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Official email writing format
September 23, 2018 Anniversary Wishes 2 comments

Writing a formal email can seem like a daunting task since email is so often used a note like “I am attaching a copy of my resume and portfolio, in PDF format.”.

How to Write a Formal Email

Formatting Your EmailWriting Your MessagePreparing to SendSample EmailsShow 1 more...Show less...Article SummaryQuestions & AnswersRelated Articles

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Writing a formal email can seem like a daunting task since email is so often used for personal and informal purposes. If you need to write an email to a teacher, boss, business contact, government agency, or other recipients that requires formality, just follow a few simple guidelines. Keep your message clear and to the point, and follow expectations for style, tone, and formatting. Finally, proofread and review the content of your email before sending it.



Formatting Your Email

  1. 1

    Use a professional email address. Ideally, your email address should be a variation of your real name, not a username or nickname. Use periods, hyphens, or underscores to secure an e-mail address that's just your name, without extra numbers or letters, if you can.
  2. 2

    Stick to a professional font. Most email services now allow you the option to write using a variety of fonts and text styles. For a formal email, however, keep things conservative, with fonts like Times New Roman and Arial. Avoid decorative fonts like Comic Sans or Old English. In addition:[1]
    • Write your email in a legible font size, such as 12 point type.
    • Avoid special styles like italics, highlighting, or multicolored fonts unless they are warranted by the content and purpose of the email.
    • Do not use all caps. These make it seem like you are shouting at the recipient.
  3. 3

    Use a short and accurate subject line. Use keywords in the subject line that suggest exactly what you are writing about, in just a few words. This helps make sure that readers don’t overlook your email because the subject line is missing, is too vague, or suggests the email is unimportant.[2]
    • Subjects like “Quick question,” “Contacting you,” or “Email about an important matter” are too vague or obvious to be useful.
    • “Schedule, Guest List, Lunch Requests, and Meeting Overview for March 12th,” on the other hand, is overwhelmingly long and covers several topics.
    • “Meeting RE: damaged escalator on March 12th,” however is short and to the point. It alerts your recipient to a single primary topic and a specific date.


Writing Your Message

  1. 1

    Use a proper salutation. Always open a formal email with a salutation. Addressing the recipient by name (if known) is preferred. Include the person's title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc.) with their last name, followed by a comma or a colon. You can precede the salutation with "Dear..." if you like.[3]
    • If you don't know the name of the person you're writing to, use a salutation like “Dear Sir/Madam,” “Dear Sir or Madam,” or “To whom it may concern.”
    • Do not use “Hello,” “Hey,” “Hi,” or other informal salutations.
  2. 2

    Introduce yourself in the first paragraph (if necessary). If you are writing to someone you don't have an existing relationship with, such as a new customer, hiring manager, or government official, tell them who you are and why you are writing. Do this in the first sentence or two of your email.
    • For example, when writing to a potential employer, you might say: "My name is Earl Rivers. I'm contacting you to apply for the administrative assistant position listed on CareerXYZ.com."
  3. 3

    Prioritize the most important information. Once you’ve introduced yourself and the general reason you’re writing, you can follow up with the body of your email. Put the most important content near the top. This respects your recipient’s time and makes the purpose of your email clear.[4]
    • When writing to a government official, for instance, you might start by saying: "My name is Arlene Rivers. I obtained your email address from the Westchester County Clerk website. I am writing to contest the traffic citation I received on December 31, 2009. "
  4. 4

    Get to the point. For a formal email, it’s ok to be direct, as long as you are polite. Beating around the bush will only lose your reader and make it harder to figure out what you want or need from them.[5]
    • For instance, when writing to a professor, don’t waste space with unnecessary padding like: “This is Darlene Frankreich. Do you know me? CHEM 221 is my favorite class right now. I love the way the lectures are so organized. I can always follow along and know what will be on the tests. Speaking of tests, I was thinking about the next exam.”
    • Instead, it would be much clearer to write something like: “This is Darlene Frankreich. I’m a student in your CHEM 221 class, and I'm writing about a potential exam time conflict.”
  5. 5

