Formatting a Basic Business Letter: Use Proper Style to Create the Right Impression

(Proper formatting is illustrated and described when you read the letter below.)

February 5, 2012


Mr. Joseph Matthew

Helpful Office Tip
123 Main Street
Seal Beach, California 90740

Re:         Proper Business Letter Format

Dear Mr. Matthew:

In recent years, I have noticed most business letters contain several formatting errors which detract from the content. I would recommend that you use the rules contained in this message for all correspondence until you learn where and when to use the less formal, familiar rules.

Please note that your recipient will form an opinion of you based on what he or she sees on the page.  A polite and professional tone will get a polite and professional response and gain the reader’s respect.   You should never use contractions or abbreviations.  No one will notice that you do not use them, but they may think your tone is too informal or familiar if you do.  For example, the date at the top of the page is in long form with the month spelled out.  The same rules applies to the entire address; do not abbreviate “Street,” “Avenue,” “Drive,” “Apartment,” “Suite,” or the state.

The two abbreviation exceptions are the subject line and the addressee’s title.  The reference line may begin with “Re:” following by a tab.  Spelling out the entire word “Reference” could seem presumptuous and takes up too much space.  The addressee’s title, such as Mr. or Mrs., may also be abbreviated.

For paragraphs, simple block style is shown here with a return /enter between each paragraph and no indents or tabs.  An indented paragraph is informal and used with single spacing when you address a good friend.

I hope this simple advice will help others perceive you as a strong and skilled peer in the business world.



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