Letter Writing Format

Letter Writing Format

The format of a business letter is a fairly standard one, and one that you can master very quickly with a bit of attention to detail.

All letters – whether personal business letters or business letters – contain the same letter parts.

You should try to print your business letter on only one page. 

But if doing so means that you are cramming the text together so much so that it looks crowded and gives an awkward “feel,” then you must prepare the letter on two pages.  (More on that format later.)

Letter writing format

The parts of the letter are shown below:

  • Return Address/Business Letterhead
  • Date
  • Inside Address
  • Salutation
  • Body (generally minimum of 3 paragraphs)
  • Complimentary Closing
  • Handwritten signature
  • Typed signature
  • Notations

Return Address.  The Return Address in a personal business letter appears at the top.  Letter writing format In a business letter specifies that the return address appears at the top, but it’s called a Business Letterhead because it is usually a printed and formal logo that identifies the company.  Businesses order the letterhead to clearly identify themselves, and they don’t want to waste those sheets.  

The business letterhead is usually printed on a good quality bond paper – and is generally white or a subtle off-white.

The Return Address for a personal business letter might be quite simply:

123 Main Street
Mytown, My state
Zip code

Business Letterhead.  The business Letterhead might be across the top:

Date.  The DATE is the next letter part. 

In proper letter writing format, write the date in full, not in confusing numbers.  The numbered date is not consistent around the country, let alone around the globe. 

  • So, the 5th of March could be 3/5/2013 or it might be 5/3/2013. 
  • Avoid that confusion. 
  • Write clearly in words:  March 3, 2013

The Inside Address.  In good letter writing format, this letter part is written exactly as it would appear on the envelope.  It should be the complete mailing address.  Include the courtesy title rather than avoiding it.  You can generally know if the individual is male or female.  If you don’t know, then you might consider doing some research before you write a letter to that individual with a specific name.

Mr. John Doe
123 Main Street
Mytown, Mystate   Zipcode


Mr. John Doe
123 Main Street
Mytown, Mystate
Country   Zipcode

Salutation.  The Salutation follows the Inside Address.  If you know the individual, as in the above examples, then the Salutation is easy:

Dear Mr. Doe:

If you don’t know the individual, then you will have to write something like the following – for both the Inside Address and Salutation:

The Customer Service Manager
ACME Widgets Co.
17 Cross Country Road
711 NW 72nd Avenue
Miami, FL   33126

Dear Sir or Madam:

If you find that awkward, then it is possible to use the alternate format as below – the SIMPLIFIED style – with only a SUBJECT line.  This is a viable alternate for a professional letter writing format.

The Customer Service Manager
ACME Widgets Co.
17 Cross Country Road
711 NW 72nd Avenue
Miami, FL   33126

SUBJECT:  Faulty widget order, #1234

The above is possible, but it’s not the standard format.  Leave 2 blank lines before the subject line and 2 blank lines after the subject line.  Omit the Salutation entirely in that case – and place the subject line in solid capitals.



The rest of the letter

Body.  The body should comprise generally 3 paragraphs – a short opening, middle paragraph(s) and a short closing.  If the body comprises more than one paragraph, then you still will maintain the short opening and closing.  Focus on the reader – not the writer.

Complimentary Closing.  This letter part depends on the topic and nature of your letter.  The standard would be Yours truly.  Variations might be Very truly yours, Yours sincerely, and Very sincerely yours.  Each one has its own specific tone and “feel,” so you can choose the one you prefer if you don’t want to you the standard.  Avoid the word “kindly” in any of the options.  It’s not appropriate.

The handwritten signature.  Leave 4 to 6 blank lines for the handwritten signature.

The typed signature.  The typed signature is necessary because some handwritten signatures are illegible – and it is clearly necessary to know who is writing the signature.

Notations.  You might have enclosures or attachments.  Indicate those, perhaps.  But the notation was originally designed for the typist in the typing pool who had to type the letter for her boss and then remember what to add to the letter.  Since that is no longer the situation in business, the enclosures lose that important function so you can also omit them if you wish.

Important consideration - Frame the letter properly on your page

One very important consideration.  Do not jam your letter onto one page just because you want to limit it to one page.  Of course, write succinctly and write only what is necessary.  But the presentation is very important.

Ensure that you have a proper one-inch margin all round - top and bottom, left and right.  This format will present your letter in a most professional manner - like a work of art properly framed.

The second page, if there is one...

Second page format.  If you must let your letter flow to the second page, you must have a proper header with page number and date on the second page.  The following would be appropriate

Or, you might write the following - where the information goes across the top of the page.

The purpose of the second and subsequent page headers becomes very clear if the pages should become separated. 

Be sure that, if you have a second page, you have sufficient information to make the page worthwhile.  Adjustments may have to be made on the first page to ensure that excellent letter writing format.

Following the above format will help you produce excellent and professional letters every time!

LINK - Click this link to find an excellent course in business writing.

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