The three most common formats are block, modified block, and simplified.

Block Format

In the block format, place all the letter’s elements flush against the left-hand margin. Do not indent the first word of each paragraph. The full block format,  may seem unbalanced, but it is widely used because it can be typed quickly.


Modified Block Format

The modified block format, shown in Figure 18.2, is the same as the full block with two exceptions: the date line and closing signature are placed on the right side of the page. The best position for both is five spaces to the right of the center line, but flush right is acceptable. A variation of this format is the modified semi block. It is exactly the same as the modified block except that the first line of each paragraph is indented five spaces.

Simplified Format

The simplified format (Figure 18.3) is a recent development that departs from conventional letter formats. Its streamlined form contains no salutation and no complimentary close, but it almost always includes a subject line. It is extremely useful for impersonal situations, or for situations where the identity of the recipient is not known. Because it requires less typing and so’ is faster to produce, it is gaining popularity. In personal situations, writers start the first paragraph with the recipient’s name.





As a professional, you should know the standard ways to handle each element of a letter. This section describes the elements  the top to the bottom of a letter. Heading In personal letters, include both your address and the date, positioned according to the requirements of the format you have chosen. Use these guidelines:

• Spell out words such as Avenue, Street, Enst, North, and Apartment (but, use Apt. if the line is too long).

• Put an apartment number to the right of the street address. If, however, the street address is too long, put an apartment number on the next line.

• Spell out numbered street names up to Twelfth.

To avoid confusion, put a hyphen between the house and street number (1021-14th Street).

• Either spell out the full name of the slate or use the Ll.S. Postal Service zip code abbreviation. If you use the zip.code abbreviation, note
that the state abbreviation has two capital letters and no periods, and the zip code number follows two spaces after the state. For example:

4217 East Eleventh Avenue
Apartment 3′
Austin, TX 78701

Date Dates can have one of two forms: May I, 19XX, or 1 May 19XX. In American correspondence, the former prevails. In Europe and the American military, the latter is used more frequently. Use these .guidelines:

• Spell out the month.
• Do not use ordinal indicators, such as 1st or 3rd.

Inside Address Readers are sensitive about their names, titles, and firms, so the inside address requires special care. Use these guidelines:

• Make sure that you use the correct personal title (Mr., Ms., Dr., Professor) and business title (Director, Manager, Treasurer) .

• Write the firm’s name exactly, .adhering to its practice of abbreviating or spelling out such words as Company and Corporation.

• Place the reader’s business title after his Or her name or on a line by itself, whichever best balances the inside address .

• Use the title Ms. for a woman, unless you know that she prefers

• to be addressed in another way.

Ms. Susan Ward ell
Director of Planning
Acme Bolt and Fastener
23201 Johnson Avenue
Arlington, AZ 85322

Attention Line Attention lines are ‘generally used only when you mot name the reader (“Attention Personnel Manager”; “Attention Pay- 1 Department”). Use these guidelines:

• Place the line two spaces below the inside address.

• Place the word Attention against the left margin. Do not follow it by a colon.

Salutation The salutation always agrees with the first line of the inide address. A colon always follows the salutation. Use these guidelines:

• If the first line names an individual (Ms. Ann Burdick), say “Dear Ms. Burdick:”

• If the first line names a company (Dougherty Contracting), repeat the name of.the company (“Dear Dougherty Contracting:” or just “Dougherty Contracting:”), or use the simplified format with a subject line.

• If that the  line names an office, address the office, use an attention line, ~r use a subject line.

Personnel Director .
Firari & Firari, Accountants
1535 Goodrich Avenue
Lewiston, ME 04240
Dear Personnel Director: (or)
Attention Personnel Director (or)
Subject: Application for Finance Analyst

If you know only the first initial of the recipient, write “Dear B. Smith” or else use an attention line

• If a job advertisement, for example, lists only a post office box, use a subject line.

Box 4721 ML
The Daily Planet
Gillette, WY 82716


Subject Line Subject lines are common in business letters. Use these

• Follow the word Subject with a colon.

• For emphasis, you may either completely capitalize or underline the subject.

