To format a formal business letter, remember that it has a few markups that need to be taken care of in order to make it sound and look professional. After all, you can make or break an impression here!
There are basically three ways to write a formal business letter:
1. Block format: in this format, your entire letter is left aligned, single-spaced, with double space after each paragraph.
2. Modified block format: the body of the letter, as well as the sender’s and recipient’s details, are left aligned and single-spaced. Only when writing the date and closing of the letter, one moves towards the center instead of aligning them in the left.
3. Semi-block format: although the format is the same as that of the modified block letter, here, each paragraph is indented instead of being left aligned. This format is not frequently used for writing a business letter.
Here’s a step by step detailed guide to writing a formal business letter:
The basic elements that make up the structure of a business letter are:
● Sender’s Contact Details
● Address of the recipient
● Main body
● Initials of typist
If you have checked these all off to write your business letter, then you are good to go. We will explain each and every element in detail now.
Sender’s Contact Details
You must mention your address and contact details at the start of the letter, although if you’re writing on the company’s letterhead, you need not provide your address. You also need not write your name or title since both of these will be provided in the closing.
The date is placed one line below the sender’s address. However, if you’re writing on the company’s letterhead, then leave a gap of two inches from the top of the letterhead, and place it there. It is left aligned, and if you’re writing to a person or organization based in the U.S, then use the U.S standard for writing the date.
(example: September 14, 2018)
Right after you write the date, one line below, place the recipient’s address. It is good to add a personal title to the recipient’s name, such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., Dr, etc. The recipient’s address structure should look like this:
-Address of Company
-City, State, and Zip Code
The salutation is although a minor part of the business letter but does play a major role in forming the sender’s impression. Use the person’s personal salutation, followed by their last name (example: Dear Mr. Jones). If you know their first name and typically address them using the same, then you can even add their first name without any personal titles (example: Dear Tommy). If you’re unsure about the recipient’s gender, then do not include any titles and simply quote their name (example: Dear Alex Zimmers).
Leave a line after the salutation and that is where the main body of content starts. The body of your business letter should have crisp, precise and professional sounding content. Talk to the point, with relevant information, and be formal in your tone. The body consists of two to three paragraphs in general, each double-spaced (block format).
Here’s how you should structure the main body of your business letter-
- The first paragraph is where you mention the purpose of writing the letter;
- The second paragraph is the one which has the most relevant details of the purpose of your writing, including any requests, orders, feedbacks or any information based on which the recipient is to make a decision.
- The final paragraph should mention the purpose in a summarized manner once again, requesting the recipient/reader to take some sort of action. As a professional gesture, thank the recipient for considering or going through your request, in advance.
Remember to give a gap of one line after each paragraph in the body.
This brings you to the end of your business letter. The closing is placed one line below the end of the last paragraph of the main body. The first word of the closing must be capitalized, and you need not punctuate the closing (example: Thank you). If you require any signatures from the recipient, then provide a gap of 4 lines after the closing and before writing the sender’s name, otherwise, you need not leave such gaps. Place your name, one line below the closing.
If you’re attaching any enclosures or attachments with the letter, mention the contents under this heading, right after the closing. If there are more than two attachments, you must remember to mention each and every one of them. The attachments can be resumes, reference list, invoices, etc.
Initials of the Typist
If you’re not the writer of the letter, then the initials of the typist must be mentioned in the end. Otherwise, if you are the writer of the letter, then there is no need for typist initials.
In last, you should also read about common mistakes to avoid when writing a business letter and it is also advised to use business letter examples and samples for better understanding with writing a formal business letter.