Professional correspondence is an integral part of every business or company. How you communicate with your partners, employees, and clients can determine your success level, so choosing the right communication tool based on your objectives is essential.
Although there are many ways to communicate professionally, business letters have been the all-time favorite. But, if you don’t know how to format a business letter, you have come to the right place.
In this post, we go over all the crucial details relating to the business letter format.
A business letter is a formal document that provides parties with a written professional correspondence tool.
As such, a formal business letter is commonly used by companies for relaying important information to their employees, clients, partners, or other businesses. However, a business letter can also be used for correspondence between individuals who aren’t representatives of a company.
While emails have become synonymous with written professional correspondence, some confidential and crucial documents still need to be printed out as business letters. Cover letters, letters of recommendation, job offers, employment verifications, and numerous other business letters are frequently used today, despite the popularity of emails.
If you’re running or working in a company, you will eventually receive a business letter because it is inevitable. That’s why you need to learn all the formatting essentials that will allow you to construct clear and coherent formal business letters.
3 Ways to Format a Business Letter
Since these letters can take many forms, there are multiple ways to format a business letter correctly. When a business letter is written and formatted well, it’s easy to deliver the necessary information and communicate your ideas.
Here are the three different ways to format a business letter:
The block format is probably the most famous business letter format. When you use block format, the whole text is single-spaced and left-justified. The only exception is the spacing between paragraphs, which is doubled. Double spacing between paragraphs creates an illusion of blocks with the letter’s content, hence the name.
Modified block format is another popular choice. Just like the standard block format, this one is single-spaced and left-justified. The only difference is with the closing and date, which aren’t left-justified but centered.
Semi-block format is the least used format out of the three. It follows the same formatting guidelines as the modified block format with one difference. Instead of each paragraph being left-justified, the paragraphs are indented with the semi-block formatting style.
Regardless of your format, all formal letters should contain the same sections that incorporate the relevant information into the letter’s content.
The sender’s contact information is typically placed on the letterhead. However, you can use the top of your business letter to enter your contact information if there’s no letterhead. That is where you enter your street, city, and zip code. But, don’t include the sender’s name or title since you’ll enter that information in the letter’s closing.
The date is an integral part of every business letter as it offers critical details about when the letter was written. Even if you spent several days crafting the letter, only insert the date when the letter was finished and ready to go.
Date formatting isn’t the same for all countries, so you have to use the correct formatting depending on who your audience is. If you’re unsure, you can always check the date formatting rules for each country online.
The recipient’s contact information includes the street address, city, and zip code of the recipient’s location. It would be best to write the country’s name in all capitals for international business letters on the last line.
Researching the specific employer you’re addressing is always a good idea, even if you’re writing to a company. That will allow you to use the correct personal title, such as Miss, Mrs., Ms., or Mr. Furthermore, some recipients hold different titles, such as Dr., and you must include these titles in your letter as well.
The recipient’s contact information is always written after the date and is left justified, regardless of the style format you’re following.
Salutation marks the beginning of the business letter’s content. There are different ways to salute the person you’re writing to, depending on how much you know about them. Personal titles are mentioned in the salutation too.
If you already know the person and you’re on a first-name basis, it’s okay to address them by their first name (Dear John). But, if that’s not the case, you should use the appropriate personal title with the last name (Dear Mr. Richardson).
Sometimes, you won’t be able to tell the recipient’s gender. Therefore, it’s possible to omit the use of personal titles and address the reader by their full name (Dear Taylor Thompson).
The body of the text written in the block and modified block formats is single-spaced and left-justified, and a blank line is inserted after each paragraph to achieve that characteristic effect. The first paragraph should be used as a friendly opening and introduction to the main point.
You can use the following few paragraphs to say more about the purpose of the letter and justify the main point with supporting information and details.
The body is where you explain why you’re writing in greater detail. You can use this part of the letter to establish connections or mutual relationships. Also, you should provide the necessary proof and suggest a solution for the body. Don’t forget to organize your ideas and group-related information accordingly.
Such letters should be clear, straight-to-the-point, and concise, so remember to avoid any information that doesn’t contribute to the letter’s primary purpose.