    Keep it brief. There’s no set length for how long an email should be. However, it’s a good idea to keep an email to about one (laptop or desktop size) screen length.[6]
    • If your email is relatively lengthy, break it up into short paragraphs. Insert a line break between each paragraph instead of indenting.
  6. 6

    Use formal language. Since formal emails are written for professional contexts, you’ll want to give a good impression. Use complete sentences and polite phrasing. Avoid things like:[7]
    • Slang
    • Unnecessary contractions
    • Emoticons and emojis
    • Profanity
    • Jokes
  7. 7

    Use a proper form of closing. As with salutations, there are a variety of closings that are acceptable in formal emails. Make sure to follow up with your full name and job title or other signature (if you have one). Examples of potential closings include:[8]
    • "Yours sincerely,"
    • "Yours cordially,"
    • "Respectfully,"
    • "Best,"
    • “Your student,”


Preparing to Send

  1. 1

    Include any necessary attachments. If you need to include any attachments, make sure to mention them in the body of the email to let the recipient know that they are included. Be courteous by trying to keep the number of attachments and their file size down, and by using common or widely compatible file types.[9]
    • For example, include a note like “I am attaching a copy of my resume and portfolio, in PDF format.”
  2. 2

    Proofread your message for content, spelling, and grammar. Don’t just rely on your email service’s spelling or grammar checker. Reading your email aloud or asking someone to proofread it is a great way to catch any typos, mistakes, or unclear phrases.[10]

  3. 3

    Make sure that the email does not contain any sensitive information. Always keep in mind that email is not a secure communication system. Remember that email servers can be hacked, or that your recipient might intentionally or unintentionally share information that you didn’t want to be divulged.[11]
    • Avoid including things like passwords, account numbers, and confidential information in an email.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question

    How should you mention that an email includes an attachment?

    Write "Please refer to the attached document." anywhere in the email that seems appropriate.

  • Question

    How should I end a formal email?

    A formal email can be ended by using a correct form of leave taking. For example: Yours sincerely, Yours cordially, etc., depending upon the relation between the recipient and the sender.

  • Question

    Do I have to leave a blank line between leave-taking and my name?

    You can add a blank line or not, whichever you think looks best.

  • Question

    Do I write my name and address as the top of an email?

    You do not typically need to include your mailing address or email address in an email. You may include your business phone number and/or business website URL at the end of the email, under your name.

  • Question

    How do you get that one annoying person to stop emailing you with their annoying questions or comments?

    Write back that you appreciate their comment or question, you are very clear on their stance but that you have no further authority to make changes to the situation. Then you could suggest that you move on to a new subject, or simply leave it at that.

  • Question

    Is it allowed to add information at the end of email using P.S.? If so, where should we write it?

    Yes, you can add the P.S. information at the very end, after your signature, with a line skipped in-between. However, it would be ideal to just incorporate the information into the body of the email if you can.

  • Question

    What do you say at the end of the email if you know the person?

    If it is a friend you may say: Cheers, Your name here. Or: See you soon/later/tomorrow, Your name here

  • Question

    Should I leave a line between the paragraphs?

    Yes, that generally looks more clear and organized.

  • Question

    What do I write if I want to ask a question to a teacher?

    Write your email in the same professional manner that you would use to email anyone with a question.

  • Question

    What if the sender didn't know the gender of the recipient?

    Say "sir/madame" or just refer to them by their name. If they are a doctor you can refer to them as "Dr. So-and-So."

Show more answers

Ask a Question

Use these free templates for formal email requests, updates, scan) in an F pattern, which means you need to format your email accordingly.

How to Send A Formal Email Fast And With Confidence

official email writing format

An is the content of an email you send with your resume. Its purpose is to explain why you're applying and introduce yourself in a very brief manner. Email cover letters are much shorter than regular cover letters you'd submit via job boards or as attachments.


