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Formatting business letters

by Tash Hughes of Word Constructions

Writing a letter’s easy, right? You put someone’s name at the top, write what you want to say and sign it. Simple.


It’s not that simple! To get the best results from your letter, it needs to be thought out and well laid out to be easy to read.

Some of the important aspects of letter formatting are outlined below – letter content we’ll ignore for now. If the letter is poorly presented, the content may not even be read and the letter was just a waste of paper.

Who are you?

It is polite to let the reader know who you are before you even write “Dear X.” If letterhead is available, this is an excellent way of introducing yourself and branding the business.

Regardless of letterhead use, it is also essential to list your name, title (if appropriate) and specific address at the top right corner of the page. This makes it easier for replies to reach you and is courteous.

When did you write this?

The date is an important fact to include at the top of the letter as it puts your words into context, especially if you use terms such as “tomorrow”, “next week” or “last month.”

It also helps if the letter is referred to at later dates and can be important in any legal issues relating to the letter’s content.

Traditionally, the date is on the right hand side, below your address details after a blank line. To avoid confusion, the best system for writing dates is a combination of words and numerals, such as 17 February 1998 and Saturday 25 August 2001.

Who are you writing to?

To ensure that the letter reaches the correct person in terms of position and department, it is important to list the person’s details on the left side of the page. The format takes the form of:

Ms S Brown

Accounts manager

Domestic Division

Company XYZ

23 Main St,

Suburb Postcode

After this, the letter itself begins by addressing the person individually, such as “Dear Susan” or “Dear Mr Jones. 

For many business letters, it is often a good idea to include a subject line at this point so the letter’s content can be readily identified. This information is best in capitals or underlined so it stands out from the other text. The final result looks like:

Dear Dr Lee,


How to finish

Once the letter has been written, you will need to finish it off. The exact words to use will depend on the opening and the formality of the letter.

The rule for formal correspondence is

Dear Sir/Madam, {letter} Yours faithfully, {your name}

Or, Dear {persons name}, {letter} Yours sincerely, {your name}

It is acceptable to use “Kind regards” in a more casual letter to someone you already know – it isn’t appropriate for a “Dear Sir/Madam” letter.

Signing your letter

Always finish the letter with your name and signature. Leave a space between your closing and name where you can sign the letter.

If you wish to add a title to your name, place it underneath your typed name. Adding the company name isn’t necessary as you have it at the top of the page already.

Unless absolutely necessary, make sure you sign your own letters. Using a stamp looks lazy and someone signing for you takes away the personal touch of your letter – it will appear that you aren’t interested enough to bother signing it yourself.

Page Layout

Ensure that the letter is easy to read by having space and between around the paragraphs. Use a decent sized font, usually 11 or 12 font is sufficient but consider your audience.

Avoid letters continuing onto a second page for only a line or two of text – it would be much better on one page.

Longer letters don’t usually have the letterhead for subsequent pages, but page numbers on the page are useful to make sure nothing is missing. Of course, printing on the back of page one saves paper and stops pages becoming separated.


By presenting your information in a well set out letter, you have a better chance of the receiver taking it seriously and reading it in full. It doesn’t take much to correctly format a letter, but it’s worth doing.


 Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for inclusion in newsletter and web sites.

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It must be acknowledged as written by Tash Hughes of www.wordconstructions.com.au and copyright remains the property of Tash Hughes.

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© 2003 - 12, Tash Hughes