Common Components of Business Letters
Most business letters adhere to a full-block style in which every component of the letter aligns at the left margin. Some business letters follow a modified-block style in which most components of the letter align with the left margin but the return address, date and closing begin at the center of the page. Whether you choose to use a full-block or modified-block format for your business letter, the common components remain the same.
Business letters begin with your full return address and the date of the letter, also known as a heading. If you use company letterhead with the return address, then only include the date of the letter three lines below the letterhead logo. You do not need to include your name with your address as your name will appear at the end of the letter. Your recipient's full name, title and address should then appear two to four lines below your address and the date.
Place the salutation for the letter two lines below the last line of the recipient's address. The salutation serves as a greeting to the recipient of the letter. The salutation should include the title of the recipient, such as "Ms." or "Dr.," and then the individual's last name followed by a comma or colon. You may use the recipient's first name if appropriate. If you do not know the name of the recipient, either address the letter to the appropriate department, such as "Attention: Human Relations Department," or identify the subject, such as "Subject: Defective Parts for the e-Book Reader." For multiple recipients, either use the names of two to three recipients or use a collective term, such as "Dear Governing Board."
Start the body of your business letter two lines below the letter's salutation or subject line. The body states the purpose of your business letter and should be direct and concise. Divide the body into paragraphs where appropriate, format the paragraphs with single-spacing and add a double-space between each paragraph. If the body of your letter necessitates a second page, then carry at least two lines of the final paragraph of the body over to the top of the second page. Otherwise, seek to fit the full letter onto one page.
Close your business letter with a formal expression, such as "sincerely," "with regards" or "yours truly." If appropriate, you may use a less formal closing, such as "best wishes" or "with appreciation." The first word of your closing should be capitalized, and the last word followed by a comma. Then include your full name four lines below the closing expression. You may also include your business title on the line below your name. Add your signature between the closing expression and your name.
If you include any material with the letter, place a notation, such as "Enclosures: Quarterly Report and Staff Report" or "Encs. (2)," two to four lines below your name and title in the closing. If you plan to send copies of the letter to one or more individuals other than the recipient, then include the notation "cc:" followed by the appropriate names.
- "The Business Writer's Companion;" Gerald J. Alred, et al.; 2008
- "Rules for Writers;" Diana Hacker; 2010
Christine Switzer has been a freelance writer since 2007. She contributes to travel and regional periodicals such as "Georgetown View" and "Burlington the Beautiful" and she enjoys writing on travel, lifestyle and the workplace. Switzer holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in English and has taught university courses in communication, public speaking and journalism.