There are many types of business letters you will need to write in your career. These may include cover letters, business reports and letters of recommendation. Understanding the business letter format is essential to communicating your ideas in a legible and reliable manner. In this article, we discuss what a business letter format is, what to include in one and how to format your business letter using a template and example.
Related: How To Write a Cover Letter
What is a business letter format?
A business letter format is a formal document that communicates professionalism and respect to the recipient. It's a common form of correspondence from one company to another or from a company to its clients, employees, the public and other key stakeholders. While email has taken over business letters, organisations still use this medium of communication when they want to draw attention to a serious situation. It's a powerful tool that when received, individuals know to take action as quickly as possible.
What to include in your business letter format
The business letter format consists of six major sections. They include:
1. Your contact details
Begin your letter with an appropriate letterhead that contains your relevant contact details. This is the standard for all kinds of letters because it informs the recipient about your background. Depending on your designation and authority, the letterhead may also reveal the purpose of your letter. Here's how you should structure your contact information:
- Your name
- Job title
- Company name
- Work address
- Your phone number
- Your email address
2. Recipient information
After typing in your contact details, you need to include a section with your recipient's information too. While it may seem counterintuitive to place this section in your business letter, it has an important function in large organisations with large numbers of daily correspondence. For example, if your letter gets misplaced, anyone can track down the right recipient using their contact information.
Follow the format below when typing in your recipient's contact details:
- Recipient's name
- Job title
- Company name
- Work address
- Recipient's phone number
- Recipient's email address
Begin the letter with a formal greeting followed by the title and name of the person you included in the recipient information section. If you have an established relationship with the recipient, you can type 'Dear Ms. First name'. However, if you are writing to a stranger or a senior leader, use 'Dear Ms. Last name'.
If you do not have a specific person's name to address, use a standard salutation instead. For example, 'To whom this may concern,' or 'Dear Sir/Madam'.
4. Main body
Keep the body of your letter simple and focused. Concisely describe the purpose of your writing and structure new points using paragraphs. Maintain a consistent format to aid the flow of your arguments. Consider this basic framework when writing the main body of your business letter:
- First paragraph: Introduce the reason for your correspondence.
- Second paragraph: Provide more information and details.
- Last paragraph: Summarise your points, suggest any action your reader should take and thank them for their time.
Before you close your business letter, make sure to thank your recipient. Next, end your letter with a polite salutation followed by your name. Choose a salutation that fits your relationship with the recipient and the purpose of your writing. Remember to maintain a professional tone. Here are some good options of formal closing salutations:
- Yours sincerely
- Respectfully yours
- Yours faithfully
- Kind regards
- Warmest regards
Related: How to End a Letter
6. Your signature
Leave some space below your closing salutation and above your name to add your signature. If you are sending your business letter via email, feel free to use a digital signature. However, if you are sending your letter by post, it's best to use a handwritten signature. A signature authenticates your document, so make sure it's legible.
How to format a business letter
Adopting the correct business letter format makes the purpose of your writing clear and relevant to the recipient. Consider the steps below when selecting your business letter format:
1. Use a professional font style
Readability should be your top priority when deciding on your business letter format. Thus, before you type, you need to choose a font that is simple yet authoritative. Stylistic fonts that are cursive and loud may distract from the purpose of your writing. Remember that your reader values the quality of the content. They want to extract the most important information as quickly as possible.
Here are some font options that are suitable for business letters:
- Gill Sans
- Open Sans
- Times New Roman
2. Select a readable font size
For a business letter, the perfect font size is usually between 10 and 12 points. Anything smaller or larger than this can become too difficult or tiring to read. Often people overlook the value of writing in an engaging business letter format. This is essential because it encourages the recipient to read your letter from start to finish without missing out on key information.
3. Pay attention to spacing
Properly using spacing in the layout of your business letter creates an easy-to-follow structure for your reader. Spacing etiquette entails you leave spaces between the header, the greeting, each paragraph, the closing and your signature. Remember to select single spacing for your entire letter. Adhering to this format shows your attention to detail. It can make a substantial difference when you are writing to persuade in a cover letter or investor proposal.
4. Check your document's margins and alignment
Use the standard one-inch margins for your business letter format. While it may appear wide, it's an appropriate width that looks clean and inviting. Remember to keep your document left-aligned to maximise space and readability.
5. Maintain a formal tone
Unlike work emails where you have more flexibility with your tone of voice, business letters are usually formal documents that require you to keep a professional yet approachable tone throughout your writing. Often business letters address people you don't know or aren't in close contact with. That's why considering your tone can help you appear polite.
Business letter format template
A template is a great tool to ensure you follow the business letter format closely. You can customise it to suit the purpose of your writing and the person you are writing to. Here's a template that you can use as a guide to help you write your business letter:
Your Contact Information [Your name]
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
*Recipient's Contact Information
[Recipient's phone number]
[Recipient's email address]*
[Salutation: Dear [Recipient's name],]
[First paragraph: Introduce the purpose of your writing.]
[Second paragraph: Elaborate on the points touched upon in your introduction.]
[Third paragraph: Conclude your points, describe the next steps and thank your recipient.]
[Closing: Yours sincerely,]
Business letter format example
The following is an example of a business letter to provide more context on how to use the template introduced earlier:
555 Darling Harbour,
Sydney, NSW 9876 9876
November 12, 2020
Business Development Manager
123 Main Street,
I am writing to invite you to attend our upcoming 'Sydney Business Leaders Conference.' The event will be held over two full-days on February 10, 2021, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m at the Darling Harbour Conference Centre. Should you wish to attend, please read the details below.
The Sydney Business Leaders Conference is our annual networking event featuring fireside chats with emerging business leaders across Australia. Over the course of two full-days, we host workshops on leadership skills and arrange socials so that you expand your professional network.
You can sign-up for the event via our website or by emailing me directly. Please note, registration closes on January 31, 2021. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.
Tips on business writing skills
As a professional, it's integral to practice your business writing skills to communicate your expertise effectively in a business letter. Using simple and targeted language can not only prevent misunderstandings but also ensures that the recipient takes your content seriously. Here are a few tips on business writing skills:
- Know your audience. Try your best to find out the name and background of your recipient. Preparing ahead of your writing creates a better impression on the reader and increases the likelihood that they will respond to you.
- Keep it tight and simple. People receive dozens of emails and letters every day. For your business letter to stand out, you need to communicate your point clearly and concisely. Edit your writing regularly so that it sounds focused.
- Use professional language. Flowery language appears wordy and insincere. Remind yourself about the purpose of your writing to ensure you stay on track.
- Use active voice. It makes you sound more knowledgeable about the subject and creates a tone of urgency.
- Proofread your writing. Check for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors to come off as a competent and detail-oriented professional. Look for sentences that are too long or short to make sure your ideas flow smoothly.