Long story short:


An email cover letter isn't your good ol’ cover letter all over again.


If you’re applying for a job via email instead of using job boards, you’ve got a golden opportunity to get remembered by the hiring manager. But—


To make it happen, you need the best email cover letter out there.


And you are going to have one. Read on, and I’ll show you:


  • An email cover letter sample that will help you land that interview.
  • A tried-and-true email format for cover letters that showcases your most valuable strengths.
  • How to write a cover letter in an email to get any job you want.
  • Little known hacks for sending your cover letter email with a resume for greatest impact.


First, have a look at this universal, simple email cover letter sample. What do you think makes it so special?


Sample Email Cover Letter Template You Can Adjust and Use



I’ll tell you one thing, Jacob can expect the callback anytime!


It’s a perfect email cover letter template you can tweak so that it fits your situation, and use to apply for any job.


As you can see above, you should format your email cover letter just as any other semi-formal email. Use a standard, elegant font and double spacing between paragraphs. At the bottom, include your contact information, just as you’d do in the footer of any professional email you send.


Writing a regular cover letter to attach to your resume email? Learn how to make the most of it from our complete cover letter writing guide: How to Write a Cover Letter for Any Job Application


For more tips on formatting your cover letter, see: Cover Letter Formatting Guide


Need more detailed information on how to apply for a job via email? Don’t know how to find your hiring manager’s email address? Here’s a guide that will show you tons of useful tips and tricks: Job Application Email: How, When, Who to Send Your Resume To


And if you’re eying an internship and crafting an email cover letter for fresh graduates, see this article: Internship Cover Letter Sample & Writing Guide


One last thing before we go on:


Email cover letter—body or attachment?


Either. But not both.


Truth is, this choice won’t be decisive for your job hunt, so don’t obsess over it.


My suggestion is—if you’re applying by email, you’re risking that your message will reach the hiring manager in a hurry, so don’t make them open TWO attachments. Write your cover letter in your email body and enclose only your resume.


Want to save time and have your professional job application ready in minutes? Here are a sample cover letter and a matching resume made with our resume and cover letter builder. Write your cover letter and resume here.


Resume and a sample cover letter for a job application. See +15 resume and cover letter templates and create your job application here.


One of our users, Nikos, had this to say:


[I used] a nice template I found on Zety. My resume is now one page long, not three. With the same stuff.


Create your resume now




So you’ve seen a jaw-dropping job application email cover letter. Now, let’s break down what makes this email format for cover letters so great.



Strong Subject Line: the Only Guarantee Your Email Cover Letter Gets Opened


It won’t matter if your achievements are breathtakingly impressive or your skills fit all requirements of the job you’re trying to land…


If no one opens your job application email cover letter.


And guess what? That depends only on the subject line.


Make the most of it. In the subject line for an email cover letter with a resume, include:


  1. Who you are,
  2. That you’re applying for a job,
  3. The position,
  4. The company name,
  5. Job ID (if applicable).


Like the candidate from our sample, Jacob did:


Sample Email Cover Letter Subject Line


Senior Software Engineer[1] Seeks[2] Software Development Team Lead[3] Position with XYZ[4] (ID: 123436284)[5].


Pro Tip: The only instance when all of the above is of no consequence? When the employer demands all applicants to use the same subject line, for example, “Application for Position XYZ - [Your Name].” If so—you have to play by their rules.


How long should your cover email subject be?


As long as it needs to be to include all of the above info and as short as possible.


Need an exact figure?


Number of email subject characters displayed varies across devices and operating systems:


  • For desktop email applications it’s within the range of 46 (Yahoo Mail) to 70 (Gmail).
  • Mobile email clients? From 30 characters (Android; portrait) to 64 characters (iPhone; landscape).


To stay on the safe side, begin your subject line with the name of your position. It’s sure to stay within the narrowest, 30-character range, and the hiring manager will immediately know what vacancy the message is about.



