How to Write And
Set Out A Business Letter
Learn how to write a professional letter that conforms
to the traditional format of a
standard business letter.
This section is generic to all business
letters and goes a lot further than information on
letter structure and an example on how to set out a 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
to whom English is a second language.
"what is on this page."
When you write a business letter, you
create a lasting image of yourself and you business. 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 letters will be the same.
Writing 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 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
All letters will be
in the same way, using
traditional business letter format.
Job Application Letter Content
(8 different applications)
good business letter is not just about the content of the letter. The way
format of the letter is very important. Reading Principles is very important
factor to consider in the way you set out a business letter.
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 in any letter or document where you want to
ensure the main points of the message will be read. Note:-
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 does 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 employer's will disagree, especial older employers.
For this information you will have to look at some other Business Letter
Letter should be
planned and contain a
beginning, middle and an end
You need to be clear
Business letter format and layout (An example 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"
Letter Format : Further explanation
on how to
set out the 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
person’s name is not known
Yours sincerely is used when the
person’s 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).
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 WA 6111. Ph: (08) 9423 1796
If you don't use a
letterhead set out as below.
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 2008
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.
Additional explanation on setting out of a
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" software, Jimmy
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 can make your letters sizzle!
Using PS. at the
end of your letter is a powerful sales strategy
Many marketers say the
PS at the end of a letter is very powerful and attention grabbing when used
in a sales letter. For example, you may say. PS. I omitted
to tell you that I am doing a 5 course in XYZ, at XYZ, next week which will
provide me with the skills to do XYZ.
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
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. 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
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 clichés.
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
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
Hints for 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.
lf you are embedding your resume into a data base it
may need to be set out in plain text formatting and may need reconstruction.
How to submit your resume online
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