How Do I Write A Formal Business Letter?

Explains how to set out and compose a formal business letter for a range of purposes.

A business letter is simply a letter which is written to conduct some sort of business - such as a job application, letter of complaint, or an enquiry. It differs from personal letters exchanged by friends in both its layout and content.

Your business letter should, if possible, be typed. Use the word processing program on your computer. Choose a plain font such as Times New roman or Courier set to size 10 or 12. You should also choose justified lines - where text is aligned on both the right and left margins.

At the top of your page, starting at the left margin, type your address. If you are using business letterhead which includes the address, there is no need to retype this. If not, your full postal address, as it would appear on the envelope, is necessary. Do not include your name here, but if writing on behalf of a company, include its name:

Sunshine Industries Inc.

3 Sunshine Street


Miss a line, then write the date immediately below this. Write the full name of the month:

15 September 2000

Miss another line and put the address of the business you are writing to, including the name and/or position title of the person you want to read the letter:

Mr Stephen Smith

Manager, Human Resources

Rainy Day Industries

3 Rain Street

RAIN WA 55444

Once again, miss a line, then write your salutation. This should always be Dear Sir/Madam if you don't know the name of the person you are writing to. If you do know their name, use their title and surname: Dear Mr Smith not Dear Stephen.

Miss a line and begin the body of your letter. Your first paragraph should clearly state the purpose of the letter:

I am writing to make a complaint"¦

I wish to apply for the position of secretary"¦.

Complete the body of your letter, expanding on the purpose outlined in the first paragraph. Miss a line between each paragraph, in place of a paragraph indentation.

Make sure you provide enough detail for the reader of your letter to be able to take the action you desire. If you are applying for a job, for example, outline the qualities and experience which make you suitable for the position. If you are writing a letter of complaint, state all the relevant facts which have lead to you complaining.

Before you conclude your letter, refer to any attachments you are enclosing so that your reader understands why they are there:

I enclose a copy of my resume, providing further details of my employment background"¦

I enclose a copy of the document in question"¦.

Your final paragraph should invite your reader to contact, indicating what action you are seeking.

I would welcome the chance to further explain my case at a personal interview"¦

I look forward to your immediate attention to this problem"¦.

Now, close your letter with either Yours or Yours sincerely, followed by your name and, if relevant, position title:

Yours sincerely

Joe Bloggs


Leave enough room to add your signature above your name.

Your business letter should be folded in three by folding the bottom of the page two thirds of the way towards the top, then folding the top of the page downwards. The letter should then be inserted into a business-sized envelope, clearly and neatly addressed.

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