Proper Greeting to Show Your Professionalism


The best way to start your email cover letter is with “Dear” + the hiring manager’s name.


Personalization will make the hiring manager feel like they’re reading something made specifically for them.


Don’t know the name of your hiring manager?


Do some research!


  • Double check the job ad.
  • Check LinkedIn. Job offers on LinkedIn often identify the one who did the posting.
  • Check the company website. Try to find the head of the department on the company's staff page.
  • Ask friends. You can use LinkedIn to check if you've got contacts at the company. A Facebook shout-out may work too.
  • Call. If all else fails, call the receptionist and ask who the contact person is.


Pro Tip: Tried all of the above to no avail? Go with “Dear [Team Name] Hiring Manager,” or “Dear [Team Name] Hiring Team,” for instance: “Dear Customer Service Hiring Manager” or “Dear Project Management Hiring Team.” The two greetings you have to avoid are: “To Whom It May Concern,” and “Dear Sir or Madam.”


For more details on how to address your email cover letter, see this handy guide: How to Address a Cover Letter to the Right Person



First Sentence: Short and To-The-Point


Sending your cover letter in an email instead of using job boards is an excellent strategy for escaping the resume black hole.


But there’s one downside.


While hiring managers book specific time slots for reviewing resumes and cover letters they got through their online recruitment systems, your email, as I said before, might reach them in a rush. For instance, heading out to a meeting or dealing with an urgent problem.


In an email cover letter, don’t make the hiring manager read between the lines of some fancy storytelling.


Be as straightforward as possible.


Email Cover Letter Example: First Sentence


Attached you will find my resume with detailed work experience for the position of [XYZ].


And that’ll do.



Main Paragraph: Relevance is Key


You’re not applying for a job. You’re applying for this job.


For the hiring manager, it doesn’t matter how great your career has been so far. What matters is how you can help the company with their upcoming tasks and challenges.


Show that in your email cover letter body:


  • Read the job description carefully, identify what your responsibilities will be.
  • Then, research the company online, try to find out what projects they’re running or plan to launch in the future.
  • Outline your professional achievements that can translate into success in your prospective role.
  • Highlight what you have to offer.


Remember Jacob, the candidate from our sample?


The company he’s applying to, XYZ Corp., is looking for a Software Development Team Lead to supervise the development of new mobile apps.


That’s what his tailored, brief email cover letter reads:


Sample Short Email Cover Letter Body


As a senior software engineer at ABC Inc., with a proven record of developing and optimizing the most strategic mobile apps and online software, increasing annual mean NPS to over 60.0 (32% rise) and cutting Customer Effort Scores in half[your achievements most relevant to the job you’re trying to land], I am sure I can help XYZ achieve similar results[an offer to leverage your experience to the benefit of your future employer] with your upcoming project of developing mobile apps for personal finance and easy online trading[knowledge of your employer’s plans and your responsibilities].


Pro Tip: I can’t stress this enough—an email cover letter has to be shorter than one you would include as an attachment. How short exactly? Your go-to word count should be 150, tops.


In need of some extra tips for your cover letter? Check out: 35+ Easy Cover Letter Tips You Can Use Today



So the hiring manager knows you’re a great candidate. Job done?


Not quite. Take an extra step. Reiterate your value in the call to action:


  • Ask the hiring manager to reach out to you and meet in person.
  • Once again, focus on what you have to offer.


Again, let’s have a look at the call to action from our sample:


Sample Email Cover Letter—Call to Action


Can we schedule a meeting[asking them to reach out to you] to discuss my insights and ideas on making XYZ’s software development quicker and more effective, while boosting all major KPIs [restating your offer]?


Pro Tip: The two worst things you can do in your email cover letter closing are coming off as needy (I’m sure I’d make a great employee, just give me a shot!) or generic (Thank you for your time and consideration).


For more ideas on strong and compelling ways to finish your cover letter, go here: How to End a Cover Letter the Right Way



Once you’ve written your email cover letter for a resume, you just need to put a formal greeting at the very end.

