Even with the use of email and text to communicate, there is still a need for letter writing. The formatting of a letter is important to know, especially for your job search.
Knowing these rules can make you look like a professional and boost your chances of success.
Formatting of a Letter: When to Use It
Correct formatting of a letter crucial if you are sending a paper version to the recipient. You can also use the letter format for emails and sending electronic versions of the letter.
This sample letter format shows you what to include in your letter, along with information about what font to use in a letter, the salutation, spacing, closing, and signature.
Letter Formatting Basics
There are a few different forms you can use when formatting a letter. For the purposes of job searching, the block letter format is all you need.
Block Format Letter
The most common layout of a business letter is block format. The entire letter is left justified (aligned to the left margin, no indent) and single-spaced. There is a line of space between sections as outlined in this post and the letter’s paragraphs.
What Font to Use in a Letter
Fonts affect the readability of a letter. The best fonts to use are Times New Roman, size 12, or Arial. Consider your audience when selecting a font. If you are in a conservative profession such as an actuary, mathematician or project manager, stick to traditional Times New Roman.
However, if you are in a more creative job such as a floral designer you can use a more artsy font. Just make sure people can read it.
Sample Letter Format
Step 1. Start with Sender’s Contact Info (That’s you.)
The sender’s (your) address can be in the letterhead. If you are not using letterhead, include your address at the top of the letter, one line above the date.
Your Address Your City, State Zip Code Month XX, 2020
Do not write your name or title. Put your name, title and contact info in the letter’s closing. Use only the street address, city, and zip code in this section.
Step 2. Include the Date
In the formatting of a letter, the date indicates when the letter was written. IF it takes you more than a day to write, use the date when the letter was finished.
The date format should be the month written out, the day of the month and year. It should be separated by one empty line above and below it.
Step 3. Write the Recipient’s Contact Information
Next in the business letter format, is the contact information of the person or company you are writing to.
City, State Zip Code
Try to have a specific person at the company to address the letter to. Include Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. If you not sure how to address a woman, use Ms.
Step 4. Open the Letter with a Greeting or Salutation
Use the same name as the one in the recipient’s address, including the personal title. Do not use To Whom It May Concern. If you know the person you can use just their first name in the letter’s greeting. If not, use the personal title and last name of the person, followed by a colon.
Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Terry Smith: (If you are not sure about the person's gender.)
Leave one line blank after the salutation.
Step 5. Create the Body of Letter
The first paragraph of your letter should state why you are writing the person. See this post for what to write in each paragraph of a cover letter and this one for what to write in a short resignation letter.
Then, in the next paragraphs, give more information and details about the topic you are writing about. For example, in a cover letter, you would provide examples of what makes you the best candidate for the job.
The last paragraph of your letter restates the reason you are writing. It also thanks the person for considering your information or request.
If appropriate, include a call to action. This means asking the person to write or call you back with a response. In a cover letter, a call to action would be to ask the person to review your resume and work.
Step 6. Close Your Letter
The closing should be short and sweet. Sincerely or Best regards will do. Separate it from the body of your letter with a blank line. Capitalize the first word (example: Thank you).
Leave four lines between the closing and the sender’s (your) name for a signature. A comma should follow the closing.
Body of the letter. Sincerely, Your name Title Your phone number Your email address
Step 7. Sign Your Letter
Sign your hard copy letter in blue or black ink. For email, leave one line of space for your signature and type your name.
Other Considerations in the Formatting of a Letter
If you have enclosed documents with the letter, such as a resume, you should type the word Enclosures below the closing. List the name of each document you include in the envelope.
Spelling and Grammar Check
Always check your work with Grammarly and your spellchecker. Also, have someone else read your letter before you send it.
Here is a sample cover letter using the letter formatting steps. You can cut and paste this letter template below.
Cut and Paste Sample Formatting of a Letter
City, ST 12345
Month XX, 20XX
HIring Manager Name, Title
1234 Main Street
City, ST 12345
Mr./Ms. Last Name of Hiring Manager:
I recently saw your posting for a senior graphic designer on your website. It looks like an amazing opportunity where I could use my visual design and client management skills. Client retention can be an ongoing challenge for small graphic design firms. Your next senior graphic designer should understand that consistently exceeding client expectations and effective communication leads to overall increased customer loyalty.
During my eight years in my current role at Acme Graphic Design, I consistently received a 98% customer satisfaction rating. Seventy percent of those clients reported that my work exceeded their expectations based on company surveys. This contributed to a 15% overall increase in repeat customers for the company in 2019 over the previous year.
You can view my latest work at portfolio.com. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the opportunity. Thank you for your time and consideration.
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