How To Write an Attention Letter (With Template and Example)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 20, 2022 | Published October 18, 2021

Updated August 20, 2022

Published October 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many reasons to direct a letter or package to a particular person. If you do, there are ways of addressing a letter to help make sure that the letter you're sending gets to its recipient. Understanding how to format an attention section on a letter or its envelope is key to directing those delivering your message to the person you're sending it to. In this article, we explain why to use an attention letter, describe how to format an attention section, provide a template and example, and outline other scenarios when attention sections can be helpful.

Why use an attention letter

An attention letter is the best way to make sure that your letter reaches the correct recipient as fast as possible. Using an attention section on a letter is as simple as writing a few key lines of information on an envelope or the beginning of a letter. For important or time-sensitive documents, being able to direct your correspondence in a clear way is essential. You may want to include an attention section when sending any of the following:

  • cover letters

  • resumes

  • reference letters

  • letters of interest

  • appeal letters

  • private or confidential correspondence

  • urgent correspondence

While it's most common to use an attention section on the envelope that encloses your letter, it's possible to use it in an email as well. In circumstances where an email reaches many people, or is part of a long email thread, a single line reading "ATTN:," followed by the recipient's name, can help to direct the attention of that person to the email. This line can go in the subject line of the email, or at the beginning of the email itself.

Related: How To Format a Cover Letter

What to include in an attention section of a letter

Some parts of the attention section of a letter direct the correspondence to a location, such as the company, building, or address, but the most important parts direct the letter to individual people. Attention sections usually comprise the addressee, the company name, and the address. You may also want to add the date you're sending the letter to this section if time is a major factor.

It's not necessary to include your address or information within the attention section, but in the letter itself. Alternatively, some envelopes have "From:" sections where the sender can include their information. The attention section is strictly where you list the sender's delivery information to make sure that the most prominent information is that which directs the letter to the recipient. Including your own delivery information elsewhere helps delivery personnel to return the letter or package if it doesn't reach the person to whom you're sending it.

Related: Writing an Excellent Letter: Tips and Examples

How to format an attention message in a letter

Here are a few key steps to including an attention section in a letter you're sending:

1. Know where to put it

An attention section helps to navigate a letter to its intended recipient without disclosing the contents of the letter. Because of this, it's best for it to be the first thing people read on an envelope. The wisest place to put an attention section is on the outside of an envelope.

This makes it easier to pass the package on to the correct person if the attention section doesn't relate to you. It also means that mail personnel can expedite the delivery to the person listed in the attention section, rather than relying on the department to sort through whose items are whose. You can also place attention sections at the beginning of any letter without an envelope.

Related: How To Write an Envelope for Letters

2. Write the "attention" line:

The first line in an attention section is the attention line. Begin this line with either the abbreviation "ATTN," or the full word "Attention." Then, after a colon, write the person's name. You can either write their full name, or their professional title if you're certain of their preferred gender pronouns. If you don't know the name of the recipient, you can also address the letter generically. For example, you can address the letter to those who make hiring decisions by writing "ATTN: Hiring manager".

You can include a line below this line to address any particular topics this letter is regarding. Begin this line with "Re:" then clearly state the subject of the letter. Usually, this line is just a few key words to indicate what the letter is about.

3. Include the company name

On the next line, goes the name of the company. This both makes the letter seem more professional and helps to make sure it gets delivered to the right place. You can also include the name of a particular department. Doing so can be helpful if you're addressing the letter to someone in a large company with many departments. If you do, write the name of the department on its own line before the company name.

4. Write the street address

The next line down is for the street address of the company to whom you're sending the letter. Ensure that you include any additional details such as directional signs like "North", "South", or any unit numbers. Many businesses share buildings with other organizations, so it's vital to include information not just about the street address, but where in the building the recipient resides.

5. Include the city, province, and postal code

Lastly, on the final line, write the city, province and postal code. Separate each of these elements with a comma. Common practice is to write the province as a capitalized abbreviation. If you're sending this letter or package overseas, you can write the name of the country on its own line below the city, province, and postal code.

6. Proofread the attention section

A vital yet often overlooked step in addressing letters with attention sections is reviewing the details closely for errors. When someone is delivering your letter, one small misspelling or incorrect detail may mean that your letter either gets delivered to the wrong person, or never actually reaches the intended recipient. Cross-reference what you've written with the recipient's delivery information to make sure that everything is correct before sending.

Attention section template

Here's a template of the attention message on the front of an envelope:

ATT: [Recipient's name]
Re: [Topic of the letter] (Optional)
[Recipient's department] (Optional)
[Company name]
[Street address]
[City, province, postal code]
[Country] (If sending overseas)

Attention section example

Here's a helpful example of attention sections in two scenarios:

Example 1

Here's an example where the sender knows the recipient's name, and they're continuing ongoing correspondence about budget cuts:

ATTN: Margaret Shen
Re: Budget cuts
Simon Bridges Finance
Unit 2a, 123 Walkerson Lane
Missasauga, ON, L4T 0A1

Example 2

Here's an example of an attention section written to send a letter of inquiry to an unknown hiring manager:

ATTN: Hiring manager
Re: Inquiry of employment opportunities
Peak Brain Media
123 Baskerville Street
Edmonton, AB, T5A 0A1

Related: What Is a Letter of Employment (Definition and Samples)

Other times you can use an attention section

You can use an attention section in more instances than just written correspondence. An attention section can be helpful for sending a range of items whenever they're for specific recipients. Here are a few other times when writing an attention section can be helpful:

  • Sending a package someone is expecting: Often, when someone is expecting a package, or it's delivery is urgent, the sender writes an attention section. This allows the recipient to identify the package quickly, and for those responsible for delivering it, to expedite the delivery to the correct person.

  • When communicating with someone for the first time: If you're writing a letter to a new acquaintance, adding an attention section to your correspondence can make sure that the letter goes to them, rather than someone else in their department.

  • When communicating directly with upper management: In many circumstances, senior members of staff have assistants to help them cope with their correspondence. Including an attention section can help to skip an assistant reading the letter and having it reach the recipient directly.

  • To reach a department rather than a person: Using an attention section can also help when you want to reach a department rather than a specific person. You can address the letter to a department when you need a whole team to receive the correspondence.

  • When returning documents or packages: No matter the reason for returning an item to someone who's sent it to you, you can write an attention section when sending it back. This ensures that it's brought to their attention that their delivery hasn't reached its target, and the item has returned to them.

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