A formal business letter is an excellent way to send a more formal correspondence between two parties in a professional setting. The most common business letters are cover letters, resignation letters, letters of recommendation, thank you letters, and many more. Below are guides teaching how to address a letter, how to write a letter, and formal letter formats.
On this page, you can select our business letter format template. Just click to download for free into MS Word.
Table of Contents
- Business Letter Format: Introduction to the Business Letter Format
- Sample Business Letter Template
- Common & Career-Specific Letter Templates
- How to Format a Business Letter
- How to Write a Business Letter
1. Business Letter Format
The business world is filled with numerous intricate behavior guidelines and formalized communication styles. Rules vary from industry, region, and language. In the US, however, one of the best ways to conduct professional correspondence is the business letter.
A business letter allows multiple parties to exchange relevant information professionally. It can be more impactful to a reader than an email, due its formalized structure, content, and tone.
Below, we provide a downloadable letter template and will teach you how to write one that will fit almost every occasion.
2. Sample Business Letter Template
The following sample offers you a choice of free templates: one with a letterhead and one without a letterhead.
Business Letter Format
Address, City, ST, Zip | Phone # | email address
[1234 Street Address]
[City, State, Zip]
In this paragraph, deliver a friendly and clear introduction. State the main point of the letter here. Keep this section short and to the point.
In this paragraph, explain the importance of the main point by providing compelling and persuasive reasoning.
In this paragraph, continue to provide background information to back up your reasons. You can use facts, data, and other quantifiable metrics to support your claim.
Close by restating the main point of the letter, and if you can, include a call to action.
3. Common & Career-Specific Letter Templates
We provide extensive how-to guides for writing the following common types of business letters. Each comes with free downloadable templates to match your style and preference.
4. How to Format a Letter
Before you begin writing, decide which layout you want to use. There are two common formatting styles: block and modified block. The block format is the most common, while modified block can also be used.
The format of the body of both block and modified block is the same: left-justified and single-spaced.
The standard font style is Times New Roman, size 12. However, you can use other sans-serif fonts such as Helvetica, Arial, Courier, or Geneva, also at size 12. Sans-serif fonts have been credited with increased readability because of their balanced typeface.
Punctuation is straightforward in a business letter format. Make sure you use a comma (,) or a colon (:), after the salutation and a comma after the closing line.
5. How to Write a Business Letter
The following tips are in order from the top of the letter to the bottom of the letter.
Letterhead – Formal Letter Format
Most professional business letters include a letterhead – which is your name above your address, phone number, and email address. Letterheads are meant to increase the uniqueness of the letter, as well as lend authenticity to the person sending the letter. Likewise, you can include your company’s logo on the letterhead for a brand recognition and a more trustworthy appearance.
Check out the example letterheads below — both of these are acceptable methods of displaying your name and contact information. For more ideas, you can check out our cover letter templates.
See the sample letterhead below:
No Letterhead – Formal Letter Format
However, if you decide to not use a letterhead, you must use the following format:
- Write your contact information on the top left of the page above the date.
- Do NOT include your name in this section — in this version, it simply looks better to sign off with your name at the end of the letter.
- Only include your street address, city, state, and zip code.
The date will be the day you completed the letter written in standard U.S. format (for example, October 28, 2017). Write the date underneath the letterhead or underneath the address on the top left of the page.
Write the recipient’s (or addressee) address on the top left side underneath the date. Begin with the name of the addressee on the first line. Some research may be necessary to find the name. Address them properly as Ms., Mrs., or Mr. Also, make sure to include their title — such as Dr. — if it applies.
Beneath their name, write their current title. If you are unsure what their title is, again, conduct research to find out.
If they have no title, leave blank. Include the name of their company underneath their title.
Lastly, write out their company’s street address, city, state, and zip code. If they are located outside the United States, include the country name after the city.
Salutation – How to Address a Letter?
The salutation you will use depends on the title of your addressee, your familiarity with them, and also the context of the letter.
If you are familiar with the addressee, then use their first name (unless they have specifically asked you otherwise).
- If the addressee has earned a Ph.D. or an MD, then refer to them as Dr. (or Professor).
- Military titles such as General, Colonel, Major, etc., should be honored as such.
- If you do not know the contact person or you are addressing a group, use an appropriate salutation such as Sir or Madam, Hiring Manager, Director of Human Resources, Members of the [Name] Committee (hiring committee, organizing committee, acceptance committee), Board of Directors.
When it comes to salutations, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
The body of the letter is located underneath the salutation and is the field where you discuss the point of the letter. Usually, the body includes several strategic paragraphs meant to inform, persuade, and convey gratitude.
- In the first paragraph, get to your point quickly and state it concisely in the first line. Do not wait until the second paragraph to tell your audience what your main point is – they most likely won’t get that far.
- In the second paragraph, use evidence and persuasive reasoning to justify your main point. If needed, use the third paragraph to further support your point via empirical evidence.
- The closing paragraph should restate the point of the letter, and most importantly, include a call to action. A call to action is a passage that compels your reader to take up your suggested action. Ask yourself, “what do I want my reader to do after reading this letter?” Write your answer as your call to action.
Examples of calls to action can be as follows:
- “Please call me at [phone #] or email me at [email address] at your earliest convenience.”
- “Please get in touch with me at your earliest convenience to schedule a meeting.”
- “Please let me know how I may be of assistance during this period.”
You should always close with a positive line, such as “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully” with the first word the only capitalized letter in the line. Create four lines of space between the closing line and your typed name, to allow for a hand signature.
An enclosure note is an often neglected aspect of letter writing in the digital era. In fact, not many people actually know what ‘enclosure’ means. When you write “enclosure” in any letter you mean that another document is attached to the file. Think of it as you would if you wrote “see attachment” in an email. It helps alert the reader to another part of your correspondence – and helps avoid the problem of the reader overlooking a crucial document.
The image below shows where enclosure should be placed:
A proper business letter will have most or all of the elements mentioned above. Be sure to carefully review the grammar, spelling, and format of your letter numerous times before you send it out.