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Correct Layout for Business Letters

by Tina Amo

A business letter is a formal missive, sent between businesses or between individuals and businesses. The layout includes several defined sections that differentiate it from a personal letter. Spacing, font, alignment and wording are just some of the factors that contribute to the formal style. A business letter that follows standard formatting can be visually appealing and easy to read.

Choose the Format

You can arrange the content of your business letter in one of three formats: Block, modified block or semi-block. The block format is the most commonly used of these. In this style, all text is left-aligned, the lines are single spaced and the paragraphs are double-spaced. In the modified block, only the addresses are left-justified. The date and closing lines are centered. The least used semi-block is similar to the modified format but the paragraphs are indented.

Appropriate Fonts

Business letter fonts are typically plain to project a professional appearance. Fonts for these formal letters include Times New Roman, Arial and Courier. You may use a font with more embellishment if you are sending a letter to a less conservative company or recipient. The appropriate size for the text will depend on the font you select. The font size for business letters is typically 10- to 12-point.

Sender's Address

The sender's address is the first section that appears on a business letter. This should include your physical or mailing address, city and zip code. This section is not needed if you will type your letter on a letterhead.

Provide the Date

The date on which you finish the letter should appear one space beneath your address. The format should follow the American system (month, day, year) if the recipient is in the United States. Adopt the recipient's date format if you are sending the letter to a different country.

Recipient's Address

The recipient's address should begin one line beneath the date. The person's name appears first, with the appropriate title. It's best to call the company and make an inquiry if you are unsure of the person's title. This way, you can avoid inadvertently offending the recipient. Type the address, city, state and post office zip code on the following lines. Purdue University suggests typing the name of the country in capital letters if you are mailing the missive abroad.

Greetings

Salutations for business letters begin with "Dear," followed by the recipient's title and full name. If the first name is unisex or unfamiliar, and you are unsure of the person's gender, you can forgo a gender-specific title and just use the full name. You can use the first name only if you are familiar with the individual on a first-name basis.

Constructing the Content

The spacing and alignment for the body of your letter should follow the format style you have selected. For instance, indent paragraphs if you are using the semi-block style and separate them by one line if you choose modified block. The first line of the first paragraph should contain the main point of the letter and the following paragraphs should provide supporting facts. It's best to keep them concise for easy comprehension.

Closing the Letter

The closing statement is typically a short statement, such as "Sincerely" or "Thank you." The statement should be in line with the date, unless you are using the modified block format. Leave four lines after the closing for your signature and type your name. Type "Enclosures" one space under your name if you are sending a document with the letter.

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