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When you write a business letter, you’re expected to follow certain formats. Formats have some variation and unless you’re taking a class on letter writing, people may not specifically measure the distance between the top of the page and your addresses, and between addresses listed and your salutation. The most important aspect when you write a business letter is to make your purpose — why you’re writing the letter — very clear. Nevertheless, you should be familiar with a basic format, before you start worrying about what and how you’ll write.
If you use a word processing program, check your program for business letter templates. These can make your job easier because they have preset the margins and usually inform you exactly where to place things like addresses. If you don’t have such a template, then your letter can be formatted in two ways. The first is called block format and the second indented format. Unless specified, you can use either format or any of their variations. The big difference between the two formats is that paragraphs do not have indentations, and text may be justified so each line is the same length. In indented format, not all lines will be exactly the same length, and the first sentence of each paragraph will be indented five spaces.
Little variations exist with each format, so this explanation will aim for one way to quickly write a business letter, using block format, without justifying your text. The business letter should have the following margins: one inch (2.54 cm) on top, bottom, left and right. Check your word processing program before you begin and set these margins if necessary. Font should be 12 point, and Times New Roman is the preferred choice.
If you are typing on company letterhead, you do not need to begin the letter with your address. If you’re using standard paper, you should begin at the top margin with your address. It’s unnecessary to include your name with your address. Simply include your address, and if you wish, phone number and email. Add a date directly after the address. You can indent your address so that it comes flush with the right margin, but it can simply begin at the left margin, which is easier.
Skip a line and write the name of the person to whom you are writing, their title or company, and their address. Each entry like name, title, and street address should be on a separate line. City, state and zip code should make up the last line. The following order is needed for the address: Company, Person, Title, and Address.
Skip another line and begin with your salutation. This should be formal. If you’re writing to Ms. Smith, you’ll write Dear Ms. Smith:. Use a colon instead of a comma after the salutation.
Space down one line and begin your first body paragraph. Be sure to clearly state intent of the letter within this first paragraph. Use additional paragraphs, with one space in between, as needed to expand on your point or give examples. After finishing the body paragraphs, skip down one line and write “Sincerely,” your closing remark, then skip down about three to four lines before typing your name, and your title if you have one. Before the business letter is mailed, don’t forget to physically sign your name in black ink in the space between your closing and your typed name.
The goal when you write a business letter is to effectively convey your point. You cannot be effective if your letter is fraught with errors. Don’t just run a spell check, but also examine your paper for any grammatical errors, commonly confused words and punctuation problems. Read the letter aloud to make certain that you are conveying your point clearly. Use simple language, but avoid contractions or any slang. A well-written business letter that comes to the point directly is very important, especially if you are writing from another business. Your ability to write a business letter that is easily understood and error free reflects on the professionalism of your company.
The most important thing when thinking about how to write a persuasive business letter, in which you are trying to convince someone to hire you for a position, is to point out what about you is different. Special experiences you have had, things you might have studied, places you might have gone. All of these can help make you stand out, as can explaining just why you want a job. In order to really stand out in a pile of business letters, you need to really sell why you, specifically, are important.
While there are so many specifics in the official rules of business writing, it is true that many of them are fairly unimportant when you actually get down to real business letter writing. In my own experience, the best lessons for writing business letters come from just looking at lots of business letter samples.
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