Whether you're writing an email or a paper letter, the correct format is essential. A professional letter format can help you leave the recipient with a positive impression of you and your company. By following the right steps, you can write an effective letter that helps create or nurture a professional relationship and generate new sales. In this article, we discuss why knowing how to format a letter is important, steps to follow, common types of letters and an example to help you format your own.
Why is knowing the proper letter format important?
Understanding the proper letter format is important because letters are standard business communication methods, and writing an easy-to-read, correctly formatted letter can make you and your company present as more knowledgeable and professional. Writing an effective letter is especially important if you send a hard copy that the recipient can keep and consult later.
How to format a letter
Here are the steps you should follow when you format a letter:
1. Choose the type of paper
Most letters should be typed and printed on standard white paper. If you're sending a recommendation letter or a cover letter with a resume, you may want to use heavier paper. If the letter is on behalf of a business, use their letterhead or logo. Many clients appreciate a handwritten note expressing thanks for a large purchase, congratulations for a promotion or condolences for a loss.
2. Use the right font
Choose a font that looks clean and easily readable, and avoid overly stylistic fonts. Some examples of professional fonts include:
- Times New Roman
- Open Sans
The font size should be large enough to be easy to read, but not so large that the letter won't fit on one or two pages. 12pt font is the standard size.
Read more: The Best Fonts for Your Resume
3. Choose block or indented format
There are many different formatting styles, but you'll need to choose between a block and an indented format in most cases. The block format aligns all sections to the left side of the page. The indented format indents the first line of every paragraph by one inch. You can use the indented format for casual documents because it adds some visual interest to a letter. Indented letters usually have the sender's address and the date on the right side of the page.
4. Include addresses and the date
The first pieces of information you should include in any letter are the addresses of the sender, as well as the date. Place your address and contact information at the top, then skip a line and list the date. After that, skip another line and list the recipient's name and address.
5. Use a salutation
If you know who will read your letter, the simplest, most appropriate salutation is often "Dear [name of recipient]." If you don't know the person well or you have a formal relationship, use just their last name. If you're writing a letter to someone within a company, check their website or call the business for the correct person's name and contact information. If your letter isn't directed at someone specific or you can't find the right person's information, you can use "To whom it may concern." Follow the salutation with a colon or a comma. Colons are more formal.
6. List any additional information
You may want to include additional information underneath the salutation. Let recipients know if they can expect additional letters and mention any additional documents sent with the letter. People often call these enclosures or attachments. Write "CC" or "Copies to" and the names of other recipients to let readers know when you send a letter to multiple people.
7. Write the body of your letter
Keep your letter direct and to the point. It's appropriate to start with a short pleasantry such as, "I hope this letter finds you well," or “I hope you had a great weekend,” but you should move on to the reason for the letter quickly. You can lead right into this by typing, "I'm writing in regards to...” The closing paragraph should restate the purpose of your letter and request an action from the recipient. Then, end with another pleasantry, such as "Thank you for your time and consideration," or "Please let me know if you'd like to discuss additional details over the phone."
8. Include a complimentary close
A complimentary close comes right before the signature in a letter, and it ends with a comma. Common closes include:
- best wishes
- kind regards
- yours truly
Types of letters
Here are some of the most common types of business letters and tips for writing them:
A cover letter accompanies a job application. You can use it to introduce yourself and let people at a company know why you want to work there and how you can benefit the organization. Include your contact information at the top to ensure that the hiring manager can get in touch with you and address your cover letter to the person identified in the job listing.
Mention which job you're interested in, where you found the listing, and highlight the skills that make you most qualified for the position. Remind the reader to review your resume and contact you for more details or to schedule an interview.
Letters of intent
A letter of intent lets an employer know that you're interested in working for the company. You can send it before a particular position becomes available, encouraging the employer to think of you when an opening appears. These letters are less specific than cover letters, but they contain much of the same information.
Letters of recommendation
A letter of recommendation confirms a professional's skills and qualifications. It can strengthen an application for higher education or employment. Let the reader know how you know the person you're recommending, explain their qualifications, and give some examples of times that they used their skills to succeed. Include your contact information and inform people that they can contact you if they have questions.
Interview follow-up letters
After you interview for an open position, you can send a follow-up letter to thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the job. Mention the title of the position, and remind the reader about some key points you discussed during the interview. Summarize your skills, and thank the hiring manager for meeting with you and taking the time to answer your questions.
An offer letter offers a job to a candidate. It describes the terms of the position in detail, including duties and responsibilities, the job title, the salary, any benefits and the start date. It should also include a deadline for accepting the offer and contact information for the hiring manager or human resources department.
A sales letter introduces a product or service to a potential customer. It should include the features and benefits and the price. Photos of the product, contact information, and the offer expiration dates are helpful as well.
Many organizations prefer a resignation letter instead of a verbal resignation for documentation purposes. Start with a statement declaring your intent to resign and the reasons for your decision. Mention when your last day will be, and thank your employer for the experience you gained while working there.
Example letter format
You can use this example of a professional business letter format to help you write your own correspondence:
Wavewood Business Solutions
333 Halifax Rd.
Owen Sound, ON N4K 0K5
555 222 3333
May 22, 2020
Norfolk Medical Group
78 Foster Rd.
Baden, ON N3A 4B3
Dear Mr. West,
I hope this letter finds you well. I'm responding to your recent request for more information about a technology solution for your medical group. I'm the sales director at Wavewood Business Solutions, and I believe our products could be a good fit for your medical group.
We offer state-of-the-art technology solutions, and we serve large and small organizations. We provide technology solutions that make companies more efficient, increasing productivity and profitability. We understand that security is a top concern for many businesses, and we offer several products designed to enhance security. Our software allows providers to easily share patient records while complying with privacy laws.
We can also make updating records quick and easy, eliminating the need to keep paper copies. That way, you can reduce storage costs, make retrieving information simple and prevent many errors. For more information about what we have to offer, contact me directly at 555-222-3333. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Wavewood Business Solutions