Write “sincerely” and follow it with your full name.

If you’re not a fan of the well-worn, “sincerely,” feel free to use any of the following synonyms:


Sample email cover letter sign-offs:


  • Thank you,
  • Best regards,
  • Kind regards,
  • Sincerely,
  • With best regards.


Pro Tip: Under your sign-off, put the necessary contact information, such as your LinkedIn profile, email address, and telephone number. To save yourself the effort of adding them every time you send an email covering letter, you can include them automatically in the footer of your email. You can also include a digital copy of your handwritten signature. It will add a nice, professional touch.



So you’ve just written your perfect, short email cover letter. Now you’re basically guaranteed to land that interview, right?




Let me just quote what one recruiter wrote in her LinkedIn article:


Dear Applicant,

Your email arrived with a cover letter in the main body. I was really impressed and could not wait to review your resume. There was only one problem. You’d forgotten to attach it.

I replied to your email asking you to reattach your resume and you did not respond until the following day. In any case, it was already too late.

I don’t think you really wanted that job.

Ann Ayinde

Human Resources Business Partner at British Council


And I don’t think I need to explain further, do I?


Pro Tip: If you have forgotten to attach a resume to your email cover letter, don’t resend the whole message, just shoot a quick follow-up email with your resume attached. Would rather avoid this nightmare scenario? Attach all the necessary documents before you start writing a cover letter email.


One last thing to keep in mind:


Choose a professional file name for your resume attachment:


“[Your first and last names]-resume-[the company name],” for example: John-Smith-resume-Intel NOT My-resume-124.


Key Takeaway


To write a perfect cover letter email for a job application, follow these steps:


  • Use a clear, strong subject line.
  • Open with a proper greeting—address the hiring manager by their name.
  • In the first sentence, explain why you’re writing and what position you’re targeting.
  • Write a brief main paragraph that outlines your most relevant experience and achievements.
  • Close with a call to action—ask to schedule a meeting and reiterate your offer.
  • Sign-off with a “sincerely” synonym and your full name.
  • Put your contact details in the footer.
  • Don’t forget to attach a resume to your cover letter email!


And, for the final piece of advice:


Keep it short.


Got any additional questions about writing and sending a cover letter email? Want to share your experience with applying by a direct email message? Give me a shout in the comments. I can’t wait to hear out your thoughts. Let’s chat!

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Conventions of Mails and Sample Mails

official email writing format

The average business email user receives over ninety emails per day. That means your message has some serious competition for the recipient’s attention. Clear, effective communication begins with using the proper business email format.

What’s so hard about that? you’re thinking. I type out what I have to say, hit Send, and away it goes!

Slow your roll there, champ! How you format your business email makes a difference. Not only does good email formatting make your email easier to read, it makes you look like a polished professional.

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing always looks great? Grammarly can save you from misspellings, grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and other writing issues on all your favorite websites.

How to Format a Business Email

1 Pay attention to your subject line.

Many people throw a subject line onto an email as an afterthought. But, if you want to make sure your email gets the attention it deserves, an afterthought won’t cut it.

MORE INFO: 20 Email Subject Lines That Will Get Opened Every Time

Take it from the people who send marketing emails for a living—subject lines are important. Thirty-three percent of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone. Although business emails between people who know and work with one another are far more likely to be opened than sales pitches, your subject line still serves a purpose.

  • It tells the recipient what to expect in the email. Often, the best subject line tells the recipient exactly what lies within. When your recipient sees “Third quarter marketing reports attached,” there’s no ambiguity about why you’re writing.
  • It creates interest in the email’s content. Your subject line can pique the recipient’s interest. This is especially important with cold emails to contacts you don’t know well.
  • It can help the recipient prioritize their busy inbox. A subject line can create urgency and help the recipient determine which emails need attention first.

Here’s a tip: Because they’re often used by marketers and spammers, words and phrases like “urgent” and “reply needed” have lost some of their effectiveness as email subject lines. Try being more specific: “Respond by EOD Friday.”

