Formats for Business Letters
When you send a business letter from the workplace, you are representing your company, so it’s wise to choose a format that will make the best impression. There are three basic letter formats to choose from, each conveying its own feeling about the writer and his or her business.
The full-block format is the easiest to set up, with all elements flush left and paragraphs separated by a space but not indented. In the signature block, the writer’s title is set on a separate line beneath his or her name.
While this format is easy to use, the content of the letter may appear unbalanced, depending on how the ragged right margin falls. (As a general rule, do not justify both the left and right margins of your letters, as this can distort the spacing and look awkward.) Full-block style is appropriate for ongoing, everyday business matters.
Similar to the full-block format, the simplified format is also set flush left. However, the salutation is replaced with a subject line in all capital letters, and the writer’s title appears on the same line with his or her name, separated by a dash, in the signature block. The complimentary closing is omitted. This all-business format suits mass mailings especially well.
Finally, the semiblock format, while more complicated to set up, offers a balanced, more traditional approach. In this format, the inside address (if used), date, closing, and signature block each begin at the horizontal center of the page, while all other elements are flush left. Paragraphs may begin either flush left or indented and are separated by a space. This format gives correspondence a comfortable though formal look that is always appropriate.
However you choose to format your letters, remember to proofread them carefully for typographical problems or other errors that could cast doubt on your professionalism. Although the appearance of your correspondence matters, the content is still most important.
You can learn more about formatting business letters on pages 28–33 of Business and Sales Correspondence, part of the EZ Series of business writing materials from UpWrite Press.