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How to Write an Effective Business Letter

Business letters follow similar formatting rules to cover letters.

  • One-inch margins
  • Easy-to-read font (ex: Arial, Times New Roman, Garamond)
  • Typeface set to 12 pts
  • All text is left-aligned
  • Paragraphs should not be indented
  • Text is single spaced
  • Skip one line between each paragraph

Heading:

Business letters are typically written on company letterhead. Therefore, your contact information won’t be centered at the top as it would be in a cover letter. Instead, the entire heading will be left-aligned. If your contact information is already incorporated into your letterhead, you don’t need to retype that information in the heading. This is how the heading should be formatted:

Today’s Date
[skip a line]
Your Name
Your Street Number
Your City, Your State/Provence, Your Zip/Postal Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address
[skip a line]
Full Name of the Person You’re Writing To
Their Street Number
Their City, Their State/Provence, Their Zip/Postal Code
Their Phone Number
Their Email Address
[skip a line]
Dear Their Name:
[skip a line]
[first paragraph]

Body:

Clearly explain why you are writing. If this letter is to an individual you don’t communicate with regularly, highlight any connections you have with them. These items should be handled in the opening paragraph. Mention any proposals, ideas, or solutions you may have, and accompany them with proof. Proof can come in the form of data, expert opinions, and results from previous trials, to name a few.

As with a cover letter, your final paragraph should be a “Call to Action” (CTA). Describe what they need to do, and note how you plan to follow up. It also doesn’t hurt to thank them for their time. Which brings us to our next point.

Tone:

This post by Xerox emphasizes the importance of using clear, professional language. Avoid slang and jargon. Make sure your paragraphs are ordered by topic and follow a logical flow. Focus the letter on the reader and not on what you want to accomplish. Remember, this is more like a persuasive essay. How is your proposal going to benefit them? Make it clear and engaging. Xerox also quotes the author of Contemporary Business Communication, Scot Ober, when they discuss tone. To paraphrase, you want to write in a way that is polite, confident, and genuine. Don’t write like a computer, but don’t write the way you text to friends, either.

Also, as with all formal correspondence, make sure to proofread thoroughly before sending your letter!

If you’d like more tips on how to master writing letters for business, you can purchase a copy of Ober’s book here:

Signature:

Once you have completed the body of your letter, you’ll need to create your closing signature. If you are sending something along with the letter (such as tables or photographs), you’ll need to add an enclosure. This works like an attachment to an email and briefly explains what you’re including. And if you’re sending a copy of the letter to someone else, you’ll need to include their name(s) under the “Carbon Copy” or CC. Also, be sure to hand-sign your signature in blue or black ink. Here is what a signature with all of those elements should be formatted:

[final line of letter body] 
[skip a line] 
Kind Regards/Thank You in Advance/Sincerely (etc.)
[skip a few lines to leave space for your handwritten signature] 
Type Your Name
[skip a line] 
Enclosures:
CC:

Bonus: This post by The Balance includes free examples of each section of a business letter.

On the next page, we’ll explore how to write effective letters of introduction.

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