Business Letter Format

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published May 18, 2022, updated May 31, 2022
Business Letter Format

A business letter is typically a document you send to a reader outside of your organization. A memo is used internally in business (See memo format).

Examples of types of business letters include resignation letters, recommendation letters, congratulatory letters, complaint letters, reference letters, rejection letters, response letters, or really any other professional letter.

We've written a sample letter below that shows the proper business letter format including the salutation, body, and closing.

Here is a standard business letter format model, based on The Business Writer’s Handbook:

LETTERHEAD

(DATE - Three lines below the letterhead)
March 22, 202_ 

(INSIDE ADDRESS - Include the recipient’s name, job title, and address, two to six lines below the date, depending on the length of the letter.)
Mr. George Vogel
Director of Operations

New York Transit Authority
New York, NY 10010

(SALUTATION - Two lines below Inside Address, aligned to the left margin. Note a business letter salutation uses a colon. A personal letter uses a comma.)
Dear Mr. Vogel: 

(BODY - Begin two lines below the salutation, justified left.)
Enclosed is our final report evaluating the safety measures for the New York City Transit System.
 

The report addresses all issues you raised in our last meeting. I believe you will be happy with the resolution of the issues. However, if you have any further questions, I would be happy to meet with you again.

Thank you for your willingness to fully share data, and for your insights as we compiled this report. Your experience was invaluable.

(CLOSING - Two spaces below the body. Use "Best regards" or "Best wishes" if the recipient is a close colleague.)
Sincerely,

(YOUR SIGNATURE, HANDWRITTEN)
Marilyn Jones

(WRITER’S SIGNATURE BLOCK - Your full name four lines below the closing. Include business job title and individual contact info like your return address or email address.)
Marilyn Jones, Ph. D. 
Director of Research
mjones@companyname.com

(END NOTATIONS AS NEEDED - letter writer initials/typist; enclosures; courtesy copies)
MJ/ls
Enclosure: Final Safety Report
cc: ITS Safety Committee Members


Note that all text and paragraph lines are fully justified left, also known as block style. It is also acceptable to indent the Inside Address, Closing, Signature, and Writer’s Signature Block. If you choose this format option, indent them to the center of the page and align all of these elements.

Using a common font like Times New Roman is best.


CONTINUING PAGES

If a letter requires a second page (or, in rare cases, more), always carry at least two lines of the body text over to that page. Use plain (non-letterhead) paper of quality equivalent to that of the letterhead stationery for the second page. It should have a header with the recipient's name, the page number, and the date. Place the header in the upper left-hand corner or across the page.

For example:

Ms. M.C. Marks
Page 2
March 16, 2012
(We prefer this format.)

OR

Ms. M.C. Marks                           Page 2                         March 16, 2012


Letter writing is just one of the skills that we teach in our most popular effective business writing course.

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published May 18, 2022, updated May 31, 2022
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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