How to Write a Business Letter

Detailed guide to writing a business letter with helpful tips and formatting. Includes FAQs and a free template download.

Updated on January 8th, 2020

The SMB Guide is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

A business letter is a formal document that is sent from one company to another, between professional individuals, or from a company to its employees, stakeholders, or clients. Today, emails have become the most common form of correspondence but printed out letters are still used for important, serious correspondence.

Most business letters follow an established format that is easy to use and adapt to any type of content. There are also established rules for layout and language.

Business Letter Template Download

Use our Microsoft Word downloadable template to correctly format your business letters.

Download Now Instant download. No email required.

Business Letter Template:

[Sender's/company name

Sender's Address]

[Date]

[Receiver's Name

Receiver's Designation

Receiver's Address]

[Salutation (Dear Mr. Smith:)]

[Body of the letter in standard font, 12 pt.]

[Closing (Cordially,)]

[Signature Block]

[Sender's Name

Sender's Contact]

[Enclosures]

[Typist's Initials (if you did not type the letter)]

1. Formatting the letter.

The most common layout for a business letter is known as block format, where the entire letter is left-justified and single-spaced, with a double space between paragraphs. Business letters typically have 1-inch (25.4 mm) margins on all sides of the page.

The generally accepted font is Times New Roman, 12 pt., although other fonts like Arial are sometimes used. You should consider the style of the company you are addressing when choosing a font.

Tips for Business Writing:

When writing a business letter, assume that your intended recipient does not have a lot of time and will probably just skim your letter. Mostly, your reader wants to know what your point is and what they must do or how they must respond.

Your business letter is often the first impression someone will make of your business. Be careful to choose the right tone as too formal a letter will likely alienate your reader and too casual a tone will seem insincere and unprofessional.

2. Selecting the appropriate paper.

A business letter should be printed on "letter size" paper, which is 8.5" by 11" paper. Outside the U.S., you can use paper size A4. For a lengthier contract, you can use 8.5" by 14" paper, otherwise known as "legal size."

Also consider printing your business letter on your company's letterhead, as this will provide a more professional appearance as well as providing your company's contact information.

3. Starting the letter.

If you are not printing your letter on your company letterhead, then you will need to start by typing out your company information. This goes at the top left-hand corner of your page, with each part of the address written on a new line. You should not include your (or the sender's) name or title as you will list that information in the closing. Also, if you are sending your letter to an international company, be sure to type out your country in capital letters.

Leaving an open space after your company information, type out the date in full for a more professional look. If you took a couple of days to write your letter, use the date on which you finished. When writing to a recipient within the U.S., use the American date format: month, day, year.

Leave another line open after the date and add your recipient's full name, title (if applicable), company name, and address. Type out international recipients' countries in capital letters on the last line. Each piece of information should appear, in this order, on a separate line. You may also include a reference number, if necessary. Address your letters to a specific person. If you don't know their name, do some research or call the company.

Finally, and after leaving another line open after your recipient's information, choose an appropriate salutation depending on the person you are writing to, how well you know them, and how formal your relationship is. You can use the table below to pick the best salutation. You will need to add a colon after the salutation. Avoid using an exclamation mark after the salutation, for example, "Hi Mary!", as this is more suited for casual letters and will be unprofessional in a business setting.

Types of Salutations:

Salutation

Description

To Whom It May Concern:

Used when you don't know who to address the letter to, for example, when writing to an institution.

Dear Sir/Madam:

Used when writing to a position that you don't have a named contact for.

Dear Mr. Smith:

Used when you have a named male contact.

Dear Ms. Smith:

Used when you have a named female contact to encompass all marital statuses. Don't use the traditional Mrs.

Dear Dr. Smith:

Used when you are writing to a named doctor.

Dear Prof. Smith:

Used when you are writing to a named professor.

Dear Kris Smith:

The whole name is used when you are unsure of the recipient's gender.

Dear Colleagues:

Used when writing to a group of people.

Dear Jane:

Used when writing to a named female contact that you have a less formal relationship with.

Dear John:

Used when writing to a named male contact that you have a less formal relationship with.

Different Ways to Start a Business Letter:

1. Referencing previous contact:

  • I am (we are) writing regarding...
  • In reply to your request...
  • Thank you for contacting us.

2. Contacting for the first time:

  • I am (we are) writing to inform/confirm/enquire/complain...
  • I am contacting you for the following reason.
  • I recently heard about ... and would like to ...

3. Making a request:

  • We would appreciate it if you would...
  • I would be grateful if you could...
  • Could you please send me...
  • Could you possibly tell us...
  • It would be helpful if you could send us...

4. Giving good news:

  • We are pleased to announce that...
  • I am delighted to inform you that...

5. Giving bad news:

  • We regret to inform you that...
  • I'm afraid it would not be possible to...
  • Unfortunately, we are unable to...
  • After careful consideration, we have decided...

