Business letters should be printed on A4 paper that features the sender’s company logo, postal address, telephone number and email address, and company number and VAT number where required.
This can be ranged left for a clean, modern look, although in some companies the preference is to range the address right. The address will contain the following information: the recipient’s title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, Professor, Lord, Sir etc), the recipient’s business title, eg Sales Director, Training Manager etc, the recipient’s company name in full, the address and postcode.
The date goes underneath the recipient’s name and address. Leave a minimum of one line space before the date. The recommended British style is ’15 July 2014′, but house styles may vary. Consistency is important.
In general, a letter should be addressed ‘Dear’ followed by the recipient’s title (Mr, Ms, Lord, Dr) and surname. To add a personal touch, this may be handwritten. If the sender is familiar with the recipient, then the letter can be addressed using their first name only, eg ‘Dear John’. If the sender has already received correspondence from the recipient, then they should mirror the recipient’s chosen style of address.
If the sender does not know the name of the recipient, then ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ can be used. Every effort should be made, however, to find out the recipient’s name in order to personalise the letter.
This should be a brief informative line that will help with filing and clarity. It might mention a reference number in response to an earlier letter. Leave one line space after the subject line, before the body of the letter.
The Body of the Letter
Letters are typed with two spaces after a full stop, one space after a comma. This style does not apply to longer text documents, such as company reports. It is advisable to keep business letters concise, to the point and preferably on one side of a sheet of A4 paper.
The sign-off depends on the salutation. Conventionally, ‘Yours faithfully’ is only used for letters beginning ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’, while ‘Yours sincerely’ is used for all letters beginning with a salutation by name. The sender’s name, in full, is added, with the job title on the line below, underneath the space allocated for the signature.
The inclusion of the sender’s title in brackets after the sender’s name – for example ‘Eliza Curzon (Miss)’ – is becoming a lessused tradition. It is, however, helpful as it provides the recipient with the correct form of address for the reply letter.
These are traditional notations, which are disappearing from contemporary correspondence. For example, the initials of the person who typed the letter may be added, or the abbreviation ‘encl.’ to indicate that an enclosure is included with the letter. If the letter is being circulated, the initials ‘cc’ can be added, with an alphabetical list of all the recipients. Notations are separated with a forward slash.
Since envelopes are now no longer individually typed, it is acceptable to use adhesive labels for substantial mail-outs.
It is preferable to handwrite addresses on envelopes when sending out important correspondence. Window envelopes are only really appropriate for mass mail-outs or invoices.