Email Subject Line Tips

  • Keep it short.
  • Avoid filler words and phrases.
  • Don’t use all caps or excessive punctuation.
  • Know how to avoid spam filters.

2 Get the salutation right.

Business email salutations can be tricky unless you know some email greeting do’s and don’ts. Play it too straight and you’ll sound stuffy. Too informal, and you’ll come across as unprofessional. How do you find a balance?

Even if you know the recipient well, zany salutations are inappropriate for business email. If your email happens to be forwarded or becomes part of a Reply All chain, people besides your intended recipient will see it. Keep it professional. Martin may be your buddy, but save the playful banter for when you’re off the clock.

It’s fine to use a friendly tone with someone you know or work closely with, particularly if that person is on the same company tier as you, or at least not much higher up the food chain. For almost all workplace communication, Hi is an appropriate greeting.

Here’s a tip: Use a more formal style if your company requires it or when the person you’re emailing is above your authority. Otherwise, mirror what your colleagues do. If emails between folks on the marketing team usually open with Hey, feel free to follow suit.

When you’re writing formal emails (such as cover letters or emails to a high-level superior), use Dear followed by the recipient’s honorific, last name, and a colon.

Here’s a tip: Avoid honorifics that imply marital status such as “Mrs.” Use “Ms.” instead.

MORE INFO: How to Start an Email: 6 Never-Fail Introductions and 6 to Avoid

3 Format the body of your business email properly.

With your subject line and greeting out of the way, it’s time to craft the body of your email. There’s more to getting it right than simply putting down a stream of thoughts and hitting Send.

  • Keep it brief. Short email messages may still take a while to write. Take time to organize your thoughts. (Using an outline can help if your message is complex.)
  • Don’t over-explain. Resist the urge to overwhelm your recipient with too much info. Get to the point and provide the basics. If necessary, attach a document with more detailed information or offer to send one at the recipient’s request.
  • Skip the fancy formatting. Graphics and unusual fonts may make marketing emails shine, but a business email doesn’t need any of those trappings. Not all email clients will display your formatting properly, so stick to a default 11- or 12-point font and black text. Use bold text and italics sparingly.

Format your email just like a business letter, with double-spaces between paragraphs and no indentation. (It’s okay to indent quoted text.)

Here’s a tip: Need to copy and paste? You can paste text without formatting. Use Ctrl + Shift + V on a PC or Cmd + Shift + V on a Mac. This will strip all formatting from the pasted text, so remember to add things like hyperlinks that may have been removed.

4 Close it with style.

Don’t forget to sign your email. You’ll need a friendly, professional sign-off such as All the best or Thanks for most emails and Sincerely for formal correspondence.

MORE INFO: How to End an Email: 9 Never-Fail Sign-Offs and 9 to Avoid

Don’t forget to add a professional signature. (Most email clients allow you to create one that will be automatically appended to every message.) Include your full name, title, the company you work for, and your phone number. You might also consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile and any professional social media accounts you’d like business colleagues to have access to.

Here’s a tip: After you’ve created a new signature, send a quick sample email to yourself to see how the formatting looks. Keep in mind, though, that different email clients may not display your signature quite the same.

5 Proofread!

Your email is not complete until you proofread it. Use Grammarly to help you catch errors as you go, but remember that the app is a proofreading enhancement, not a substitute. Take the time to proofread yourself and check for smooth syntax and eliminate wordiness. Watch for typos where you may have used a similar but completely unintended word. (You may be asking for time off to attend your son’s clarinet recital, but a missing i in recital will make for a memorable email . . . and not in a good way.)

RELATED: 7 Useful Tips on How to Write a Perfect Professional Email in English

Although emails usually aren't as formal as letters, they still need to be professional to present a good image of you and your company.

How to Format a Business Email

official email writing format

This page will teach you the how to properly format a business letter, as well as provide a wealth of examples, templates, and writing guides to help you write yours.

