A business letter is a professional piece of correspondence. If you are writing a cover letter, letter of recommendation, or thank-you note, you will need to follow the formal conventions of a business letter.
Following these guidelines is important since it shows that you are taking the correspondence seriously. Plus, it ensures that the letter's recipient can focus on your message (and not on formatting inconsistencies, typos, or any other small but distracting errors).
Before you write—or finalize—your next business letter, take some time to review how to format the letter, from font choice to style, along with information on which salutations and sign-offs are appropriate to use.
Types of Formats for Business Letters
There are three basic formats used in business letters:
- Block format: In this style, all text is left justified. Skip one line between each section.
- Modified block format: Most content is left justified in this style, just as in the block format letter. Here are the exceptions: for your contact information and complimentary close, tab over to the center of the page, and write your information there.
- Semi-block format: Also sometimes referred to as indented block format, this style is the same as the modified block format except that each paragraph is indented.
Any of these styles is acceptable for use in a business letter, but since the rules for the block format are so clear-cut, this may be the easiest option to select.
Many word processing programs will have templates available that will make it easier for you to format the letter appropriately.
Take advantage of these templates so you can focus on the content of your letter instead of the formatting. Whichever format you choose, make sure to single-space the letter and skip a space between every paragraph and section.
How to Format and Write a Letter
Appearances matter! A business letter is a professional piece of correspondence, but it won't be perceived that way if you opt for a wacky font or have lots of typos. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Choose an appropriate font and font size. The bottom line here is that you want an everyday, unremarkable font (such as Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial) that won't stand out. The default font in your word processing program is probably an acceptable choice.
- Avoid casual language or slang. This is a formal letter, so you'll want to use more formal language.
- Prevent typos and grammatical errors by proofreading carefully.
- If you are printing out the letter, consider choosing high-quality paper. Whatever paper you choose, fold the letter carefully before placing it in the envelope. If you can, type the recipient's address on the envelope; if that's not possible, use your neatest handwriting.
What to Include in Each Section of the Letter
Include your contact information in the following order:
City, State Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
If you are using personalized letterhead that includes this information, leave off this section.
Date: In the United States, the format for writing the date is month, date, and year, for example, March 3, 2020. Do not abbreviate the month.
Recipient's Contact Information: Include the contact information for the person you are writing to. If you do not have a specific name, leave that off.
City, State Zip Code
Salutation: Begin the letter with a salutation, such as "Dear," followed by the title and name. See more examples of appropriate greetings to use in a business letter as well as advice on what to do if you do not have a specific contact person. Follow the person's name with a colon.
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Body of Business Letter
Keep your letter simple and focused so its purpose is clear.
- The first paragraph of your business letter should provide an introduction to why you are writing.
- In the following paragraphs, provide more information and details about your request.
- The final paragraph should reiterate the reason you are writing and thank the reader for reviewing your request.
Single-space your letter and justify your letter to the left. Leave a blank line between each paragraph.
Handwritten Signature (for a mailed letter)
Business Letter Template
This is an example of a professional business letter. Download the professional business letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.
Business Letter Example (Text Version)
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
March 1, 2020
Director, Human Resources
Acme Office Supplies
123 Business Rd.
Business City, NY 54321
Dear Mr. Kramer,
I’m writing today to invite you or another representative from your company to speak at the annual Metropolitan Business Conference, which will be held at North Branch Hotel, September 15 - 18, 2020.
The theme of our upcoming conference is finding and hiring employees who fit company culture. With the growth that your company has seen in the past five years, I believe you would have much to offer our audience.
As part of the speaker’s package, we offer a modest honorarium and a table for six at the Saturday night dinner.
If you have any questions or wish to know more about the speaking opportunity, please let me know. My cell phone number is 555-555-5555, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.
Your signature (hard copy letter)
More Templates and Examples
Overwhelmed by all the steps involved in formatting business letter correspondence? A template can help. Microsoft letter templates are available as a free download for Microsoft Word users or are available within your Word program. You can use these templates to create a variety of business and employment letters.
If you're unsure what to write in the body of a business letter, review these sample job search and employment letters for inspiration.