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Business Letter Layout

As in all professional writing, business letters should be brief but clear. The relationship between the writer and the recipient should be stated at the outset. If action on the part of the recipient is requested, then that action should be specified. The tone of a business letter depends on the recipient: if it’s someone with whom you’ve worked closely for several years, the tone may be warm and friendly, but in general business correspondence tends to be formal. Even if your letter is registering a complaint, your tone should be polite.

Business letters, written on standard business letterhead, should be written in a block format, with everything beginning at the left margin.

Date: Month (spelled out), day (followed by a comma), year

Inside Address: The inside address belongs two lines after the date (this is the same address that appears on the envelope). It includes the recipient’s name preceded by “Mr.,” “Ms.,” “Dr.,” etc.; the title of office (“President”) follows the name on the same line if the title is short; then the full address: street, city, state (official abbreviation only), ZIP code

Salutation: “Dear” followed by title, last name, colon. Save “To Whom It May Concern” for recommendations and testimonials, and avoid “Gentlemen” and “Dear Sir”; they’re gender-specific.

Body of letter: The body of the letter begins two lines below the salutation and uses short, single-spaced paragraphs. State the purpose for and any connection with the recipient in the first paragraph. Describe what’s wanted in the middle of the letter’s body, and request specific action at the end of the body.

Close: Insert the close two lines below the last line of the letter. Capitalize the first word; conclude with a comma.

Signature: Leave three lines of space after the close for the signature. The signature should be signed in ink with the signatory’s name typed one line below and the title typed one line below that.

Typist’s initials: If the letter is typed by someone other than the writer, then the typist’s initials should be inserted below the typed name of the signatory; capitalize the writer’s initials, and use lower case for the typist’s.

Enclosures: “Enclosures” (or “Encl.”) indicates that additional material should be included.

Copies: List other recipients alphabetically (or by rank).


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