Professional Business Letter Formats | Modern Business

Business communication often happens online; however, there’s something special about receiving a physical letter in the mail.

Modern business communication often occurs via email; however, nothing beats receiving a physical letter to make an impressionful first impression.

Emails may be easier, but they’re more easily ignored than writing formal letters to business contacts. Writing such correspondence shows your effort in communicating formally – and signifies to them that “I take this matter very seriously, as should you.”

Physical business letters are essential for communicating a point with dignity, so using proper format and terminology is paramount. Learning English as a second language may make this tricky, so this article will discuss various components of the letter format and some adaptable templates you can adapt as you make your case.

The 10 Standard Parts of a Business Letter

Most business letters consist of four parts. If you use them effectively, there shouldn’t be any issues!

1. Letterhead 

Letterheads are paper used for letter writing that features an organization’s logo and contact information at its top, signaling that whatever follows below from their staff constitutes official communications.

If you are writing on behalf of an organization, ask one of your colleagues for any letter-headed paper to use as you write your correspondence; however, if you are writing as yourself, this step can be skipped!

2. Recipient’s address

“The recipient” refers to the person to whom you will address your letter. In business letters, this address should usually be written at the top left corner of the page; this is known as an “inside address.” It should appear like this:

  • Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. First name Surname 
  • Company name
  • Street address
  • City, state, zip code
  • Country (optional)

If you need to know the recipient’s name, a few alternatives exist for filling in this space. One would be to address your letter to those with job titles most likely able to help, such as:

  • The Hiring Manager: if you are writing about a job advertisement
  • The Customer Support Team: if you are sending a complaint
  • The Accounts Team: if you are writing about a payment 

If you don’t know who will receive your letter, a simple way of making contact could be writing “To Whom It May Concern.” This formal phrase means whoever cares about this information.

We are still trying to figure out to whom to address your business letter. For more information on formal greetings for letters and emails, please look at our guide to formal salutations for letters and emails.

3. Return address

Return addresses (also referred to as reply-to addresses or reply addresses) should appear directly beneath the recipient’s address in an identical format and location.

Make it easy for readers to contact you by including your email and phone numbers on a separate line below your address. This shows your commitment to helping readers get in touch.

Feel free to ask if the letterhead and addresses take up half the page – this is actually the correct format, showing formality in your communications and being part of an appropriate business practice. It was done correctly!

4. Today’s date 

Underneath your address, write today’s date in full – be sure to include both months and years, as this will add credibility to your letter.

Pro Tip: When mailing business letters within North America, remember to include the month and day before writing your message.

If sending a business letter to someone in the UK, New Zealand, or Australia, be sure to include the day before the month in your letter:

5. Heading

Step 8 is completely optional, although some people find it helpful to write a heading at the top of a business letter to highlight its topic – similar to writing an email subject line.

This approach should only be employed when writing to someone you don’t know; it comes straight out of the legal world.

You might find this helpful:

  • When applying for a job
  • When writing on behalf of a company 

Headings should be located at the center of each page and either underlined or written in bold font. Some examples include:

  • Application for the Position of Sous-Chef
  • Request for Payment: Overdue Notice 
  • Prospective Sales Enquiry: Optima Oils
  • Official Letter of Recommendation 

Avoid using headings unless the situation requires it; otherwise, it is best to omit them.

6. Greeting 

Typically, your greeting should echo what was written in the first line of an address. If you know who it is going to, this might look like this:

  • Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. Firstname Surname

If your address included the job title of the reader, instead write: “Dear Sir / Madam,” or use their job title again in place of Dear.

If using a job title, always capitalize the first letter of each word as though they were names. When writing to teams or specific individuals within your target company or position, use “to” rather than “dear.”

  • To the Hiring Manager 
  • To the Customer Support Team 
  • Dear Sir / Madam

If your letter was addressed directly to a business or “To Whom It May Concern,” then any of these phrases might work:

  • To the staff of [the company] 
  • Dear Sir / Madam
  • To Whom It May Concern 

7. Body text

Now, we come to the core of any letter! When writing business letters, keeping them short and to the point is vital. Doing this shows respect for the recipient’s time while simultaneously strengthening your message.

Suppose you already know the person to whom you’re writing. In that case, starting your letter with an amicable opening line is polite and appropriate before diving in with business matters. These examples could work:

  • I hope this letter finds you well.
  • It was a pleasure to meet you last week. 
  • I hope you are having a productive start to the year. 

Be direct if you do not know them well enough to say something pleasant! Your first (or second, if using a friendly opener) line should directly address why you are writing:

  • I am writing to express my dissatisfaction about a product purchased at one of your stores last week.
  • I would like to submit an application for the Digital Analyst position advertised by Preply.
  • I want to recommend Lindsay Green as an employee in your company.

Explain your reasons for writing more thoroughly using formal, clear language. This guide of English business terms and phrases is useful as an educational source. When organizing paragraphs with blank lines between paragraphs, keep each main point separate for maximum impact.

Getting another pair of eyes to review your business letter before sending it is often beneficial, and why not book an hour with one of our tutors who specializes in Business English for a professional opinion at an affordable cost?

8. Closing sentence

Once you’ve presented the relevant facts, a conclusion sentence should summarize what was learned and outline potential next steps.

Your goal is to compel readers of the letter to take action after reading it – this means sending back an answer or reply. Common sentences to express this action would include:

  • I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
  • I appreciate your consideration. I hope to hear from you soon. 
  • I look forward to receiving your thoughts on this matter.
  • Do let me know how this sounds from your perspective.
  • Do let me know if you have any questions.
  • If there is anything further I can help you with, please do not hesitate to contact me.

It could state the action that you will take on the issue in the message:

  • If I do not receive this payment within two weeks, I will follow up via a telephone call to attempt collection of this debt.
  • I will no longer be purchasing products from your company.

It might simply summarize the main point of the letter:

  • Paula Roberts would make an excellent addition to your company, and I enthusiastically endorse her for the position.
  • Thank you, M&A Light Solutions. Working for your company has been a great pleasure, and I wanted to express my sincerest thanks.

If the topic of the letter does not warrant any further action, you could conclude on an optimistic note by thanking them for reading it and making any appropriate suggestions for action.

  • I wish you the greatest success going forward.
  • Thank you for your cooperation; I hope to work with you again at some point in the future.
  • Thank you again for your time and consideration. 

9. Sign-off  

On a new line, sign off the letter. While in the past, there were established rules about how best to sign off letters depending on how well you knew their reader, modern email has significantly blurred formal and informal communication lines, so these rules no longer hold as much relevance today.

Are you following traditional English rules and sending a formal letter in the US? Here is your chance:

  • Use “Yours truly” with someone whose name you don’t know.
  • Use “Sincerely yours” with someone whose name you do know.

If you are sending a formal letter in the UK: 

  • Use “Yours faithfully” with someone whose name you don’t know.
  • Use “Yours sincerely” with someone whose name you do know. 

Do you prefer a modern approach? Then any of these options are fine: 

  • Yours truly,
  • Yours sincerely / Sincerely yours, 
  • Best regards,
  • Warm regards,
  • Many thanks (this is a little less formal) 

Whichever sign-off you choose, ensure the initial letter is capitalized and ends in a comma.

10. Signature 

Submitting your signature with any letter may not be essential, but doing so adds another level of formality and shows who wrote it – suggesting the message has great significance to you personally.

If you have typed a letter, leave space to sign it after its conclusion. After signing off, leave three to four lines blank after typing your name; your signature should go in this space above it. Alternatively, many people now utilize digital signing of documents; understanding how to sign PDF documents digitally can create professional-looking business letters.

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