How to Write a Basic Business Letter
These tips are presented in three parts- how to organize the Letterhead and Opening at the top of your business letter, the Body, and finally the Closing at the bottom.
Part One: Letterhead and Opening
Begin with the sender’s address. Do not include the sender’s name. Include only the street address, city, and zip code. Alternately, use a letterhead with these components included.
Formatting tip: Leave one line blank between the sender’s address and the date at the top of the letter.
It is best to use the date that the business letter was completed, rather than the day it was started. When writing to companies based within the United States, use the American date format (Month-Day-Year, i.e. July 15, 2015). When writing to companies outside the United States, use the alternate format (Day-Month-Year, i.e 31 July, 2015).
Formatting tip: Write the date 2 inches from the top of the page.
The inside address is the address of the person to whom you are sending the letter. Even if you are writing to multiple people or a department within a company, it is best to address your business letter to one specific person. Research the company or call to see which person it is best to include as the recipient of your letter. Include a title before the person’s name such as Dr., Mr., Miss, Ms., or Mrs. If you are not sure of a woman’s preference in being addressed, use Ms. If a person has two possible titles such as Dr. and Mr., use the higher title. For addresses outside the United States include the country’s name in all capital letters below the last line.
Formatting tip: Leave one blank line between the inside address and the date. **It should be left justified, no matter what format you choose to use.
Part Two: Content
Use the same title and name as the inside address followed by a colon. If you don’t know a reader’s gender, it is acceptable to use a neutral salutation, such their job title or first name. (i.e. Dear President Olson: or Dear Chris Olson:).
Formatting tip: Leave one blank line between the salutation and the inside address.
When writing a business letter, keep in mind succinctness and making sure you stick to the point.
- In the first paragraph, begin with a friendly opening and then write a few sentences that explain the purpose of writing your letter. Save the details and examples for the next paragraph.
- In the next paragraph or two, give supporting details to support your purpose. Give background information, examples, and justify your main point.
- In the final closing paragraph, restate your main point and purpose. If you are seeking employment, consider ending your letter with your contact information. Close the letter with gratitude that the reader took the time to consider your letter.
Formatting tip: Leave one blank line between the body and the salutation. Single space and left justify each paragraph within the body of your letter. When using Block or Modified-Block formatting, do not indent any paragraph. When using Semi-Block formatting, indent each paragraph. Leave a blank line between each paragraph.
Part Three: Closing
Your closing should be aligned with your date, and depends on the format you choose (see examples below). Use a closing such as Sincerely, or Thank you, but be sure to capitalize the first word only. Include a comma after the closing then leave 4 blank lines. Type your full name after those 4 lines and add your signature in the blank space when you’ve printed your letter.
Formatting tip: Leave one space blank between the body of your business letter and the closing. Be sure the formatting is consistent between the Letterhead/Opening and Closing.
Write Enclosures one line below the closing if you have included any documents with your letter, such as your resume or cover letter.