Table of Contents

  1. Business Letter Examples
  2. Sample Business Letter Template
  3. Business Letter Format & Writing Guide

1. Business Letter Examples: Common & Career-Specific Types

We’ve provided extensive how-to guides for writing the following common examples of business letters. Just click the images below to download our free letter templates.

2. Sample Business Letter Template

The business world is filled with intricate behavior guidelines and overly formal communication styles. A business letter allows multiple parties to exchange relevant information professionally. It can also be more impactful to a reader than an email, due its formalized structure, content, and tone.

Our general business letter template can be used for any kind of professional communication/correspondence, including cover letters and letters of interest. Simply decide if you want a letterhead, click the download button, and let our template guide you through the writing process.

Business Letter Template: Click to Read in Text Format

Business Letter Format – Without Letterhead (Text Format)

[1234 Street Address]

[City, State, Zip]

[Email Address]


[Today’s Date]


[Addressee Name]

[Addressee Title]

[Company Name]

[1234 Street Address]

[City, State, Zip]


Dear [Name],

In this paragraph, deliver a friendly and clear introduction. State the main point of the letter here. Keep this section short and to the point.

In this paragraph, explain the importance of the main point by providing compelling and persuasive reasoning.

In this paragraph, continue to provide background information to back up your reasons. You can use facts, data, and other quantifiable metrics to support your claim.

Close by restating the main point of the letter, and if you can, include a call to action.




[Your Signature]

[Your Name]

3. Formal Business Letter Format & Writing Guide

When it comes to how to format a letter, you need to pay attention to the format of both the page and the content. Both are essential for creating the professional look that is the foundation of any proper business letter.

Page Format – 5 Key Rules

Before you begin writing, decide which layout you want to use. There are two common formatting styles: block and modified block. The block format has a left-aligned address and closing, while those in the modified block are right-aligned. While the block format is used more often, both are acceptable for a formal letter.

The following are the standard rules that should be adhered to when formatting the page of a formal letter:

1. Alignment:

All proper business letters should be left-aligned, any other type of alignment is considered unacceptable in most professional settings.

2. Spacing:

Your letter should be single-spaced. In addition, there should be a space between the date, address, salutation, and each paragraph. Include four line breaks between the closing and your printed name to leave space for your signature.

3. Font:

The standard font style is Times New Roman, size 12. However, you can use other sans-serif fonts such as Helvetica, Arial, Courier, or Geneva, also at size 12. Sans-serif fonts have been credited with increased readability because of their balanced typeface.

4. Lines:

When using a letterhead, be sure to add a horizontal line underneath it. You can refer to our letters above to see some examples.

5. Margins:

Keep your margins between 1 to 1.5 inches. Generally speaking, 1-inch margins are the most widely accepted format for professionals.

If you want to be taken seriously, make sure all of your punctuation is used correctly.

Content Format & How To Write a Business Letter

The following tips cover all the parts of a business letter in order from top to bottom.

Part 1 (a). Letterhead – Formal Letter Format

Most professional business letters include a letterhead – which is comprised of your name, address, phone number, and email address. 

Letterheads are meant to make your letter unique, as well as help verify its authenticity to the recipient. Likewise, you can include your company’s logo on the letterhead for brand recognition and a more trustworthy appearance.

Check out the example letterheads below — both of which are acceptable methods for displaying your name and contact information. For more ideas, you can check out ourcover letter templates. See the letterhead sample:

Part 1 (b). No Letterhead – Formal Letter Format

Using a letterhead is always preferable when writing a business letter. However, if you decide to not use one, you must use the following format to maintain a professional appearance:

  • Write your contact information on the top left of the page, just above the date.
  • Do NOT include your name in this section — when selecting this style, it simply looks better to sign off with your name at the end of the letter.
  • Only include your street address, city, state, and zip code.
  • Double check our business letter sample to make sure yours is perfect.

