer and columnist for “The Gainesville Times” newspaper and “The Island Packet” newspaper. During that time, she received Associated Press awards for features writing and for newspaper page design.

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