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  Parts of a Business Letter

Lesson 29: Writing Business Letters  >>>  Parts of a Business Letter

  • The Heading (The Retern Address) or Letterhead - Companies usually use printed paper where heading or letterhead is specially designed at the top of the sheet. It bears all the necessary information about the organisationís identity.

  • Date - Date of writing. The month should be fully spelled out and the year written with all four digits October 12, 2005
    (12 October 2005 - UK style). The date is aligned with the return address. The number of the date is pronounced as an ordinal figure, though the endings st, nd, rd, th, are often omitted in writing. The article before the number of the day is pronounced but not written. In the body of the letter, however, the article is written when the name of the month is not mentioned with the day.

  • The Inside Address - In a business or formal letter you should give the address of the recipient after your own address. Include the recipient's name, company, address and postal code. Add job title if appropriate. Separate the recipient's name and title with a comma. Double check that you have the correct spelling of the recipient 's name.

    The Inside Address is always on the left margin. If an 8 1/2" x 11" paper is folded in thirds to fit in a standard 9" business envelope, the inside address can appear through the window in the envelope.

  • The Greeting - Also called the salutation. The type of salutation depends on your relationship with the recipient. It normally begins with the word "Dear" and always includes the person's last name. Use every resource possible to address your letter to an actual person. If you do not know the name or the sex of of your reciever address it to Dear Madam/Sir (or Dear Sales Manager or Dear Human Resources Director). As a general rule the greeting in a business letter ends in a colon (US style). It is also acceptable to use a comma (UK style).

  • The Subject Line (optional) - Its inclusion can help the recipient in dealing successfully with the aims of your letter. Normally the subject sentence is preceded with the word Subject: or Re: Subject line may be emphasized by underlining, using bold font, or all captial letters. It is usually placed one line below the greeting but alternatively can be located directly after the "inside address," before the "greeting."

  • The Body Paragraphs - The body is where you explain why youíre writing. Itís the main part of the business letter. Make sure the receiver knows who you are and why you are writing but try to avoid starting with "I". Use a new paragraph when you wish to introduce a new idea or element into your letter. Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented. Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.

  • The Complimentary Close - This short, polite closing ends always with a comma. It is either at the left margin or its left edge is in the center, depending on the Business Letter Style that you use. It begins at the same column the heading does. The traditional rule of etiquette in Britain is that a formal letter starting "Dear Sir or Madam" must end "Yours faithfully", while a letter starting "Dear " must end "Yours sincerely". (Note: the second word of the closing is NOT capitalized)

  • Signature and Writerís identification - The signature is the last part of the letter. You should sign your first and last names. The signature line may include a second line for a title, if appropriate. The signature should start directly above the first letter of the signature line in the space between the close and the signature line. Use blue or black ink.

  • Initials, Enclosures, Copies - Initials are to be included if someone other than the writer types the letter. If you include other material in the letter, put 'Enclosure', 'Enc.', or ' Encs. ', as appropriate, two lines below the last entry. cc means a copy or copies are sent to someone else.

American Style British Style
Heading According to the format but
usually aligned to the left
The heading is usually placed
in the top right corner of the letter
(sometimes centred)
Date October 19, 2005 (month-day-year)
According to the format but usually
aligned to the left
(two lines below the heading)
19 October 2005 (day-month-year)
Usually placed directly (or 1 blank line)
below the heading.
Salutation Dear Mr./Ms. Smith:
Dear Sir or Madam:
After the salutation there is a colon (:)
Dear Mr./Ms. Smith,
Dear Sir or Madam,
Dear Sirs,
After the salutation there is a comma (,)
Complimentary close Sincerely,
Sincerely yours,
Yours truly,
Yours sincerely,
Yours faithfully,

The format (layout) is the visual organisation of a business letter. You can follow many different formats when you create business letters. Be aware that there are often differences depending upon location. The main business letter formats are:
  • Full-Block Style - All the elements are aligned to the left margin and there are no indented lines. This is a standard block-style format that is accepted by most businesses.
  • Modified Block Style - The return address, date, closing and signature start just to the right of the center of the page or may be flush with the right margin. All body paragraphs begin at the left margin.
  • Indented or Semi-Block Style - Similar to the modified block business letter style except that the first line of each paragraph is indented.

Parts of a Business Letter  < < <  Business Letter Sample - Full-Block Style  < < <  Business Letter Writing Tips

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