How to write and
set out a business letter
When you write a business letter you create a lasting image
of yourself or your business
Specific job application letter content links
Guide to English comprehension and grammar
Business letter format and layout
Example of a letterhead
Additional tips on how to set out a business letter
the use of capital
Guide to business letter format and presentation
Letter writing- style and tone
documents through the
for the presentation of job search letters
This section is generic to all
business letters including job application letters and goes a lot further
than information on letter format and layout, letter structure and an example on how to
set out a business letter. For instance, a guide to the use of capital letters is
provided, which is a major problem some people have when writing letters,
and "reading principles", which is important to everyone, particularly for
people to whom English is a second language.
The way you
communicate on paper will alert your reader to your level of education, your
personality and your level of professionalism. Your letter will most
probably be a sales letter or it will contain a message you want to get
across clearly. The basic principles for all types of business letters will
be the same.
business letters is an integral part of your job search strategy. You will
write letters with different content in the course of your job search
journey, such as:-
letter or cover letter directly to the employer for an advertised job.
parties regarding an advertised job.
to recruitment agencies.
or cold calling /
cold canvassing letters.
For any other employment situation that requires written
letters will be set out in the same way using traditional business letter format.
job application letter links -
(8 different applications)
A good business letter is not just about the content of the letter. The
format of the letter is very important. Reading Principles are extremely
factors to consider in the way you set out a business letter and I urge you
to adopt these.
Reading principles is a sales strategy that identifies
how the reader scans a page. It is crucial to understand
how to set out a letter using specific margin settings and where to place
the most important content on the page for maximum visual impact.
This format applies to any business letter.
principles are very important part of the letter layout or any document where you want to
ensure the main points of the message will be read. Note:-
Where you begin the letter content is important. If you have to start writing your
letter too far down the page you lose the advantage of using reading
principles. This is why it is advisable to make up a letterhead (see later)
for all your correspondence.The main
content you want to be seen should be in the middle of the page, say 6
lines where the eye will naturally take it in.
Guide to English
comprehension and grammar
Common Errors in English
This is an excellent free resource and easy to use.
Punctuation is very important and the use of texting has
created a generation who do not know how to use commas, colons, inverted
commas, periods (full stops) and hyphens, for example. Some people say it
is not important, but most employers will disagree, especial older employers.
For this information you will have to look at some other business letter
Use a template for your letterhead. Create it yourself and just save it as a
template or a document you can easily copy and paste. You don't need to use
a letter template as all letters will be different. If you have Word for
Windows learn some of the great features such as styles, quick parts for
repeating signature, closing statement etc.
Letters should be planned and contain a
beginning, middle and an end.
You need to be clear
Business letter format and layout
sample business letter is provided further down).
or set out with name, address and contact details.
line - who the letter is addressed to
Body of letter
- max 5 paragraphs - Approx 25 words each sentence
"c" or "cc"
Business Letter Format : Further explanation
on how to set out a letter
Create your own business letterhead as it will give you more room for the content. If not,
use the format in the example letter. However it may interfere with reading principles as
stated above if you name and address and contact numbers take up too much
2. Date: Use English dates at all times spelling out the
month. XX Day XX month XX year.
3. Inside address: Full company address.
4. Attention Line - Who it is going to person or
5. Salutation is the greeting. Ensure you address your letter to the appropriate person.
You cannot write a good letter if you don't know anything about the
company or more specifically the person you are writing to. What is there
title and job within the organisation, for example. Is he/she the
Address the letter to a person by name not title. If the name of the recipient of the letter is not known, you
must ring the
company and find out who to address the letter to and ensure you have the
correct spelling of the name. Under
no circumstances use Dear Sir/Madam. Jimmy Sweeney, from
Amazing cover letter software,
provides advice on how to get around this when you cannot get a name.
What is the letter about: Quote any
invoice or other reference number of state the subject of the letter. Be
brief - few words. Should be centered and bolded. Use of reference - "Re"
i.e. "Re: Incorrect payment invoice 12345" is not necessary. Personal
7. Body of the letter.
8. Complimentary close. Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully? Upper
or lower case?
will use yours sincerely or your faithfully, however it is becoming more
popular to use a less formal close such as Regards or Kind regards.
Golden Rule is:-
Yours faithfully is used when the
persons name is not known
Yours sincerely is used when the
persons name is known -
always. Both faithfully and
sincerely in lower case
signature. If you want to be known as Mrs or Miss don't put Mrs
James, for example. Put in brackets at the end of the name i.e.
Adriana James (Mrs). This can be useful if your name can be both male and
female and also if you are a female, it clarifies to the reader how to
address you when they answer your letter. Non native English speakers often
call themselves by their title, Mr Jones, for example. It is too formal and
un-Australian or un-American. Brits can do this occasionally but please
reference: A company might want to put a reference number or
show that the letter was signed by another person for the manager for
example. Rarely used these days. Businesses usually put reference numbers in
the letterhead area.
11. Abbreviation - Enclosing documents with a
enclose any documents you must refer to them at the end of the letter. For
resume, brochure, application form.
If you are sending a duplicate letter to anther
person as well as the recipient you must advise both parties. For example,
c.c. Mr Alec Shields, Supervisor of Finance Division (or just
the name) at the bottom of the letter. (You see this in all email programmes).