4. Composing the body of the letter.

The tone of your letter should be brief and professional, quick to read, and straight to the point. Try to avoid long transitions, big words, or meandering sentences. You should communicate your point as quickly and clearly as possible. As the purpose of your letter is probably to persuade your reader to do something, you should try to be persuasive in tone. However, remember to keep your tone businesslike but also friendly and helpful to build professional relationships. Be courteous, accommodating, and helpful.

Leave a line open between each paragraph. The first paragraph can include a friendly opening but should focus on a statement of the main point. The second paragraph should justify the importance of the main point, and each subsequent paragraph should continue the justification with background information and supporting details. Then the closing paragraph should restate your main point and request action.

It is fine to use personal pronouns in business letters, rather than just the passive voice. Refer to yourself as "I" and your reader as "you" to keep your letter concise and to the point. If you are writing on your company or organization's behalf, use "we" so that the reader knows your company is behind you. The passive voice should be avoided as it makes your letter ambiguous or impersonal. The active voice is also more to the point.

Your letter should be concise enough to be one page in length, but if your letter is longer than a page, consider using the second-page letterhead. This will have an abbreviated company address. You may also want to include the page number at the top of the page.

In your last paragraph, you should summarize your points, your planned course of action, and what you expect from the recipient. Also, note that the recipient can contact you in case of questions or concerns and thank the recipient for their time.

Punctuation:

Use a colon after the salutation (not a comma) and a comma after the closing. In some cases, you may also exclude the punctuation after the salutation and closing.

Different Ways to End a Business Letter:

1. Enclosures:

  • Please find enclosed... (for letters).
  • Please find attached... (for emails).

2. Offering future assistance:

  • If you require more information, please let us know.
  • Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any further assistance.

3. Referring to future contact:

  • I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
  • We are looking forward to meeting you on [date] in [town/city].
  • We would appreciate your reply at your earliest convenience.

5. Closing the letter.

Choose an appropriate closing that is an indicator of respect and formality, and use a comma after your closing. Always use a positive closing, with only the first letter capitalized. You can use our table below to choose an appropriate closing.

Leave about four lines open for your signature. Sign the letter after you've printed it, or use a digital scan of your signature if you are emailing it. Blue or black ink is the most common, and preferred, choice. If you are signing on someone else's behalf, use pp: before you sign. This stands for "per procurationem" which means on behalf of.

After the signature block, type in your name, title, phone number, email address, and any other appropriate means of communication. Each piece of information should be in its own line. Do not include your company's address as it is at the top of the page.

If you did not type the letter, the typist's initials should be added next in lower case. For any additional documents added to your letter, note the number and type of documents beneath your contact information. For example, "Enclosures (2): brochure, market analysis." An enclosure is important to note so that the reader does not miss any important information that you have added.

If you are sending the letter to another person, you should include this information. Type "cc:" below the enclosures with the person's name and title. If you are sending the letter to more than one person, align the second name under the first, but without the "cc".

Types of Closing:

Closing

Description

Yours sincerely,

Used when To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam has been used as a salutation.

Sincerely yours,

Used when To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam has been used as a salutation.

Respectfully,

Used when To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam has been used as a salutation.

Sincerely,

Used when Dear Name has been used as a salutation.

Kind regards,

Used for less formal situations, but still businesslike.

Warm regards,

Used for less formal situations, but still businesslike.

Regards,

Used for less formal situations, but still businesslike.

Best wishes,

Less formal.

6. Editing the letter.

Carefully edit your letter for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and professional appearance. You can run spell check but also read through your letter as spell check does not catch all nuances. Sometimes asking a colleague to read through the letter can be beneficial.

Additional Tips Before Sending a Business Letter:

  • Make sure your letter is clear and concise.
  • Paragraphs should be three to four sentences long.
  • Do not staple letters that are more than one page. If you want to keep your pages together and in order, use a paperclip at the top left corner.
  • Time-sensitive letters can be sent through courier or by email.
  • If emailing, save your letter as a PDF to preserve the formatting.

FAQs:

What is the standard business letter format?

The most common format for a business letter is known as block format, where the entire letter is left-justified and single-spaced, with a double space between paragraphs. Business letters typically have 1-inch (25.4 mm) margins on all sides of the page and the generally accepted font is Times New Roman, 12 pt., although other fonts like Arial are sometimes used.

What are the seven parts of a business letter?

  • Heading.
  • Date.
  • Recipient's address.
  • Salutation.
  • Body.
  • Closing.
  • Signature.

What are the three formats of a business letter?

The three main formats of a business letter are block, modified block, and semi-block. Each is written in a similar style but the layout is slightly different.

In the block format, the writing is left-justified and single-spaced, but double-spaced between paragraphs, and there are no indents at all.

With the semi-block format, the writing is also left-justified, but the first word in each paragraph is indented.

The modified block format is only different from the block format in that the sender's address is centered, rather than left-justified.