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    Formatting Business Letters

    Thursday, April 01, 2010

    While it may seem that all business communication is being done electronically today, hard-copy letters are still an important part of business correspondence; and the appearance of those letters can make or break your business. Here are the three basic formats for business letters and some ideas about when to use each.

    • Full-block format. This format presents a contemporary style while maintaining a professional look. All elements of the letter, from date to signature block, are set flush against the left margin. The look is clean and easy to set up for routine letters, although it may not be the right choice for a more traditional situation.
    • Semiblock format. This format is appropriate when a more traditional look is desired, which is the case with international correspondence. The date line, closing, and signature block are indented to the center of the page, offering a professional look that is less severe than the full-block format. Paragraphs may be either flush left or indented, depending on preference. The total effect is balanced and professional - excellent for international and social letters.
    • Simplified format. This is the most casual style, omitting courtesy elements like the salutation and complimentary closing. It includes a subject line at the beginning and just the writer's name and title beneath the signature, with all elements flush left. The term "functional" applies to this format, and while it will not enhance the persuasive, personal, or international letter, it suits notices, bulletins, orders, and other such messages very well.

    Keep templates on hand for all three formats, and take the time to consider which will best fit the purpose of each letter you send. Although today's business office has assumed a comfortable, less formal atmosphere, it's still critical to present the appropriate professional face in your business correspondence.

    You can learn more about writing and formatting business letters beginning on page 25 in Business and Sales Correspondence, from the EZ series of writing books, just one of the many helpful business writing materials from UpWrite Press.

    - Joyce Lee