Professional Business Letter Format (with Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You may have come across many types of business letters, such as job cover letters, reference letters, letters of recommendation, complaint letters and reference letters. These professional forms of correspondence are formal and structured and follow the standard business format. Learning to write an effective business letter is necessary to be successful in the workplace. In this article, we explore the formal business letter format, along with a template and example to help you draft your own.

How to write a standard business letter

A formal business letter has seven critical components. Here are the details of each element in a business letter:

1. Sender's address

On the top left side of the business letter, you can list your address along with your full name. If you are writing on behalf of a company, you can place the company name instead of your name. Here's an example for your reference:

John Lau
Human Resources Director
Star Finance Corporation
784 Canton Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
+852 5555 55555
lau.starfinance@email.com

2. Date

Leave a line after your address and add the date in the format: day, month, year. For example, you can write the date as follows:

21 October 2021

3. Recipient address

List out the recipient's address and name after adding a space below the date. Here's an example:
Lorraine Zhang
Senior Recruitment Manager
Rising Talent Recruitment Firm
100 Queen's Road,
Central, Hong Kong

4. Opening salutation

Add a space after the recipient's address and choose an appropriate greeting or salutation. Based on the situation, you can use the following salutations:

  • Dear Mr/Ms Last name: This is the best and most formal way to address the recipient. For example, Dear Mr Wong.

  • Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms First Name Last Name: You can also use the recipient's full name when you know the person to whom you're sending the letter. For example, Dear Ms Alice Chau.

  • Dear First Name Last Name, or Dear Job Title Last name: If you are unsure of the gender of the recipient, use the full name or their designation and last name. For example, Dear Lawrence Lau or Dear Director Lau.

  • Dear Sir/Madam: Use this when you don't know to whom you are sending the letter.

  • To whom it may concern: Use this salutation when several people would see your letter and when you don't know a specific person to address. For example, you can use this form of salutation in most reference letters.

Related: How To write a Business Letter

5. Body

The body of a business letter is the place where you express the primary intention of your letter. Start the body one line below the salutation and keep it under three paragraphs. A single line spacing after each section can make the content appear more neat and readable. You can divide the body of a professional business letter into the following sections:

  • Introduction: Start on a friendly note where you introduce yourself and then state the main point of your letter.

  • Main body: Elaborate on the key point in this section. Keep it concise and easy to read. Try to convey your message in three or four lines.

  • Conclusion: Here, you can provide a clear call to action to encourage the recipient to take the appropriate action upon receiving your letter.

6. Closing salutation

You can place the closing salutation after the body after leaving a space. You can also add a comma after the closing salutation. Remember to choose an appropriate closing based on your relationship with the recipient. Common business letter closings include:

  • Sincerely

  • Yours sincerely

  • Yours faithfully

  • Faithfully

  • Respectfully

  • Cordially

7. Signature

Insert your signature, followed by your full name below the closing salutation. If you are enclosing any documents, you can also state each document's name below your email signature.

Related: Email Etiquette: The Professional Business Email Format

How to use a business letter format

When formatting a business letter, one of the top concerns is the readability and appearance of the letter. Here are some basic factors to consider when formatting an effective business letter:

1. Document format

Letter format refers to the way your letter looks on the page, whether it's a hard copy or soft copy. Even though there are different ways to format a business letter, block formatting is the most common, where all text is left justified and single-spaced with double spaces between paragraphs and different sections. This simple layout keeps the letter legible. The two types of block format include:

  • Full block format: The most formal and commonly used business letter format is the full block format. In this format, you left align all the information with double space between paragraphs.

  • Modified block format: In the modified block format, the sender's address and date are positioned in the centre, while the body is left aligned.

  • Company-specific format: Some companies may use different formatting conventions, such as indenting the paragraphs in the letter's body or using a specific font type and size. If your organisation follows a particular template, then you can also follow the same to ensure consistency.

2. Font size and style

Choose a simple and easy-to-read font, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Courier New or Verdana. Use a black colour font throughout and avoid bold, italicised or underlined font options, unless necessary. A uniform format helps your letter appear more understandable.

When selecting a font size, stay between 10 and 12 points for your font. Fonts smaller than 10-point fonts can be difficult to read, while fonts larger than 12-points might appear unprofessional.

3. Spacing, margins and alignment

Pay attention to spacing and margins in your business letter, as this can make the document look more readable, clear and professional. Add spaces between the various sections at the top of your letter appropriately, such as the sender's address, date, recipient's address and opening salutation.

Make sure there is a blank line between each paragraph of the body. Ensure to align your text to the left. It's also important to use standard one-inch margins in your document.

4. Enclosures

If you are attaching any other documents to your business letter, you can inform the recipient by including the names of the documents under your signature. Separate this section from the rest of your business letter with an extra line's space below your name. Make sure this section is left-aligned, in line with the date and address headers.

Business letter format template

Here's a format template you can use across any official correspondence:

[Full Name]
[Job Title]
[Company name]
[Street address]
[City, state]
[Phone number]
[Email address]

[Date]

[Recipient's Full Name]
[Job Title]
[Company name]
[Street address]
[City, state]

Dear [Recipient's name],

[Opening paragraph]

[Body paragraph]

[Closing paragraph]

Sincerely,

[Signature]

[Your name]
[Position in company]
[Your company name]

[Enclosures: name of documents enclosed]

Related: How To Structure a Cover Letter (With Example)

Business letter format example

You can use the following example of a business letter as a guide to help you create your own letter:

John Lau
Marketing Director
Star Finance Corporation
784 Canton Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
+852 5555 5555
lau.starfinance@email.com

21 August 2021

Lorraine Zhang
Senior Recruitment Manager
Equities First Finance Solutions
100 Queen's Road,
Central, Hong Kong

Dear Ms Zhang,

I am John Lau, Marketing Director at Star Finance Corporation. It's my pleasure to recommend Ms Alice Lee for the position of Marketing Manager in your company. Ms Lee has worked with me for four years and has continually impressed me with her hard work, professionalism and commitment to her career. She started as a junior marketing intern and worked her way up through the company to become an assistant marketing director. She has played a pivotal role in the success of our marketing department over the last several years.

Ms Lee has excellent project management, communication and organisation skills and is able to lead a large team across multiple ongoing projects. Her enthusiastic approach to work and willingness to exceed our clients' expectations has made her a valuable team player at Star Finance Corporation. We are sad to see her leave us, but she needs a broader exposure than what our company can offer at this stage.

She would be a great asset and can positively contribute to your organisation with her remarkable work ethic and marketing skill set and her credentials and background in the industry. If you have any questions regarding Ms Lee's abilities, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

[Signature]

John Lau
Marketing Director

Enclosures: Copy of CV of Ms Alice Lee

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