Standard Business Letter Format.  

Click at each red button to read instructions for that part of the element.


Bedrock Builders more 

425 West Boulder Boulevard, Denver, CO 80514; 807-238-3423  

December 17, 2001   more

Becky F. Sampson   
Action Tool Supply
3549 Freeway Access 87
Fort Collins, CO 80027 

Dear Ms. Sampson:  more

I am happy to respond positively to your request for an on-site demonstration.  I agree that our level of tool usage warrants a comparison of the vendors in the area, and I’d like to schedule your visit for next month.  

Our construction managers are particularly interested in seeing the capabilities of your stud guns.  We are often asked to retrofit existing concrete slab warehouse buildings, and it might be time to include these as standard equipment on each job site.  We would be interested in information regarding certification of operators as well.

We keep a permanent crew of carpenters and we would also want to see the full line of saws, sanders and other power tools appropriate for rough framing.  I’m sure our foremen would be interested in seeing the latest features available.

In addition, I would appreciate your being prepared with cost comparisons between long- and short-term rental agreements, as well as outright purchase of various equipment types. I am enclosing a list of the equipment we have rented over the past 18 months.

I can call a meeting for all project managers and foremen for either the 16th or the 18th of next month, probably at the Los Alamitos Office Complex site.  Please give me a call to confirm a time and location.

Sincerely,     more

Rosabeth Cantrell   more

Rosabeth Cantrell 


 encl: equipment list
cc:  Jerry Simons, Accounts Payable                                                                                                                                       page

Letter format
The format shown here is a “block” style, which is the most common format for business letters.  All the elements are lined up along an invisible line down the left side of the page.  The text is single spaced, with no indent at the tops of the paragraphs. 


The term “letterhead” is used for both the sheet of paper, which is preprinted with the company’s logo, address, phone number and often a corporate slogan or identifying graphic, and the printed design itself[1].  Generally of very fine quality and more expensive than plain paper, letterhead is designed to convey a positive image of the company.   Because the letterhead includes the company’s address, phone and often email, it is not necessary to include that information again in the body of the letter. Sometimes the writer will provide a direct phone number or personal email address if the action statement calls for direct communication.

Inside Address
Two spaces below the date are the full name and business address of the person to whom the letter is addressed.  If several people are receiving the letter, all their names and addresses should appear.  Don't confuse multiple addresses with those who receive courtesy copies of anletter addressed to someone else.  Listing multiple addressees means that each one is receiving an "original" of the letter.  The address on the letter should be the same as the address on the envelope.  As with the date, there can be legal consequences from inaccuracies.  The address on the letter is presumed to be the one to which the letter is actually sent.  If it is incomplete or inaccurate, a recipient can make the case that the letter was mailed to the incorrect address as well.  Alternatively, the sender can demonstrate that a letter was mailed to a legal business address by showing that the complete, correct address appears on the letter itself.

Write out the full, complete date the letter is mailed, or the date upon which any agreement being made becomes effective.
Because the letter is a formal document, often used in contract situations, the date can be extremely important.  The letter is usually dated the same day on which it is mailed, but whatever agreements are included in the letter are considered effective as of the date of the letter.  Thus, a letter might be dated several days into the future to allow for delivery time. 
Generally, antedating a letter is considered unethical, if not fraudulent or illegal.  The expectation is that anything put “in writing” was available for the reader on the date it was written, perhaps allowing for a couple of days in mailing time.

The formal greeting always starts with “Dear” followed by the person’s title and last name, and ending with a colon.  This requires finding out whether the recipient is properly addressed as Mr., Ms. or Dr.  Attempts to avoid the issue (i.e. substituting the title with the person’s first name, using impersonal phrases like “Mr. or Ms” or “To Whom it May Concern”, or eliminating the salutation entirely) indicate that the writer doesn’t actually know the recipient of the letter at all, making the letter a “form” letter, a much less formal document. 
Pay particular attention to the correct salutations in letters addressed to individuals who hold legal, religious or political positions[1].  People who have earned titles beyond Mr. or Ms. can be sensitive about their proper use.