Use the closing paragraph to restate the main point and request specific actions if necessary.
Once you write your last body paragraph, it’s time to move on to the closing section. This section is always vertically signed with the date. Only the first letter is capitalized (e.g., Thank you). If you inserted a colon after the salutation, you should insert a comma after the closing. Otherwise, ignore the punctuation and leave the closing as it is.
Although you don’t sign the business letter until it has been printed out, you must leave enough space for the signature, around four blank lines between the closing and the typist initials, as that’s an optimal amount of free space for a signature.
Remember that no document is valid without the proper signature, so signing your documents is extremely important.
Typist initials are used when someone else types the business letter for you, such as an assistant or a secretary. However, if you wrote the letter by yourself, there’s no need to include the typist’s initials in the document.
How to Write a Formal Business Letter?
Now that you’re familiar with the main sections of the business letter format, let’s take a closer look at how you can craft a well-written business letter:
You should always begin a business letter with a short introduction about yourself. This usually includes mentioning your full name and the company you’re representing. Introducing yourself is necessary to let the business letter recipient know who sent the letter and who they can contact for more information.
Once you’ve introduced yourself, you should state the primary purpose of sending the business letter. Since you can write a business letter for many different reasons, briefly explaining your writing to the recipient can help them immediately understand the covered topic.
Every business letter is written with a specific goal you want to achieve. Explaining this to the recipient is necessary to avoid any miscommunication along the way. Therefore, clearly state what you hope to achieve so you and the letter recipient are on the same page.
More often than not, additional details are needed to explain the purpose of the business letter better. Elaborate on details to ensure the recipient gets all the necessary information.
No business letter is completed without a call to action. Clearly state what you want your reader to do or achieve. A call to action can also be related to you, so stating your next step can also be a great concluding section.
Tips for Writing a Formal Business Letter
Still not sure if you’ve got all the information you need to write a perfect business letter. Check out these valuable tips that will make the whole process easier for you:
Having access to numerous different font styles and sizes is excellent. Nevertheless, when it comes to writing a formal business letter, you need to choose a professional font size and style that won’t impact the readability or neatness of the letter.
The whole purpose of the business letter is to share important information as quickly as possible, so consider selecting one of these professional formats:
- Times New Roman
Moving on to size, staying between 10 and 12 points will ensure your text isn’t too small or too big. It’s the optimal range for making the content easy to read and maintaining the letter’s professional appearance.
As business letters need to be easily readable, using complex sentence structures and elaborating your ideas poorly will only confuse the reader. So instead, use simple and clear language and concise and straightforward sentence structures. That will prevent any miscommunication and ensure you get your message across.
Yet another vital feature of the formal business letter format is spacing. Besides including spaces between different sections of the business letter, you should also consider separating different body parts with spacing. Left alignment increases readability, so you should stick to it when constructing such letters.
One-inch margins are generally used for all professional documents, but you can go up to one and a quarter inches for business letters.
Business letters don’t necessarily have to focus only on one objective. Instead, these documents often deal with several ideas at once.
When working on a longer business letter, think about organizing your information logically. For example, feel free to include sections and subheadings that categorize different topics you’ve touched upon. Ultimately, that’ll allow you to group your ideas and improve the readability of the whole letter.
Even though business letters are professional, they’re still read by real people. That is why being persuasive and establishing a good connection with the recipient ensures a positive and professional relationship.
Try to find common ground with the letter’s recipient. Finding a mutual point can carve the path for all future communication.
Finally, you should never send the formal business letter immediately after you finish it. Instead, take some time to go back and proofread the letter. The text should be free from grammar, spelling, punctuation, or stylization errors, so you may need to edit it.
Only after you edit and proofread your business letter can you print it out, knowing it won’t leave a wrong impression.
The formal letter format is used for some of the most frequently written professional documents. You can use this document for various purposes, from cover letters to letters of recommendation.
Nevertheless, all business letters follow similar formatting and style guidelines. Furthermore, all such letters should contain concrete information written in clear, professional language.
With the tips and tricks mentioned in this article, you’ll be able to craft a perfect business letter in no time.