Sample business letter format
There is no need to put full stops in the address in this
format which was developed for word processing when PC's first came
out. An exception is when a full stop can separate words that usually have a full stop, like your postal box. Put
full stops in the rest of the text. This example letter relates to a job, but it will be the
same for any type of business letter. Note: It is best to use a
Example of a Letterhead
27 The Rise, Thornleigh Heights, W.A. 6111. Ph: (08) 9423 1796
If you don't use a
letterhead set out as below. Not recommended as stated in reading
27 The Rise
Thornleigh Heights WA 6111
(08) 9423 1796
(email address only if you are sure you want a response
to be received by email)
2 line spacing
27 October 2012
2 line spacing
Mr A Whittaker
Whittaker and Sands Pty Ltd
87 Mosman Road
Perth WA 6000
2 line spacing
Mr Whittaker (salutation)
2 line spacing before the subject
the text. Use upper and lower case and bolded.
Re: account 123456 (attention
(Add body of the letter - what
is the letter about)
Leave about 2 lines after the sign off above the line
4-5 line spacing This can be 4 lines if running out
Type your name and underline. Not you full name and use the
name you are known by in brackets i.e. Margaret (Maggie) Fergusson
Note: If the letter is unbalanced
, adjust it on the page - top and bottom margins should be equal.
See business letter format 1
See business letter format 2
Your signature - How do you sign your letter
Sign your name with a BLUE pen - never use your
signature created by the computer.
Signature and the
the ink you should use. In
"Instant Cover letters"
Sweeny states that the colour of the ink you choose to write your signature
"It has been shown,
believe it or not, that the color of your pen can improve the response to
your Cover Letter. If possible, you should always sign your letter by hand
using a blue or green felt-tip pen. We don't recommend using a black pen."
See how this software
will assist you to write highly effective job application letters.
Using PS. at the
end of your letter is a powerful sales strategy
Sweeny say the
PS (Post Script/scriptum) at the end of a letter is very powerful attention grabbing
statement when used
in a sales letter. It is an after thought, after writing the letter.
Meaning "by the way...." For example, you may say. PS. "I omitted
to tell you that I am starting 5 week evening course in writing
business letters at Pro-Active Human Resource Management next week which
will provide me with the skills to write more effective business letters
that may be useful to the position".
So PS it is something you wanted to say
that is not in the main letter content. But in this case it is done on
purpose. In a personal letter you may say. PS. I forgot to tell you that Sam
passed his exams. In fact with word processes it is no longer necessary to
use PS. It was ok while writing long hand or even manual typing.
Guide to the use of capital letters
The first word of a sentence
names of people
governments and government departments
Statutes i.e. laws, bills, acts of Parliament and
before these titles
holidays and other public events
Main words of
the title of: -
Chapters Works of art
Guide to business letter
Make up a plain letter head.
should be typed and printed out on a quality printer.
white paper and black ink.
Lots of white
space - margins 3cm or 3.5 either side.
spacing in sentences.
lines between paragraphs. However, this can take up a lot of room. A
solution is to manually adjust the line spacing by placing the cursor
between the line and put in size such as size 8 - two spaces. If using
Word use the styles and paragraph settings 1.5. Be
font size - Use the same font as resume which should be Times New Roman or
Arial, size 11 or maybe 10 if you have a lot of content. (Today we are
more used to size 10 font - once considered too small).
justify the margins (see reading principles).
Max 5 short
Approx 25 words in each sentence.
Use simple words
Use point form where appropriate
Use punctuation to assist in understanding the
Business letter writing style
The tone needs to be professional but not too formal,
It should be genuine, positive and enthusiastic.
Use your own language style (within application and these guidelines).
Strike a balance between your own verbal communication style and a
jargon, smart comments and clichιs.
points in the middle of the letter if appropriate for clarity.
and take out all fillers.
up action clear (for all letters not just job search).
reader to attachments. i.e. "enclosed, resume and references". Put this
in after your signature.
thoroughly for grammatical mistakes and typing errors. Have it
proofread by another person - even two people.
one day if possible before you send so that you can look at it again
with a fresh eye to proof read.
If writing a
sales letter or self marketing letter such as an employment letter, use good
marketing techniques and do not boast or come on too strong, arrogant or
Didn't find what you wanted? Search Google
for business letter writing and examples of business letters with keyword
business letters OR
business letter writing
Sending accompanying documents through the
You should be aware
that documents can go astray and may never reach the recipient. (the person
it was addressed to). They also get chewed up by machinery
in the postal exchange (In Perth). Yes, truly, this is first hand knowledge.
It is wise to follow these rules
if sending accompanying documents.
Your name and page number must appear on
all documents, preferably in a footer, if using word.
you have the name of the person it is going to on the letter. i.e.
Attention Julia Jones.
Do not put your documentation in a folder.
Do not use staples use modern silver
clips, not the old paper clips. They are expensive but worth it. If it is a
resume the employer will want to scan it or make additional copies. They will
not be happy if they have to un-staple it. On the other hand, they do not
want to lose it.
Another reason for not using staples, as
that as your may get eaten by postal sorting machines. Silver clips
are not as bulky but you have to take a chance.
Don't fold your documents.
Put do not bend on the envelope.
You must use the envelope that has the
postcode on the right bottom corner. (Australia) If it doesn't it could be held up
for days because it will have to be manually sorted. Pay extra for these
Ensure your envelope is directed to the
appropriate person or shows a reference number if requested.
Make sure you have your return address on
the presentation of job search letters
If making a quality contact through networking, you
may use parchment paper and/or a folder if you insist.
A folder, and an additional master copy, may
be appropriate for executive jobs where the company is the main contact
point, and if applying for jobs where there is less competition. Also a
folder is appropriate if the jobseeker as been headhunted. But also
enclose an unbound copy.
If cold calling, do not assume the address
is the same as in the phone book. A) The company may have a private box
and letters can get lost. B) Sometimes the company has moved premises,
although they use the same phone number. This happens quite a lot. (See
information on spam re cold calling).
In job search make sure the job title is on
the envelope. Re: Accounts payable position - number 12345.