The correct format to use when writing a letter depends on the type of letter you plan to write and the person to whom you are sending it. The format you will use when writing to a friend will vary significantly from the format used for formal letters. In addition, the format of traditional letters sent by correspondence varies from those sent by email. Read on to learn more about the correct way to format your next letter.
Method 1 of 4: Formal or Business Letter
Step 1. Put your name and address at the top of the letter
Include street address, city, state, and zip code in a single-spaced, right-aligned block.
- The city, state, and zip code are listed on the same line, while the street address has its own line.
- Skip this step if you are sending a letter using a professional page header that includes this information. Do not enter the return address twice.
Step 2. Include the date directly below your address
Write the date you wrote or finished the letter.
- The date should be aligned to the right, just like the address.
- Write the date in month-day-year format. Write the month in letters, but use numbers to write the day and year. For example: May 14, 2013
Step 3. Include a blank line between the date and the next part of the letter
This will separate the address from the next section.
Step 4. If applicable, use a reference line
If the letter you write refers to something specific, it may help to include a reference line starting with "Re:".
- Align the reference to the right and keep it on one line.
- Use a reference line when responding to another letter, a job advertisement, or when requesting information.
- After the reference line, put a blank line to separate it from the next part of the letter.
Step 5. Enter the recipient's address
Include the name and title of the recipient, as well as the business name, street address, city, state, and zip code.
- This information should be left aligned and single spaced. The recipient's name must be written on its own line, as well as the recipient's title, company name, and address. The city, state, and zip code are listed on the same line.
- If you are sending the letter to another country, include the name of the country in capital letters on its own separate line below the address.
- When possible, address the letter to a specific person and address them with an appropriate title such as "Mr" or "Ms." If you are unsure of the gender of the recipient, please omit the title.
- Follow the full address with a blank line.
Step 6. Begin the body of your letter with a polite greeting
A typical greeting begins with "Dear," followed by the recipient's personal title and last name. After the name, put a comma.
- The salutation should be aligned to the left.
- If you do not know the gender of the recipient, you can address them with their full name or with their last name or professional title.
- After the greeting, leave a line blank.
Step 7. If you want, write the subject on one line
Write the subject in capital letters below the salutation and keep it aligned to the left.
- Keep the subject line brief but descriptive. Try to use only one line.
- Please note that this is optional and unconventional.
- Don't include the subject line if you included a reference line.
- Include a blank line after the subject if you chose to include it.
Step 8. Begin the body section with a short introduction that explains the purpose of your letter
Align the paragraphs to the left and feel free to indent the beginning of the paragraphs.
Step 9. Follow your introduction with a longer portion of the body
This section should be crafted in accordance with the purpose of your letter and should also include a conclusion that summarizes things.
Write a concise body section. Separate each paragraph with a single space, but leave a blank line between each and after the final paragraph
Step 10. End with a polite farewell
Write a polite farewell such as "Sincerely," "Regards," or "Thank you." Do not forget to align the parting to the left and then put a comma.
At the farewell, capitalize only the first letter of the first word
Step 11. Follow the closing with your name
However, leave three blank lines below the closing before writing your full name, followed by your job title on the line below.
Step 12. List any attached documents at the end of the letter
If you include any documents with your letter, write “Attachments” on a line below your name and professional title, and list all the attachments you will include.
- Note that this is not necessary in case you do not put any goodbye.
- Attachment section should be left aligned and single spaced.
Step 13. Include the typist's initials, if applicable
If you dictated the letter and someone else wrote it, include their first and last initials at the bottom of the letter, one line below any attached documents.
Step 14. Sign your name
Write your name by hand, preferably in italics, in the space between the closing text and your written name. Signing your letter by hand shows the recipient that you took the time to send it to them, and therefore doing so is important.
Method 2 of 4: Friendly Letter
Step 1. Enter the date
Include the date the letter was written or finalized at the top right of the letter.
- Write the date in month-day-year format. Writing the month in letters is usually considered the standard format, but you can also write the entire date in numbers.
- The date should be aligned to the right side of the page.
Step 2. Write a friendly greeting
The greeting "Dear" is still the most commonly used, but depending on the relationship you have with the recipient, you can write the recipient's name without formalities.
- The salutation must be aligned to the left and followed by a comma.
- When writing to a friend or colleague, you can only write their first name. Example “Dear Jane”.
- For more casual letters, you can replace "Dear" with a casual greeting like "Hello" or "Hey."
