How To Write a Business Letter

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In a world ruled by the Internet and e-mail, it seems as though people have forgotten how to write a decent business letter. Whether you are applying for a job, quitting your job, or requesting information, many companies appreciate receiving a business letter.

A good, traditional business letter can be written in six easy steps.

  1. The heading. The heading will include your address and the date that the letter was written. If you are using a company letterhead, you can place the date flush with the left or right margin or centered just below the letterhead. (If you are writing in a block style, place the date flush with the left margin.)
  2. The inside address.  The inside address should be spaced two to six lines below the heading and include the name and full address to whom the letter is written.
  3. The salutation.  The salutation is the greeting. It should be located two spaces below the inside address and flush with the left margin. It should start with the greeting "Dear" and the name of the person who you are writing to. If you know the full name, use it, but, if you do not, a  last name will do. If the recipient is a woman, use Ms. unless you know that she prefers the title Mrs. or Miss. If you are writing to an organization and you do not know the name of the person who will receive your letter, you may use the company name or omit the salutation altogether.  The salutation of a business letter always ends in a colon.
  4. The body.  The body is where you give your reason for writing the letter. Be brief and to the point while using proper grammar.  The body is written in paragraph form and the paragraphs should be single spaced with double spacing between paragraphs. If you are choosing to write your letter in block form, do not indent the beginning of your paragraphs.
  5. The closing.  The closing is located two lines below the body and it should be aligned with the heading.  You can close your heading formally (Very truly yours or Sincerely yours) or in a less formal style (Sincerely or Cordially). Your typed name will go four lines below the closing.  Most people choose to sign their names between the closing and their typed name. If you have a title such as "owner" or "vice-president," place it on the line directly below your typed name.
  6. Any notations.  Notations are located two lines below your title and flush with the left margin. These will include any attachments, enclosures, the names of others receiving the letter, and the initials of the typist and sender.

Be sure to check with your company to see if they have specific guidelines that differ from the traditional business letter. Also, it never hurts to ask someone else to look over your business letter if you are unsure whether you have done it correctly.  Taking one or more online courses in business etiquette may also be helpful.


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