Body Single-space the body. Generally try to balance the body on the page. It should  the page’s imaginary middle line (located  112 inches from the top and bottom of the page). Use several short paragraphs rather than one long one. Use 1-inch margins in the right and left.

Complimentary Close and Signature Use simple closings, such as “Sincerely” or “Sincerely yours,” to end business letters. Use these

• Capitalize only the first word of the line.

• Place a comma after the close (or whatever company policy specifies).

• Place the company’s name immediately below the complimentary close (if necessary).

• Allow space for the handwritten signature.

• Place the writer’s title or department, or both, below his or her typed name.

Optional Lines . A number of optional lines provide notations below the typed signature.

• Place the typist’s initials in lower-case letters, flush left.

• Add an enclosure line if the envelope contains. additional material. The line may start either with” Enclosure:” or the abbreviation .
Place the name of the enclosure (resume, bid contract) after the colon, or put the number of enclosures in parentheses – enc: (2).

• If copies are sen. to other people, place “cc:” (for carbon copy) at the left margin and place the names to the right. Note: some authors use “c” ()r “copy to” when they do not actually make a carbon copy.

Succeeding Pages For succeeding page of a letter, place the name of the reader, the page number, and the date in a heading:


The standard business envelope is 9 1/2 by 4 3/16 inches. Place the stamp in the upper right-hand comer. Place your address, the same one that you used in the letter, in the upper left-hand comer. Traditionally, the recipient’s address has been placed at the top left of the lower- right quadrant of the envelope. However, the U.S. Postal Service now uses optical character recognition (OCR) machines, which have a “read area” . As a result, you may place the address anywhere in the read area. The Postal Service recommends that you place apartment numbers to the right of the street address ,or, if it is too long, on the line below. If for some reason the zip code number cannot be placed to the right of the state, place it on the next line at the left margin. The Postal Service prefers but does not require that you type the address in all capital letters. Bar coding is now used by many businesses. If an envelope has a bar code, no other printing should appear in the bar code read Postal Service’s recommended method for formatting an envelope for OCR.



Business letters require clarity and tact. You must make a good impression, writing clearly without being pushy. To do so, you must approach your audience with a personal tone – treating them as people, not machines.

Approaching Your Audience

Style In business letters, you want to sound natural; you are, after all, one human being addressing another. You can use several stylistic strategies to achieve a natural sound. First, use the first-person I and we and refer to the reader in the second-person These productions will give your letters the natural, conversational style needed for personal communication. Second, write in plain English. The “businesses” style of writing sounds like a poorly programmed robot rather than a person. Consider this brief passage:

pursuant to our discussion of February 3 in reference to the L-19 transistor, please be advised that we are not presently in receipt of the above-mentioned item but expect to have it in stock with week.  closed here with please find a brochure regarding said transistor as per your request.

Such stilted, awkward prose is so common in business correspondence that many young writers think they are supposed to write that way. Here is the paragraph rewritten in a more direct style: I’ve enclosed a brochure on the L-19 transistor we talked about on February 3.
Our shipment of L-19’s should arrive with in a week.

The new phrasing is more conversational, and it makes the contents much easier to grasp. The “You” Approach The “you” approach is a matter of tone – your attitude toward your subject and your reader. When you write a letter, the personality you reflect is often as much the message as the contents. The wrong personality can obscure the message. The basic way to set a tone that puts the reader at ease is to adopt the “you” approach.

The “you” approach requires only a common-sense awareness of human nature. Be professional, not emotional. Talk to the other person as you would like to be talked to. Talk person to person, using “I,” “we,” and “you.” #

Considers the difference in the following two examples, both of which start a letter intended to explain why a manual did not accompany a mariachi.

There was a question asked by you in regard to the complete fulfillment of contract 108XB (Manual Effector Arm Robot A).Complete documentation of same has not been fulfilled.The specifications are interpreted by this office to mean that no such documentation was required

I’m writing response to your phone call about the technical manual, which you understood was to accompany your new robot.We did not feel that the contract called for a manual. Since this is an important concern, we would like to explain our actions.

