How To Write a Letter (With Types and Example)
Updated September 27, 2023
The image is titled "Business Letter Format" and shows an example letter with the parts of the letter identified on the left side.
The left side includes:
Name and address
Complimentary close and signature
The letter reads:
February 1, 20XX
ABC Company, Inc.
1234 East Main Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Dear Ms. Jones,
I am submitting this request for a leave of absence to tend to important personal matters beginning next month. If possible, I would like to take my leave beginning March 15 and return to the office April 3, 20XX.
I can make myself available intermittently to answer questions via phone or email, and am happy to do whatever necessary to ensure a smooth transition before my leave begins.
Thank you for your consideration.
Since most letters today are sent via email, it's important to know how to write a professional letter that will leave the recipient with a positive impression of you and your company. Using the correct format is particularly important when you are sending a letter through the mail, as you want it to fit a single page, be easily readable and look good.
In this article, we discuss how to write a letter, the types of letters and an example letter to help you draft your own.
How to write a letter
These are the general rules you should follow to write a letter:
Choose the right type of paper.
Use the right formatting.
Choose between block or indented form.
Include addresses and the date.
Include a salutation.
Write the body of your letter.
Include a complimentary close.
List additional information.
1. Choose the right type of paper
Your letter should be typed and printed on standard white paper. Depending on the circumstances—such as sending a letter of recommendation or a cover letter with your resume—you may want to print on nice resume paper. If you're sending a business letter for your company, you may want to print the letter on company letterhead.
2. Use the right formatting
Next, you will need to select an appropriate font. Use fonts that appear clean and easily readable over stylistic fonts. Some examples of professional fonts you may want to use are:
Times New Roman
Use a font that is between 10 and 12 points so it's easily legible.
Related: Business Letter Format and Example
3. Choose between block or indented format
While there are many different formatting styles, you will, in general, want to choose between a block or an indented format. The block format has all elements and sections aligned with the left-hand side of the page. The first sentence of every paragraph is not indented.
The indented format is often a style used for documents that are more casual. With indented form, you indent the first line of each paragraph by one inch. If you use an indented format, you'll right-justify your address and the date.
While block form is often easier to read and the most widely-used format, the indented format adds some visual interest. Either form is acceptable for formal letters.
4. Include addresses and the date
The addresses of the sender and recipient, as well as the date, are the first pieces of information you'll include in the letter. You'll include your address and contact information at the top, then skip a line, then list the date, skip another line and then list the recipient's address.
If you have chosen the indented format, you'll place your address and the date in the top right-hand corner and then left-justify the recipient's address. If you've chosen a block format, you'll left-justify all of the addresses.
5. Include a salutation
If you know who you're writing to, the simplest and often most appropriate salutation is simply "Dear [name of recipient]". If you don't know the person well or you have a formal relationship, use their title and last name. If you are writing a letter to someone within a company, but don't know their name, take some time to research to find out. Oftentimes if you know the title, you can find their name on LinkedIn. You could also call the company and ask for the name of the person who holds that position.
If you are unable to find the information or you are writing a letter that isn't directed at someone specific, use "To Whom It May Concern". You can follow the salutation with either a colon or a comma.
6. Write the body of your letter
If you have a block form letter, left justify each paragraph within the letter, leaving a blank line between the paragraphs that makes it easier to read. For indented forms, you'll need to indent the first line of each paragraph by one inch.
Keep your letter direct and to the point, with the entire letter being no more than one page. While it's appropriate to start with a short pleasantry such as, "I hope this letter finds you well", you should move quickly to why you're writing. You can lead right into this by typing, "I'm writing in regards to..."
Use active voice as much as possible throughout the body of the letter. The closing paragraph should re-state the purpose of your letter and request follow-up action. End the letter with another pleasantry, such as "thank you for your time and consideration" or "please let me know if you'd like to discuss this in detail over the phone."
7. Include a complimentary close
If you're writing someone you have a formal relationship with or don't know well, you may want to use "sincerely," for your close. Other options are "best wishes", "kindest regards" or "best." "Yours truly" is also another option to consider.
8. List additional information
In some cases, you may want to include additional information under the salutation. You'll want to list these on each line. Some possible additional information could include:
Separate mailings: This lets the recipient know to expect other communication from you and what that will be.
Enclosures: This lets them know that you have included other documents in the letter. You can include the number of additional documents in parentheses for easy reference.
Courtesy copies: This lets the recipient know that you have also sent copies of this letter to other people. You can indicate this by writing "CC" or "Copies to" with the name of the other recipients.
Types of letters
Letters are organized under two main categories: formal and informal.
Formal letters usually follow one of four formats: indented, full block, modified block and semi-block. Formal types of letters can include:
Job or school application
Exit or resignation letter
Recommendation or referral
Offer or proposal
Interview follow-up or thank you
Informal letters do not require a certain format and can be written in various ways. Informal types of letters can include:
Sympathy or condolence
Friendship/thinking of you
Announcement, such as a name or an address change
Letter to the editor
Example of a letter
Here is an example of a professional business letter that you can use to help you draft your own. In this example, you will see the block format:
Armwood Business Solutions
555 Peachtree Lane
September 1, 2022
Norfolk Medical Group
110 Orange Grove Drive
Dear Mr. West,
I hope this letter finds you well. I'm writing in regard to a recent request that you made for more information about a technology solution for your medical group. I am the sales director at Armwood Business Solutions and I believe our products could be a good fit for your medical group.
We offer state-of-the-art technology solutions and serve both large and small organizations. Ultimately, our goal is to identify inefficiencies within the workflows of each company we work with and provide technology solutions to make them more efficient, employees more productive and the organization more profitable.
We understand that security is a top concern for companies today, which is why we have several products that are specifically designed to enhance security. We have several products that are specifically designed for medical groups like yours that allow providers to send and receive emails or access patient charts from anywhere, while still remaining HIPAA compliant.
If you would like more information about what we have to offer, please don't hesitate to contact me directly at (555) 222-3333. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Frequently asked questions
Can you send a handwritten business letter?
You can send a handwritten business letter when you want to personalize the message to the recipient. For example, a salesperson may write a short handwritten letter to a new client thanking them for their business. When you're writing a more formal business letter, such as a cover letter, type your letter and use proper formatting to show professionalism.
What details do you include in the signature of a letter?
In the signature of your letter, include your name and contact information, such as your phone number, email address or professional website. When printing and sending a letter, make sure to leave enough space between the complimentary close and your typed signature so you can also provide a handwritten signature.
Why send a letter instead of an email?
While sending an email can be an effective form of communication, there are reasons you may choose to send a letter instead. A letter may help you create a personal connection with the recipient. It's also a tangible message that may help the recipient remember you. For example, you may send a thank-you letter after a job interview to create a positive impression.
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