If you write for business, you need to write letters. In this post, we include a step-by-step guide to help you write business letters.
What is a standard business letter?
A standard or basic business letter is a letter that is written using formal language. We usually send letters between businesses or organisations, and when businesses and organisations are communicating formally with their clients and customers.
The Standard Business Letter Format:
- Your Address: Your address, also known as the ‘return address’, comes first. Leave this out if you’re using a letterhead. It should be right justified (example 1), but you can left justify it as well (example 2). Adding an email address is optional.
- The Date: Write the date below the return address. You can position the date on the right or on the left of your letter, but most South African companies position the date on the left. If you have a style guide, check what your company’s preference is.
- Recipient’s Name And Address: Put the recipient’s name and address beneath the date, just as it would appear on the envelope. It should be on the left-hand side.
- The Greeting: Leave one-line space then write ‘Dear Mr Jones’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ on the left hand side. Follow with a comma. (This is not obligatory.)
- The Subject: Leave a one-line space below the greeting. It can be centred on the page, and can be in bold, uppercase or both to make it stand out.
- The Text Of Your Letter: The main body of your letter should have single-spacing between lines, and a blank line or double space (not an indent) before each new paragraph. Each paragraph should start on the left hand side. It should be left justified.
- The Closing And Your Name And Signature: Leave a one-line space. End with an appropriate closing phrase, such as ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘With best regards’, and a comma. (The comma is not obligatory.) Leave several blank lines after the closing so you can sign the letter, and then type your name. Put your job title and company name on the line beneath this. The closing and your name and signature should all be on the left hand side.
In South Africa, we follow the UK formatting for a standard business letter, which may be slightly different to the US formatting. If you are from the US, please check if you need to change anything.
A Standard Business Letter Must Include:
1. The Reason For Writing
I am writing to:
- find out
- apologise for
- comment on
- apply for
Once you have introduced the reason for writing your business letter, move on to the specific purpose of your letter. Here are a number of possibilities:
Could you possibly?
I would be grateful if you could
Agreeing to Requests
I would be delighted to
Giving Bad News
I am afraid that
I am enclosing
2. Closing Remarks
Thank you for your help.
Please contact us again if we can help in any way.
3. Reference To Future Contact
I look forward to:
- hearing from you soon.
- meeting you next Tuesday.
- seeing you next Thursday.
4. The Finish
Remember that the comma is not obligatory.
- Yours faithfully, (If you don’t know the person you’re writing to)
- Yours sincerely, (If you know the name of the person you’re writing to)
- Best wishes,
- Best regards, (If the person is a close business contact or friend)
Business Letter Example 1
Download it here: Standard Business Letters – Example 1
Business Letter Example 2
Download it here: Standard Business Letters – Example 2
More step-by-step guides:
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Format Your Emails
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Write A CV
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Write An Agenda
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Write Memos
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Write Minutes
- A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Write Notices
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