Example of format when not using a letterhead:

Part 2. Date

The date should be the day on which you completed the letter, written in standard U.S. format (eg. October 28, 2017). It should be written underneath the letterhead, or underneath the address on the top left of the page.

Part 3. Addressee – How to Address a Letter in 4 Steps

Write the recipient’s (or “addressee’s”) address on the top left side underneath the date. Begin with the name of the addressee on the first line. Some research may be necessary to find the name (LinkedIn, the company’s website, even Google search are all great tools).

  • Step 1: Address them properly as Ms., Mrs., or Mr. Also, make sure to include their title — such as Dr. — if it applies.
  • Step 2: Beneath their name, write their current title. If you are unsure what their title is, do the necessary research to find out if possible. If they have no title, leave it blank.
  • Step 3: Include the name of their company underneath their title.
  • Step 4: Write out their company’s street address, city, state, and zip code. If they are located outside the United States, include the country name after the city.

Even if you’re sending your letter as an email attachment, you should still include the address to maintain a professional appearance.

Part 4. Salutation

The salutation you will use depends on the title of your addressee, your familiarity with them, and also the context of the letter.

If you are familiar with the addressee, then use their first name (unless they have specifically asked you otherwise).

  • If the addressee has earned a Ph.D. or an MD, then refer to them as Dr. (or Professor).
  • Military titles such as General, Colonel, Major, etc., should be honored as such.
  • If you do not know the contact person or you are addressing a group, use an appropriate salutation such as Sir or Madam, Hiring Manager, Director of Human Resources, Members of the [Name] Committee (hiring committee, organizing committee, acceptance committee), Board of Directors.

When it comes to salutations, it is always better to err on the side of caution and be polite as possible.

Part 5. Body

The body of the letter is located underneath the salutation, and is the field where you get down to business and discuss the reason you’re reaching out to this person. Usually, the body includes several strategic paragraphs meant to inform, persuade, and convey gratitude.

  1. In the first paragraph, get to your point quickly and state it concisely in the first line. Do not wait until the second paragraph to tell your audience what your main point is – they most likely won’t get that far.
  2. In the second paragraph, use evidence and persuasive reasoning to justify your main point. If needed, use an extra paragraph to further support your point via empirical evidence.
  3. The closing paragraph should restate the point of the letter, and most importantly, include a call to action. A call to action is a passage that compels your reader to do something. Ask yourself, “what do I want my reader to do right after reading this letter?

Examples of calls to action:

  • Please call me at [phone #] or email me at [email address] at your earliest convenience.”
  • Please get in touch with me at your earliest convenience to schedule a meeting.”
  • Please let me know how I may be of assistance during this period.”

Part 6. Closing

You should always close with a positive sign-off, such as “Thank you,” “Sincerely,” or “Respectfully.” Remember to only capitalize the first word of this closing  line, and to leave four lines of space between the closing line and your typed name to make room for your signature.

Part 7. Enclosure

An enclosure note is an often neglected aspect of letter writing in the digital era. In fact, not many people actually know what ‘enclosure’ means. When you write “enclosure” in any letter you’re implying that another document is attached to the file.

Think of it as something akin to a “see attachment” note in an email. It alerts the reader to another part of your correspondence – and helps prevent them from overlooking a crucial document.

The image below shows where the word “enclosure” should be placed:

6. Conclusion

Knowing how to write a business letter is a fundamental skill for your professional life. A proper one will have most or all of the elements mentioned above. Be sure to carefully review the grammar, spelling, and format of your business letter numerous times before you send it out, to avoid leaving a poor first impression with your correspondent.

Looking for some more ideas on how to write a letter? Our experts have written of guides on how to write various types of formal letters. Check out our comprehensive letter of recommendation sample libraryfor more inspiration!

Written by the Resume Genius Team

The Resume Genius Team is made up of a tight-knit crew of dedicated career coaches, hiring managers, and staff writers who are passionate about providing the best, most up-to-date career advice possible and helping job... more

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