- If you are writing to someone older or to someone to whom you should show some respect, include a personal title and last name. Example: "Dear Mrs. Roberts."
- Leave a blank line between the salutation and the main text.
Step 3. Include an introduction, body and conclusion in the text of your letter
The introduction and conclusion should only consist of a single paragraph each, but the body part is usually significantly longer.
- Left-align the main text of the letter, but leave an indent on the first line of each paragraph.
- All main text must be single spaced. Generally, you shouldn't skip lines between paragraphs with a friendly letter, but doing so is acceptable if it improves the readability of your letter.
- Leave a blank line after the final sentence of your text to separate it from the goodbye.
Step 4. Conclude with a proper farewell
"Sincerely" is a fairly common goodbye, even for friendly letters. If the letter is casual enough, you can include a less conventional goodbye. If the letter is addressed to a close friend, try something like "See you next time!" or "Let's talk later!"
- Put a comma after saying goodbye, but don't include a printed version of your name afterward.
- The closing should be aligned with the heading.
Step 5. Sign your name
Sign your name directly below the farewell. Generally, your name should be italicized rather than printed.
If you use your first name with the recipient, you can sign with him and leave it at that. If the recipient doesn't know you by just your first name, then be sure to include your last name as well
Method 3 of 4: Formal Letter or Email
Step 1. Start with a short but precise description of the purpose of the email
This description should be located in the subject field of the email and not in the body of the email.
If the recipient expects to receive the email, this description can simply refer to the subject. If the email is not expected, this description can be a little more complete. The objective should be to let the reader know what to expect when opening the email. This means that it is necessary to motivate the reader to open it
Step 2. Begin the email with a formal greeting
It usually begins with "Dear" and then with a title form of the person or company to whom you are addressing.
- Address the letter to a specific recipient whenever possible. Avoid sending it to unnamed recipients. As a last resort, just use the phrase "To Whom It May Concern."
- Strictly speaking, the most suitable punctuation to use after the greeting is still a colon. However, these days, most people use a comma after greeting in a formal email letter.
- If you are not sure whether to address the recipient as "Mr." or "Mrs.", write the full name of the person.
- After the greeting, put a blank line.
Step 3. Keep the text of the letter short but informative
As with any letter, the main text should include an introduction, a body, and a farewell. Keep everything, including the body part, as short and concise as possible.
- Aligns the main text to the left.
- Don't use any additional margin.
- Keep the main text single spaced, but leave a blank line in the middle of each paragraph and after the final paragraph.
Step 4. Use a polite farewell
Write "Sincerely" or another just as polite farewell after the main text of your letter and follow it with a comma.
- Do not forget to align the parting to the left and only capitalize the first letter of the word.
- As a potential goodbye, you can also use "Thank you," "Sincerely yours," and "Best wishes."
Step 5. Write your name directly below the farewell
Unlike a letter sent on paper, you will not have to hand sign the email.
Align your name to the left
Step 6. Put your contact information last
Skip a line, then enter your physical address, phone number, email address, and website or blog when applicable.
Put all this information aligned to the left and with single spacing. Make sure to leave a parting line for each new part
Method 4 of 4: Friendly Email
Step 1. Start with a short but precise description of the subject of the email in the subject field
This will allow the recipient to quickly review the subject before opening the email and will give you enough information so that you know what to expect.
Step 2. Begin with a polite greeting in the text of the email
You should include a polite greeting such as "Dear." Then add the recipient's name.
- Align the salutation to the left.
- If you are writing to a close friend, you can completely skip the greeting and start with their name followed by a comma.
- Include a blank line between the salutation and the body of the email.
Step 3. Write the body of the email
Like the other letters, the body of the email should include an introduction, body, and farewell. However, if you are sending it to a close friend, this type of format may not be necessary.
Step 4. End the email with a goodbye
At the end of the email addressed to a friend, this dismissal need not be formal, but should indicate the end of the letter.
If you are writing to a very close friend, sometimes it is perfectly appropriate to simply end the email with your name, completely omitting the goodbye
- Note that there are some differences between the formal letters in the United States and those in the United Kingdom. In the UK, the return address and date are aligned to the right and the subject line, when included, should be centered. In addition, the date is written in “day-month-year” format, and a comma is placed after the greeting instead of a colon.
- If you don't like the format included in this article, sometimes known as the block format, you should also familiarize yourself with the modified block and semi-block formats. These formats include basically the same information but are organized differently.