Anatomy of a Business Letter ©2002 By Linda Elizabeth Alexander
This article may be freely published in your print or online newsletter or on your website provided 1. You include byline and resource box; 2. You print article in its entirety, unchanged; and 3. You notify author when and where it's printed with a courtesy copy or a link. Subject: Business, Writing Number of Words: 720 Website: http://www.write2thepointcom.com
Business letters have many purposes and recipients. Despite variations in tone and style, basic parts of a business letter remain standard throughout most business correspondence. This article outlines elements found in standard business letters today, in order, as well as their modern format.
1. Heading. Assuming you are using company letterhead, your full address will already be on page. Add date two spaces below last line of printed copy. If you are using blank paper, add your full address and date in heading. Align heading, and all paragraphs, with left margin(which should be at least one inch wide).
Example: 21 Carson Parkway Boulder, CO 80111 December 3, 2006
2. Inside address. Include recipient's full name, title, and address two spaces below date. Align it with left margin.
Example: Conner T. Walker 2345 Sunrise Avenue Denver, CO 80555
3. Salutation. Two spaces below inside address, and also aligned with left margin, place your salutation, or greeting. If you are on a first name basis with recipient, use her/his first name followed by a colon. If you are writing a more formal letter, use a personal title (Ms., Mr., or Dr.) followed by person's last name and a colon. Use Mr. for men, and Ms. for women. Never use Mrs. or Miss unless a woman has specifically expressed a preference. If you are not sure if recipient is male or female, use a salutation that is appropriate to letter context.
Examples: Mr. Yates: Ms. Dickinson: Dear Customer: Dear Publishing Manager:
4. Body The body of letter should begin two spaces below salutation; all paragraphs should be aligned to left margin. Single space within paragraphs and double space between them.
If your letter continues onto a second (or higher) page, leave at least two lines of text on next page before closing. Do not go onto another page just for closing; this is bad form. If necessary, change font size or margin width to make it fit onto one page.