Letter Content
The specific content of the letter will be created to meet the needs of the situation, but the structure of any letter should meet certain expectations:
Context Paragraph
The first paragraph of the letter will define the context, providing a clear statement of the letter’s topic and purpose.  Avoid starting a letter with legalistic or flowery language that doesn’t explain what the letter is about.  The bureaucratic, “Pursuant to your recent letter of request, we are hereby responding with the information you requested,” for example, offers no information at all about the content or purpose of the letter. 
(In social letters or in letters written for businesspeople in European or Asian countries, it is appropriate to begin a letter with a question about the family or a comment about recent weather or world events.  U.S. businesspeople, however, generally prefer to find out right away why the letter has been written.)
Content Paragraphs
The typical letter uses one to three paragraphs to provide the information relevant to its purpose.  Each paragraph should cover a single topic or point.  In the case of a long letter that covers multiple pages, it is appropriate to break the information into sections with internal headers or bullets to provide clarity. 
Action Paragraph
The final paragraph of the letter provide a clear, straightforward statement of the action that will be taken be the writer, requested of the reader, or expected by a third party. 

Two spaces below the final paragraph of the letter, a traditional closing line, generally “sincerely” or “respectfully,” ends the letter.  If the situation calls for a warmer tone, the closing might be “cordially,” “best wishes,” or “regards.”

A four-line space allows room for a written signature immediately below the closing, then the sender’s full name is typed, with the full business title (sometimes with the department or division as well) on the next line.  The signature on a business letter functions as a legal testimony that the contents of the letter are complete and accurate and signifies that the writer is taking responsibility for fulfilling any commitments being made.  Thus, even when the sender and recipient know each other well, a full signature is used.
When writing on behalf of a team or department, type the group’s proper name immediately above the written signature of the team’s representative: 

T.E.A.M Success
Sandra Thompson
Sandra Thompson
Team Coordinator
The original of the letter is always signed, and when legal issues are involved, care is taken that only that copy bears an original signature.  Sign in dark blue or black ink, with blue preferred when the letterhead is not easily distinguished from a photocopy.    

When anything is included in the envelope beside the letter itself, it is indicated two spaces below the signature.  This helps the reader notice that additional items are included and avoids the possibility that items will become separated.  Typically, enclosures are not stapled directly to a formal business letter, although many recipients will commonly secure the letter to any attachments (and sometimes to the envelope itself) as soon as the envelope is opened.
Type “Enclosure” or “encl” if only one item is included, or add the number of items in parentheses if more than one:  “Enclosures (3)”.   If the enclosures have not been specifically named in the text of the letter, a short title or explanation should be provided: “Enclosure: Job Site Attendance Log.”  The reader should never be left to wonder what an attachment is or what it is to be used for.

Courtesy Copies
At the very bottom of the letter, the names of anyone else who is receiving a copy of the letter are provided after a lower-case “cc:” The person’s title is often listed as well, especially if the recipient is not expected to know who he or she is.
Common decency demands that a letter’s recipient be notified when others receive copies, although occasionally a “blind” copy is sent.  For example, a customer service representative might write a letter of apology to a customer, sending a copy to the sales manager or even the sales clerk involved.  The customer can assume that the problem has been covered with those people, but does not need to have their names.  There will be nothing typed on the original.  The copies will show “bcc: Judith Martin, sales manager; Ron Banks, salesman,” and those recipients will know from the “b” that the customer got the letter without any notice of the copies. 
(The CC originally stood for “carbon copy” and many people will still refer to letter copies as “carbons” even though word processing long ago replaced carbon paper.)

Second Page
The typical letter to a client or business associate should be kept to a single page, although contract letters, legal findings, and claim summaries can sometime run to many pages.  When a second page is necessary, a special “second page” letterhead is used.  This has an abbreviated address but is printed on the same kind of paper used for the regular letterhead.  Unless a letter exceeds two pages, page numbers are generally not used. 

Business letters are folded into perfect thirds and mailed in a standard sized (#10) business envelope.  Typically, the envelope is made from the same paper as the letterhead and has the company logo and address printed in the top left corner.  The envelope is always addressed on a printer or typewriter; never send a business letter in a hand-addressed envelope. 
Now and then, a special letter (an award letter, for example, that might be intended for framing) will be delivered to its recipient unfolded.  Or, a letter might be included with a document in a larger envelope.  If this is the case, the envelope will generally have a typed label affixed to it.  Companies that send oversized envelopes frequently will usually have labels preprinted with the company logo and return address.