By Judy Vorfeld
Have you ever wondered if there’s a “best” way to write a business letter, in terms of layout? Let’s look the full block style for some guidelines.
Before we begin, let me say that there are many ways to put together a business letter. While you want it to look good, it’s equally important that you provide all relevant information in a way that’s easy to understand.
You may even go with little headings, or bullets, or numbers. Whatever works for the reader’s convenience.
MARGINS Generally one inch on all sides, at a minimum. If you have a very brief letter, you’ll probably want to have at least 1.5 inches on the left and right.
HEADING Do you have letterhead? If so, make sure your left and right page margins are close to the same width as the letterhead. If you don’t have letterhead, type your business name, address, and other information (phone, fax, e-mail, URL, etc.) starting at least an inch from the top, and center it. You might make your business name larger than the rest of the letterhead, and possibly in a different font, and bold. Play around with it.
You might use a thin line to divide your created letterhead from the body of the letter. If you don’t want or need a formal letterhead, then right aligning your address and the date usually looks good. The remainder of your letter will be written from the left margin.
DATE LINE See above if you have no letterhead. Otherwise, press Enter at least twice from where the letterhead printing would end, then type in the date in the left margin. Type the month, day, and year (January 14, 2002).
If you use the word “CONFIDENTIAL,” press Enter twice after typing in the date, and type CONFIDENTIAL. Otherwise move on to the Inside Address.
INSIDE ADDRESS Press Enter 2 – 4 times, then type the name and full address of the person or company.
SALUTATION — SUBJECT LINE Press Enter twice, then your salutation (like “Dear Mr. Hodgson”) followed by a colon. If your letter has an important subject line, referencing a legal situation or a specific number or code, you may choose to use this instead of the salutation. Or you can use both. If you use the Subject line, type it in all capital letters on the third line below the Inside Address.
MESSAGE Press Enter twice, then type the body of your message. Press Enter twice between paragraphs, and do not indent the first line of paragraphs.
(COMPLIMENTARY) CLOSING Use a phrase like “Sincerely,” or “Very truly yours” followed by a comma, then press Enter about four times. If you want to be informal, use something like, “See you Monday!” and since it’s a complete sentence, don’t follow it with a comma. Hit the “enter” key 4 – 6 times.
COMPANY SIGNATURE Type your name here, with your title below it, if appropriate.
Since the person dictating or writing already has his/her name directly above, use the typist’s initials alone two lines below the company signature. It’s easiest. If you are composing and typing the letter, omit reference initials. When using the typist’s initials, use either upper or lower case (mrd or MRD) and when using both the writer’s and typist’s initials (mrd/jhv or MRD/JHV), follow the same format. Your choice.
FILE NAME NOTATION Press Enter twice. Sometimes people use the area below the signature to indicate the computer filename. Completely optional.
ENCLOSURE NOTATION Press Enter once (or twice, if you don’t use File Name Notation). Type in the word “Enclosure” or “Encl.“if you enclose anything. You might specify the number of enclosures and what they are, e.g., Enclosures — 2 Check #2343 dated May 13, 2001 for $5,000.00 Certificate of Award
Press Enter once. In this area, indicate if you are sending it any way other than regular mail. Example, “By Federal Express,” or “By Facsimile.” (Note: when possible, insert the FedEx airbill number and the fax number. Anything that may save time later!)
COPY NOTATION Press Enter once, then type “cc:” You write in the names of those who will receive copies, e.g., cc: Ms. Jane Doe, Veterans Administration
Mr. John Doe, American Legion File
ALL NOTATIONS are single-spaced and grouped at the bottom of the letter.
CHANGING SETTINGS FOR BETTER PRESENTATION
If you have a very short letter, you can increase your margins and your font, and/or use a different line spacing (e.g., 1.25 or 1.5). Verdana’s a good font if you’re trying to fill up space, since it’s wider and taller (or is that “higher”?) than most fonts. If you want a nice serif font that’s a bit larger than the default, try Georgia. Both were created for use on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your office.
Print out a copy of your letter and look at it as a whole. Then go back to your computer and make any adjustments needed. You want a good presentation. And don’t hesitate to use a footer if you use more than one page.