Business Letter Format

Most students admit to having learned in junior high school or in high school about writing business letters and about conventional formats for them. When it comes down to writing them, however, all too many students seem not to know how and to be unwilling to look up the forms (or perhaps they don't have a reference about using English). This web page was prepared so that you would have an easily obtained description of what to do.

When a business that has letterhead stationery writes a business letter, the first page of the letter uses paper with the printed letterhead and succeeding pages, if any, use matching quality and color sheets without the letterhead. A business with very good quality printing might generate the letterhead graphic with an image embedded in a word processor document. An individual normally won't use letterhead stationery and won't attempt to fake it. An attempt at letterhead that produces a tacky result or that conveys pompousness produces effects that you want to avoid.

In a business letter, everything that you "type" should be in the same typeface and in the same font size. You should use "formal English" and you should very carefully check your grammar and spelling. You should arrange things neatly. You should consider the appearance of the letter "at arm's length" as well as close up -- use white space to produce an attractive sheet.

In a conventional business letter you should see these parts, in order top to bottom:

Your instructor may have told you not to use a template. Do what your instructor told you. Many of MS-Word's templates appear to have been created more to show off wierd or fancy effects that Word can do than to produce a well-done product useful to the ordinary user. Some of Word's templates encourage you to produce a tacky document -- resist the temptation. If you're using Word '97, our friend "Office Bob" may pop up when you type the letter's salutation. If your instructor told you not to use templates, decline "Office Bob"'s offer of "help."

Examples

A business letter with the return address to the right and using indented paragraphs.

Letter with parts identified

A business letter with the return address at the left margin and using block paragraphs.

Letter with parts identified