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Business Letter Formats

There are certain standards for formatting a business letter, though some variations are acceptable (for example between European and North American business letters). Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Use A4 (European) or 8.5 x 11 inch (North American) paper or letterhead
  • Use 2.5 cm or 1 inch margins on all four sides
  • Use a simple font such as Times New Roman or Arial
  • Use 10 to 12 point font
  • Use a comma after the salutation (Dear Mr Bond,)
  • Lay out the letter so that it fits the paper appropriately
  • Single space within paragraphs
  • Double space between paragraphs
  • Double space between last sentence and closing (Sincerely, Best wishes)
  • Leave three to fives spaces for a handwritten signature
  • cc: (meaning "copies to") comes after the typed name (if necessary)
  • enc: (meaning "enclosure") comes next (if necessary)
  • Fold in three (horizontally) before placing in the envelope
  • Use right ragged formatting (not justified on right side)

Formatting Business Letters

Block format is the most common format used in business today. With this format, nothing is centred. The sender's address, the recipient's address, the date and all new paragraphs begin at the left margin, like this:

Wicked Wax Co. Ltd
22 Charlton Way
London, SE10 8QY


5th December, 2006


Ms. Maggie Jones
Angel Cosmetics Inc.
110 East 25th Street
New York, NY, 10021
USA


Your ref: 123
Our ref: abc


Dear Ms. Jones,

Forthcoming Exhibition

First paragraph...

Second paragraph...

Third paragraph...

Sincerely,

Morris Howard

Morris Howard, President

cc: Brian Waldorf

Enc: catalogue
SENDER'S ADDRESS
may be printed company logo and address



DATE


RECIPIENT'S ADDRESS






RECIPIENT'S REFERENCE (IF ANY)
SENDER'S REFERENCE (IF ANY)


SALUTATION

SUBJECT



BODY OF LETTER



CLOSING

SIGNATURE (HAND-WRITTEN)

NAME, TITLE (TYPED)

COPY TO

ENCLOSURE

This are other, slightly different ways of formatting a business letter, where for example paragraphs are indented or the date is typed on the right hand side. You can see examples of these in the sample letters.

Formatting Envelopes for Business Letters

It is best to type an envelope for a business letter. Most word document programs contain an envelope labelling function to help you. All you need to do is indicate the size of envelope you are using and type the correct information in the appropriate fields, for example:

Sending company's name and address
is sometimes printed here
Postage
stamp


Ms. Maggie Jones
Angel Cosmetics Inc.
110 East 25th Street
New York
NY 10021
USA

Formatting Business Memos

Memos are short internal business letters, sent to other staff within the same company. A memo (or memorandum) may also be posted somewhere inside a company for all to see. Memos are becoming less common as electronic mail becomes more common. In contrast to letters, memos do not usually contain salutations or closings, and may be typed or hand-written. The text portion of the memo is generally in block format. Memos should include "From", "To", "Date", "Subject" and the message itself, like this:

[Company logo]

MEMORANDUM



From: [name or initials]


To: [name or initials]


Date:


Subject: [short description]


Message starts here...
  • often
  • with
  • bullet
  • points

Formatting Business Email

When using email in business, most of the guidelines for standard formatting in business letters apply. Here are a few differences:

  • Choose a subject line that is simple and straightforward. Refrain from using key words that might cause an email to go into another person's trash box.
  • Repeat the subject line in the body of the email, beneath the salutation (as with a letter).
  • Use the "cc" address line to copy more than one person with your correspondence.
  • You can request a receipt for important letters. The system will automatically let you know when someone has opened your email.
  • Instead of a signature, include your typed name, and below it include your email address, business name and address, phone and fax number, and website if appropriate.
  • Remember that people often print out emails, so your own email address and the subject line would be lost if you had not included them in the body of the email.
  • Internal electronic mail may be formatted more like a memo than a formal letter.

Planning a Business Letter

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