Proper Business Letter Format

Your complete Guide to the Proper business letter format

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There are different business letter writing formats, but the most popular business letter format is the Block Format.

A letter formatted in a proper business letter format creates a good impression in front of the reader, and that means half your job is done.

Here is a detailed guide formatting a business letter format.

  1. Return address, or the Address of the person sending the letter.

    • Leave 2 blank lines from the top of the page, and then write the return address.

    • This is usually the address, and contact details of the company you work for.

    • If you are writing the letter on a printed letterhead that already has the company’s address, then you don’t need to write it again.

    • If you are writing a business letter for a personal reason, like a cover letter, then write your own address.

    • Put the country’s name in capital letters.

  2. Date- writing the date in the correct business letter writing format.

    • Leave a gap of one line after the return address, and then write the date.

    • The date can be written as 2 January 2008 or January 2, 2008.

    • A business letter needs to look professional. And you will notice that a proper business letter format will always have the month and year spelled out completely. So, write 2 January 2008, and not 2 Jan 08.

  3. Inside Address, or the name and address of the person you are writing to.

    • Leave a gap of 2 lines below the date and then write the name, designation, and address of the person you are sending the letter to. For example,

      Mr. James Chang
      Chief Architect, Perfect Construction
      81 Mulford Avenue
      McLean Virginia

    • Write the name of the country in capital letters.

    • If you are writing a letter to a man, put a Mr. before the name. And if you are writing to a woman, the most common way is putting a Ms. before the name.
      However, women can also be addressed as Mrs. or Miss. If you already know how the lady likes to be addressed, use that. Otherwise, it is most acceptable to use Ms.

    • Some people have titles, for example, Dr. In such cases, use the title instead of Mr. or Ms. For example, Dr. Jack Smith.

    • It creates a better impact if you address the business letter to a specific person. If you are not sure whom you should address the letter to, try calling up the company and finding out.

  4. Salutation, or greeting, for the person you are sending the business letter to.

    • Leave a gap of one line between the inside address and the salutation.

    • Salutation is how you address the person you are writing to. Let’s say you are writing to Mr. James Chang. It is rude to begin your letter directly with Mr. James. So we add a salutation like Dear in front of the person’s name. For example, Dear Mr. James Chang

    • You can put a colon after the salutation, but it is not a must. Both of the styles given below are correct.

      Dear Mr. James Chang


      Dear Mr. James Chang:

    • Sometimes you may not know the gender of the person you are writing the business letter to. In that case, you can simply write the full name of the person without adding a Mr. or Ms. For example, if you don’t know if James Chang is a man or a woman, write

      Dear James Chang:

    • If you cannot find the name of a specific person to whom you can address the business letter, instead of the salutation you can write
      To whom it may concern:

  5. Body

    • Leave a gap of one line between the salutation and the first paragraph of the body.

    • The body is the part of the business letter format where you explain why you are writing the letter.

    • Divide the body into short paragraphs with an introduction, middle, and a conclusion.

    • Leave a blank line between each paragraph.

  6. Closing the business letter

    • To end the letter, we use what is called a complimentary close.

    • Some common complimentary closes used in business letter writing formats are Yours sincerely, Yours truly, or just Sincerely.

    • Capitalize the first word of the closing.

      Yours sincerely, (Capitalize Yours)

      Sincerely, (Capitalize Sincerely)

    • Should I put a comma after the complimentary close?

      That depends on the salutation. If you have a colon after the salutation, put a comma after the complimentary close.

      However, if you have not used a colon after the salutation, then you don’t need to put any punctuation after the closing.

      Both the styles below are correct, and you can use either one.

      Salutation Dear Mr. Jack Smith:
      Complimentary Close Yours sincerely,

      Salutation Dear Mr. Jack Smith
      Complimentary Close Yours sincerely

  7. Sender’s name and signature

    • Leave 3 blank lines after the complimentary close.

    • Write the sender’s name and designation.

    • The sender’s signature comes above the name.

    • No title is required before the sender’s name. So write Sarah Williams, instead of Ms. Sarah Williams. For example,

      Sarah Williams
      Manager, Sigma Ventures

  8. Reference Initials (optional)

    • These are the initials of the person who typed the letter (usually the secretary).

    • The reference initials are an optional part of a proper business letter format, and not required if the sender and the typist are the same.

    • Write the reference initials in lowercase or uppercase, one line below the sender’s name and designation.

    • If the typist’s name is Mike Lee, then his initials can be put as ML or ml. For example,

      Sarah Williams (sender’s name)
      Manager, Sigma Ventures (sender’s designation)

      ML or ml (reference initials)

  9. Enclosures (optional)

    • Enclosures in a business letter format refer to documents you send along with the letter.

    • This is just to let the other person know that the letter is accompanied by other documents.

    • Leave a blank line after the sender’s name and then write Enclosure, and list the document. For example,


    • For more than one document, write Enclosures. For example,

      Letter of Recommendation

Related Articles:

Business Letter Formats

Information on all the four types of business letter formats, including block letter, modified block, semi‒block, and office memos.

Block Letter Format
How to format business letters in the block format. See a sample letter in the Block Format.

Formal Letter Format-Modified Block and Indented

Business Letter Layout

Writing a Business Letter
A step-by-step guide for writing a business letter.

Further Reading:

Complaint Letters
How to Write a Complaint Letter
Complaint Letter Template

Thank You Letters
Writing Business Thank You Letters
Interview Thank You Letter Template
Thank You Letter For Interview - Sample

Promotion Letters
Write Promotion Letter
Sample Promotion Letter

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