Which one would you rather receive? Probably the second. It sounds like one human  talking to another.

To look at it another way, the “you” approach requires an analysis of each reader’s point of view, which is invariably different from yours. If you have to respond to a complaint, for instance, that some equipment you sold was defective, try to show an understanding of the customer’s position. Here is the body of a “you” approach letter to a person with a complaint. Notice how the writer deals with the emotions in the situation.

Let me start by apologizing for the shredded conveyor belt realize from  our earlier (and happier) conversation how important that conveyor system is to  our operation. I have already taken steps to fix the problem. First, I have shipped you a new belt. It left here today, so I hope it arrives before this letter does. Since the defective better is under warranty, the new belt is free. Second, I reviewed your problem with our design engineer. She feels that the belt exactly fills your specifications, and so the fault must be in the metal limbs that join the rubber lengths. As your employees install the new belt, would you have them check the pins that attach the limbs to the rubber? The limbs should not “wobble” on the pin. If they do, please call me immediately. Third, our sales representative will inspect the part on Friday, June 19. If you have other concerns, he will be glad to answer them.

Again, let me apologize for the inconvenience. Your business is polestars to us.



The rest of this chapter explains several types of business letters and suggests how to structure their contents.

Letters of Inquiry
Letters of inquiry request’ information from another company. Simply identify the information you need in a one or two-paragraph letter. As a student, you may occasionally write a letter of inquiry requesting that a company send you information for use in a class project or report Since firms receive many requests of this type, they appreciate a courteous but concise letter. State specifically the information you need, why you need it, and why you selected the particular firm as a source of information.  is a letter of inquiry from a student requesting information for a research project.

Transmittal Letters

A transmittal letter conveys a report from one firm to another. Begin the letter by identifying the report enclosed and stating the date it was requested. Then provide a brief paragraph or two explaining the report’s purpose and scope. Close the letter by indicating your availability if the reader has any questions about the report. Figure 18.7 is a transmittal letter. (A transmittal memo is explained in

Specification Change Letters

During the course of many projects, the original specifications must change. Specification change letters indicate whether or not a company accepts the change that the other company proposed. These letters are short and to the point. Notice, however, in the following example, Figure 18.8, that the writer uses the informal context-setting introduction to orient his reader before he-states his points. These letters are common in many industries and, since much money rides on them, they must be absolutely clear.





Letters have three formats – block, modified block, and simplified. The last is becoming much more common, particularly in impersonal situations. Good letter writing requires careful attention to all the elements of the letter, including the inside address, the salutation, and the complimentary close. Coed letter writers approach their readers with the “you” attitude, and attempt to treat them as they would like to be treated. Other special types of letter are letters of inquiry, letters of transmittal, and specification change letters.


1.Find two 01: three business letters – sales letters are the easiest to find. Analyze them for format. Write a brief memo to your manager to suggest using one of the formats for all correspondence from your division  Explain why you chose that format. Easy to read? Looks good on the page? Fits the image of the .company?

2. Write the same business letter in two different formats. Make a transparency , of each. Present a brief (2 to 3 minutes) speech recommending one of the formats as the preferred one for your company. Indicate why certain details of the format make it preferable in terms of easier reading .


1. As part of a research project, write a letter of inquiry to a professional. Ask him or her for information about your topic. Your questions should be as specific as you can make them. Ask, “How does Wheeler Amalgamated extrude the plastic used in the cans for Morning Bright orange juice?” Avoid questions such as, “Can you send me all the information you have on the extruding process and any other processes of interest?”

United States Postal Service. Addressing for Optical Character Recognition. Notice 165. N.p. n.d., June 1981.




Business letters are an important, even critical, part of a professional’s job, They are written for many reasons, in many situations, to many audiences. They may be written to an expert to request, information, to a client to transmit a report, or to a supplier to discuss the specifications of a project Letters represent the firm, and the quality of the letter signifies the quality of the firm. Since they are so important, you must handle them well. This chapter introduces you to effective, professional letter writing by explaining the common formats for business letters, ‘ the standard elements of letters, and several common types of business letters. A good professional letter has a crisp, precise format that impresses the reader.’