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Focus: Business Communications Formats

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Writing Business Letters

Letters are the oldest still the most common written communication form for business communications outside of an organization. While the less formal and less standardized use of email continues to grow, for formal and important matters, letters are required.

Letters have important standards that reflect on the sender even before the message is actually read. Knowledge of letter formats and styles is, therefore, an important and easily achieved prerequisite to functional business communications.

The dominant formats for business letters today have been given names that may differ slightly, but are distinguishable as three variations on the basic block format: full-block, block, and semi-block. The overall form of business lettesr is substantially the same for the different types, although specific elements differ in the various kinds of business letter Mechanical organization is correct utilization of the six parts of the letter

The parts of the business letter are the following:

1. Heading
Letterhead and/or sender's information, including name, street address, city, state, zip
2. Date line
Date of composition
3. Inside address
Receiver's name, title, street address, city, state zip
4. Salutation
Dear Title Name
5. Body
Information paragraphs
6. Complimentary closing
For example: Best regards
7. Signature
Signed name
8. Typed name
Complete first, middle, last name. Often more formal than the signed name
9. Title
May be on the previous line, if short
10. Additional information
Composer and/or stenographer's initials, copy distribution list, postscripts, other items as relevant)

Here is an example of the parts in a typically formatted business letter:


111 Any Street name --San Francisco, CA 94118 --(415) 221-1212

[6 lines of space ]

[2 -- DATEliNE]
May 22, 2005

[2 lines of space]

Mr. John Smith
ABC Company
123 Anything Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94115

[2 lines of space]

Dear Mr. Smith:

[2 lines of space]

Blah blah blah. With the blocked letter style each paragraph begins on the left margin.
Some more important information continues in the first paragraph for two to four sentences.

[2 lines of space between paragraphs]

Blah blah blah. Between paragraphs there is additional line space indicating a new paragraph. As before, this paragraph begins at the left margin, as do the date of composition, receiver’s address, complimentary close, sender’s name, title, and additional information.

[2 lines of space]

Sincerely yours,

[5 lines of space for signature area]

Terry D. Sender
Project Manager

[2 lines of space]

CC: Another receiver

*The additional information may be excluded if not relevant.

letter thumbnailNote: for a printable copy click here

The writer has the option of selecting a preferred format, usually from the three basic conventional formats, whether full- block, block, or semi-block style. For those who use Microsoft Word, letter templates are available through the program and on their Office template website here. In the more recent versions of MS Word the built-in letter formats are named contemporary (full-block), professional (also full-block, only with some different heading and background graphics), and what they call elegant (a semi-block format).

After reviewing the letter formats presented on this website you will be well on your way to creating your own well-styled letters. To learn more about the formats, select the format of your choice from the navigation list to the left and after a little study you'll soon write away with style.