Writing a formal business letter is generally the best way to correspond with another professional, whether it’s a hiring manager, a client, or even your own boss.
This page will teach you the how to properly format a business letter, as well as provide a wealth of examples, templates, and writing guides to help you write yours.
Table of Contents
- Business Letter Examples: Common & Career-Specific Types
- Sample Business Letter Template
- Business Letter Format & Writing Guide
1. Business Letter Examples: Common & Career-Specific Types
We’ve provided extensive how-to guides for writing the following common examples of business letters. Just click the images below to download our free letter templates.
2. Sample Business Letter Template
The business world is filled with intricate behavior guidelines and overly-formal communication styles. A business letter allows multiple parties to exchange relevant information professionally. It can also be more impactful to a reader than an email, due its formalized structure, content, and tone.
Our general business letter template can be used for any kind of professional communication/correspondence. Simply decide if you want a letterhead, click the download button, and let our template guide you through the writing process.
Business Letter Format – Without Letterhead (Text Format)
[1234 Street Address]
[City, State, Zip]
[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. Formal Business Letter Format & Writing Guide
When it comes to how to format a letter, you need to pay attention to the format of both the page and the content. Both are essential for creating the professional look that is the foundation of any proper business letter.
Page Format – 5 Key Rules
Before you begin writing, decide which layout you want to use. There are two common formatting styles: block and modified block. The block format has a left-aligned address and closing, while those in the modified block are right-aligned. While the block format is used more often, both are acceptable for a formal letter.
The following are the standard rules that should be adhered to when formatting the page of a formal letter:
All proper business letters should be left-aligned, any other type of alignment is considered unacceptable in most professional settings.
Your letter should be single-spaced. In addition, there should be a space between the date, address, salutation, and each paragraph. Include four line breaks between the closing and your printed name to leave space for your signature.
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.
When using a letterhead, be sure to add a horizontal line underneath it. You can refer to our letters above to see some examples.
Keep your margins between 1” – 1.5.” Generally speaking, 1” margins is considered to be the most widely accepted format for professionals.
Content Format & How To Write a Business Letter
The following tips cover all the parts of a business letter in order from top to bottom.
Part 1 (a). Letterhead – Formal Letter Format
Most professional business letters include a letterhead (see the one above for an example) – which is comprised of your name, address, phone number, and email address.
Letterheads are meant to make your letter unique, as well as help verify its authenticity to the recipient. Likewise, you can include your company’s logo on the letterhead for brand recognition and a more trustworthy appearance.
Check out the example letterheads below — both of which are acceptable methods for displaying your name and contact information. For more ideas, you can check out our cover letter templates. See the letterhead sample:
Part 1 (b). No Letterhead – Formal Letter Format
Using a letterhead is always preferable when writing a business letter. However, if you decide to not use one, you must use the following format to maintain a professional appearance:
- Write your contact information on the top left of the page, just above the date.
- Do NOT include your name in this section — when selecting this style, 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.
- Double check our business letter sample to make sure yours is perfect.
Example of format when not using a letterhead:
Part 2. Date
The date should be the day on which you completed the letter, written in standard U.S. format (eg. October 28, 2017). It should be written underneath the letterhead, or underneath the address on the top left of the page.
Part 3. Addressee – How to Address a Letter in 4 Steps
Write the recipient’s (or “addressee’s”) 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 (LinkedIn, the company’s website, even Google search are all great tools).
- Step 1: Address them properly as Ms., Mrs., or Mr. Also, make sure to include their title — such as Dr. — if it applies.
- Step 2: Beneath their name, write their current title. If you are unsure what their title is, do the necessary research to find out if possible. If they have no title, leave it blank.
- Step 3: Include the name of their company underneath their title.
- Step 4: 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.
Part 4. Salutation
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 err on the side of caution and be polite as possible.
Part 5. Body
The body of the letter is located underneath the salutation, and is the field where you get down to business and discuss the reason you’re reaching out to this person. 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 an extra 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 do something. Ask yourself, “what do I want my reader to do right after reading this letter?”
Examples of calls to action:
- “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.”
Part 6. Closing
You should always close with a positive sign-off, such as “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully.” Remember to only capitalize the first word of this closing line, and to leave four lines of space between the closing line and your typed name to make room for your signature.
Part 7. Enclosure
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’re implying that another document is attached to the file.
Think of it as something akin to a “see attachment” note in an email. It alerts the reader to another part of your correspondence – and helps prevent them from overlooking a crucial document.
The image below shows where the word “enclosure” should be placed:
Knowing how to write a business letter is a fundamental skill for your professional life. A proper one will have most or all of the elements mentioned above. Be sure to carefully review the grammar, spelling, and format of your business letter numerous times before you send it out, to avoid leaving a poor first impression with your correspondent.
Looking for some more ideas on how to write a letter? Our experts have written of guides on how to write various types of formal letters. Check out our comprehensive letter of recommendation sample library, or our popular cover letter how-to guide for more inspiration!