Today, a printed letter is usually reserved for important professional communications, such as recommendation letters, job cover letters, resignation letters, legal correspondence, and company communications. Since a letter is a formal mode of communication, you'll want to know how to write one that is professional.
Correct formatting is especially important if you're sending a hard copy to the recipient rather than an email because the letter needs to fit the page and look good.
The following sample letter format illustrates the information you need to include when writing a letter, along with advice on the appropriate font, salutation, spacing, closing, and signature for business correspondence.
Sample Letter Format
Contact Information (Include your contact information unless you are writing on letterhead that already includes it.)
Your City, State Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
Contact Information (The person or company you are writing to)
City, State Zip Code
Greeting (Salutation Examples)
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
Use a formal salutation, not a first name, unless you know the person well. If you do not know the person's gender, you can write out their full name. For instance, "Dear Pat Crody" instead of "Dear Mr. Crody" or "Dear Ms. Crody." If you do not know the recipient’s name, it’s still common and acceptable to use the old-fashioned “To Whom It May Concern.”
Body of Letter
- The first paragraph of your letter should provide an introduction as to why you are writing so that your reason for contacting the person is obvious from the beginning.
- Then, in the following paragraphs, provide specific details about your request or the information you are providing.
- The last paragraph of your letter should reiterate the reason you are writing and thank the reader for reviewing your request. If appropriate, it should also politely ask for a written response or for the opportunity to arrange a meeting to further discuss your request.
Best regards, (Closing Examples)
Handwritten Signature (For a hard copy letter, use black or blue ink to sign the letter.)
Letter Template to Download
Here is a sample letter that you can download (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or you can see the text below. Note that in this example, Nicole knows Jason Andrews well enough to use his first name in the salutation.
Professional Letter Example
35 Chestnut Street
Dell Village, Wisconsin 54101
August 3, 2020
53 Oak Avenue, Ste 5
Dell Village, Wisconsin 54101
I’m writing to resign from my position as customer service representative, effective August 14, 2020.
I’ve recently decided to go back to school, and my program starts in early September. I’m tendering my resignation now so that I can be as helpful as possible to you during the transition.
I’ve truly enjoyed my time working with you and everyone else on our team at LMK. It’s rare to find a customer service role that offers as much opportunity to grow and learn, as well as such a positive, inspiring team of people to grow and learn with.
I’m particularly grateful for your guidance while I was considering furthering my education. Your support has meant so much to me.
Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you find and train my replacement.
Thanks, and best wishes,
Nicole Thomas (signature hard copy letter)
Tips for Formatting Your Letter
To make sure your letter looks professional, follow these tips:
- Your letter should be simple and focused; make the purpose of your letter clear.
- Left justify your letter.
- Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph.
- Use a plain font such as Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New, or Verdana. The font size should be 10 or 12 points.
- Leave a blank line after the salutation and before the closing.
- Business letters should always be printed on white bond paper rather than on colored paper or personal stationery.
- If you're sending an email letter, here's what to include and how to format your signature.
Check for Formatting Errors and Typos
Once you have written your business letter, proofread it and spellcheck it on the screen. Then print it out and read it through at least one more time, checking for any errors or typos. This is important as it's often easier to spot errors on a hard copy.
Reading it out loud is a good way to catch a mistake.
Be on the lookout for formatting errors, such as two paragraphs that don’t have a space in between them or lines that are indented incorrectly. Then, before putting your letter in an envelope, sign above your typed name using black or blue ink.
If you are using Microsoft Word or another word processing program to write your letter, there are templates available that can help you format your letter correctly. Here’s more information on free Microsoft Word letter templates.
More Letter Format Examples
Here are more examples of letters and email message formats that you can use as a starting point for your own correspondence:
Letter Writing Tips and Advice
Knowing how to write business letters is an essential skill, so here are several additional articles for you to learn more:
Start With the Basics
Start with the basics on how to write a business letter using a general format, and review various business letter templates. In addition, you can look at these employment-related business letter examples. Review more details about formatting and take a look at another example of a business letter format.
If you like to learn by looking at examples, there are many types of business letters to choose from, such as cover letters, interview thank-you letters, follow-up letters, job acceptance or rejection letters, resignation letters, and appreciation letters. You’ll find all those along with samples of business and employment-related letters in this review of letter samples.
Send an Email Business Message
Not all business letters are printed out and mailed. If you plan to send an email, review these guidelines for professional emails and letter writing.