Even though life has sped up and email seems so prevalent, every savvy worker should know how to write a proper business letter, if nothing else, to get results. There are three basic types of letterhead styles: block, modified block and indented (semi-block)—only slightly varied yet distinct.
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Basics First: Parts of a Letter
For a business letter not written with pre-printed letterhead:
So as not to be remiss, we give you the basic parts of a business letter: 1- the header, comprised of sender's address and the date, 2- inside address, which is the recipient's address, 3- salutation, 4- body of the letter, 5- closing (consisting of complimentary close and signature) and, 6- added notations (also referred to as enclosures).
1. The header: The sender's address at the top of the letter one line above the date. No need to write the sender's name or title, as it is included in the letter's closing. Include only the street address, city and zip code.
2. Inside address: The recipient's address and use a specific individual's name. Tip: Call the company to find out and include a personal title such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. Use Ms. if unsure whether married or not. The address is street, city, state and zip code. For international addresses, type the name of the country in all-capital letters on the last line. All information is left justified for any letterhead style.
3. Salutation: Use Dear _______ _______: (personal title and full name) followed by a colon. Leave one line blank after the salutation. If you know the person, Dear Megyn, is fine. Are you stumped about the gender? To Whom It May Concern will suffice. Or full name: Dear Megyn Harmon.
4. Body: For block and modified block formats, single space and left justify each paragraph and leave a blank line between each paragraph.
5. Closing: Double-space for the closing and capitalize the first word only. Type your name four lines below. (Optional: Put your title on the next line.)
6. Notations: Type left-flush two lines below your title to indicate any enclosures: enc., attachment and who will receive copies, cc.: Gary Tipp.
Block format is the most common layout for a business letter. The entire letter is left justified and single spaced except for a double space between paragraphs.
Only slightly different, the body of the letter and the sender's and recipient's addresses are left justified and single spaced. However, for the date and closing, tab to the center point and begin to type.
Similar to the modified block style except that each paragraph is indented instead of left justified. (See samples just below.)