This Is How You Should Really Format a Business Letter

Email may rule work correspondence, but knowing how to write a business letter never goes out of style.

How-to-Format-a-Business-Letter—A-Job-Skill-You-Still-NeedTatiana Ayazo /RD.com

Every part of a business letter, from the stationary to font to letterhead, is a powerful means of communication and conveys the subject’s importance. Due to their seriousness, business letters are best used for correspondence such as reference/recommendation letters, employment verification, and business proposals. If you want to know how to write a perfect cover letter as well, here’s the one secret to know. Follow these business letter format tips and you’re bound to make an impression:

Sender’s Address

First things first when it comes to business letter format: Your own address is typically included in the letterhead, a printed heading stating an organization’s name and address. If the stationary does not include letterhead, set your organization’s name (if you’re sending on behalf of one) address at the top of the letter, right above the date. Don’t include your name or title, because those will be used in the letter’s closing.

Date

Remember to use the American date format when sending the letter within the United States. It should go in the following order: the month (spelled out), the day, and then the year.

Recipient’s Address

This should include the recipient’s name, title, company, and address. When addressing the recipient, use the appropriate personal title, such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. If you’re not sure of a woman’s preferred title, Ms. is the safest option. Also, keep in mind that people usually prefer to be addressed using a higher title than lower, so if there’s a possibility the person is a doctor but you’re unsure, it’s OK to use Dr.

Salutation

You want to sound as professional as possible, so the best salutation for a formal business letter format starts with “Dear.” Avoid using casual greetings like Hi, Hello, and Hey. Along with the proper title, address the recipient by their last name followed by a colon. There’s always the more generic option of using, “To Whom It May Concern,” but try to be as specific as possible—and make sure you know these ways you might be using”To Whom It May Concern” incorrectly. Also, stay away from just using the person’s name as that can come off as too abrupt.

Body of the Letter

Make the purpose of your letter clear by keeping it simple, targeted, and concise.

  • The best business letter format spacing is single space, and leave a line space between each paragraph.

  • Left justify each paragraph.

  • The first paragraph should provide a friendly greeting and an introduction to the letter’s motive.

  • The following paragraphs should provide more information and detail on why you’re writing.

  • The last paragraph restates the letter’s purpose and thanks the reader for taking the time to review your letter.

Closing

There are a ton of phrases you can use when signing off in a proper business letter format, including “Sincerely,” “Respectfully Yours,” “Best Wishes,” etc. When printing the letter, leave four lines between the closing and the sender’s name for a signature, which is best written in black ink.

Enclosures

If there are any enclosed documents along with the letter, such as a resume, indicate this by typing “Enclosures,” followed by a colon, on one line underneath your signature. Avoid these resume mistakes that could keep you from getting the job.

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Amari D. Pollard
Amari D. Pollard is a writer and audience development strategist. She is currently a Roy H. Park Fellow at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and previously worked as the Head of Audience Development at The Week. Her writing focuses on politics, culture, relationships, and health. In addition to Reader’s Digest she has been published at The Week, Bustle, PopSugar, Inside Lacrosse, and more. She has a B.A. in Communications from Le Moyne College.