The Writing Center @ The University of Wisconsin - Madison
The Writer's Handbook
Business Letters

Use the menu below to view examples of business letter format.

Block Form

 

5 Hill Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53700

March 15, 2005

Ms. Helen Jones
President
Jones, Jones & Jones
123 International Lane
Boston, Massachusetts 01234

Dear Ms. Jones:

Ah, business letter format-there are block formats, and indented formats, and modified block formats . . . and who knows what others. To simplify matters, we're demonstrating the block format on this page, one of the two most common formats. For authoritative advice about all the variations, we highly recommend The Gregg Reference Manual, 9th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), a great reference tool for workplace communications. There seems to be no consensus about such fine points as whether to skip a line after your return address and before the date: some guidelines suggest that you do; others do not. Let's hope that your business letter succeeds no matter which choice you make!

When you use the block form to write a business letter, all the information is typed flush left, with one-inch margins all around. First provide your own address, then skip a line and provide the date, then skip one more line and provide the inside address of the party to whom the letter is addressed. If you are using letterhead that already provides your address, do not retype that information; just begin with the date. For formal letters, avoid abbreviations where possible.

Skip another line before the salutation, which should be followed by a colon. Then write the body of your letter as illustrated here, with no indentation at the beginnings of paragraphs. Skip lines between paragraphs.

After writing the body of the letter, type the closing, followed by a comma, leave 3 blank lines, then type your name and title (if applicable), all flush left. Sign the letter in the blank space above your typed name. Now doesn't that look professional?

Sincerely,

 

John Doe
Administrative Assistant

Indented Form

                                          5 Hill Street
                                          Madison, Wisconsin 53700
     
                                          15 March 2005

     Ms. Helen Jones
     President
     Jones, Jones & Jones
     123 International Lane
     Boston, Massachusetts 01234 

     Dear Ms. Jones:

          Ah, business letter format--there are block formats, and 
     indented formats, and modified block formats . . . and who 
     knows what others.  To simplify matters, we're demonstrating 
     the indented format on this page, one of the two most common 
     formats.  For authoritative advice about all the variations, 
     we highly recommend The Gregg Reference Manual, 9th ed. (New 
     York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), a great reference tool for workplace 
     communications.  There seems to be no consensus about such 
     fine points as whether to skip a line after your return 
     address and before the date: some guidelines suggest that you 
     do; others do not.  Let's hope that your business letter 
     succeeds no matter which choice you make!

          If you are using the indented form, place your address at
     the top, with the left edge of the address aligned with the
     center of the page. Skip a line and type the date so that it
     lines up underneath your address.  Type the inside address and
     salutation flush left; the salutation should be followed by a
     colon. For formal letters, avoid abbreviations.

          Indent the first line of each paragraph one-half inch.
     Skip lines between paragraphs.

          Instead of placing the closing and signature lines
     flush left, type them in the center, even with the address
     and date above, as illustrated here. Now doesn't that look
     professional?

                                          Sincerely,                                   



                                          John Doe

For further information about letters see Writing Cover Letters.