Business Letter Format FAQ

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Types of business letters and format

by Zander

How many types of business letters are there & also what are their formats respectively?

Hi Zander,

A type of business letter refers to the usage of that letter. In general, they are two different types of business letters: business to business and business to individual (or individual to business).

Business to business letter is used for company to company communication as well as communications within the company (i.e. a letter between two departments). It doesn’t matter if the letter is addressed to a specific person in the business, as long as that person is acting on behalf of the company. So a business letter addressed to the project manager (even by name) from a client is a business to business letter.

Business to individual letter (also referred to as business to consumer letter) is used when a company sends a letter to an individual or vice versa.

It really depends on the usage. For example, a sales letter can be either one. A sales letter address to the head of purchasing from a sales person of another company is a business to business letter. A sales letter address to you as a consumer asking you to buy the latest slimming pill is a business to individual letter.

Either way, a business letter is a formal document and you must follow a format. All the components in the format are addressed in my business letter format page.

The type of format or layout you use depends on your or your company’s preference. The three most popular are the semi-blocked, blocked and full-blocked.

In a semi-blocked format the first line of each paragraph is indented, the rest of the heading, salutation, etc. is left justified.

In a blocked format, all text is aligned to the left margin, paragraphs are not indented.

In a full-blocked format, all text is justified aligned, paragraphs are not indented. In a justified alignment, the text aligns with both the left and right margins.

See example of the above formats in the slide show below:

Click on the slide show for larger images.

Dax Cheng

Capitalizing the address caption of a business letter

by Lizzie
(New Orleans)

Please advise whether it is correct to capitalize all letters of an addressee in a business letter.

I use window envelopes and it was my understanding that capitalizing the entire address was the preference of the USPS.

I have been told that addressing the letter in all capitals is like "screaming" at the party to whom the letter is addressed. I do not feel this is the case - if I was capitalizing in the body of the letter I might agree with that statement, but I don't think capitalizing an address has the same effect.

Your thoughts on this?

Hi Lizzie,

Yes, you are correct. All capitals for the content of the letter is screaming.

Now, to the matter of capitalizing the address. Capitalization rules is a complicated subject.

In terms of USPS, they prefer you to capitalize the entire address as it makes it easier for their computers to read and thus deliver the letter. (See

Disregarding USPS standards, the rules of capitalization for English are complicated to say the least. The rules have also changed over time, generally to capitalize fewer terms.

One of the important functions of English style guides is to describe the complete current rules. Even within these guides, there are some variation from one guide to another.

Due to the arbitrary nature of these guides and the existence of various authorities and local house styles, questionable capitalization of words is not uncommon, even in respected newspapers and magazines.

What is more important is consistency, at least within the same document, in applying a specified standard.

So the technical answer to your question is a yes and a no depending on which rules or guide you are working with.

The practical answer to your question is it doesn't matter unless you are a required to work within the rules of a particular style (for example your company has their own standards). If you don't have the restrictions of a certain style, just keep it simple and consistent.

Personally, I don't see a problem with capitalizing the address.


How do you highlight which office letter came out of

by Jeanne Lupoli
(Islandia, New York)

If the company letterhead shows two office locations, what would be the proper way to show which office the letter writer is located in?

Hi Jeanne,

This is an unusual situation (and I might add, the wrong use of the return address). There should only be one address on the letterhead. In most cases, the letterhead should only show the cooperate headquarters address. If the company wishes to show the branch address it should have a separate letterhead for the branch.

In you situation, I would add another line after the signature. For example:


Jeanne Lupoli
Sales Consultant
Islandia Branch

Another way is to have the return address on the envelope itself. Provided that your company envelope does not have two return addresses as well.


Where does the subject go?

by Alison

Where should the subject line appear in a business letter? Is it above the salutation or under is?

Hi Alison,

Sometimes to speed up the handling of your mail, it may be wise to use a subject line. The subject goes just after the Salutation. The following is an example:

Dear Mr. M. Jackson:

Subject: Order No. 456-9A


I hope this helps.

Dax Cheng

Any special tips for writing an international business letter?

by Julia

I want to make sure that I write the letter with a polite and appropriate tone for a non-US audience.


Hi Julia,

There are a lot of considerations when writing to a culture not similar to yours.

Since you did not mention where in particular you want to write, these are general rules:

1: Learn about the country, culture and politics.

2: In the United States business is very informal and Americans are quick to call people by their first name. In some cultures, the use of first names is reserved for family and close friends. Use titles and last names until you have been invited to use the person's first name.

3: Depending on the culture, the persons title may be of significant importance. For example, in Japan, mistaken the CEO as a manager may cost you the job.

4: If you are writing in English, check which version of English is used, American or British. A large part of the world use British English.


Ending a letter if I am waiting for an answer?

by Willemijn
(Island Moen, Denmark)

How do you end a letter in a formal way if you asked a question? "awaiting your answer" or "thank you for...?!" or something else?

Hi Willemijn,

Some good phrases you can use in this situation are:

  • Looking forward to hearing from you

  • Looking forward to receiving your comments

  • I would appreciate a reply at your earliest convenience.

  • I thank you in advance for your help

I hope this helps.

Dax Cheng

Use of clip art in a business letter

by Mary
(Little Rock, Arkansas, USA)

Is clip art appropriate for a business letter?

Hi Mary,

The answer is it depends. Clip art or any visual element is appropriate if it helps with the message.

In relation to clip art, a lot of the clip arts available looks cheap and actually distracts or even worse, hurts the message.

Ask yourself this when you want to use any visual element. "Does adding this help me get my message across better?"

Dax Cheng

Company letterhead on the 2nd page of a business letter

by Mae
(St. Joseph, MO)

When your business letter requires the use of more than one page, and your letterhead is designed with the company information across the top and down the left side, such that requires the top margin at 2.5" and the left margin at 2.5"; for the 2nd page, do I use blank paper of the same quality with normal margins, or use a 2nd page of letterhead?

Thank you for this site, it's very helpful!

Hi Mae,

The normal practice is to use a blank paper for the second and any subsequent page. Instead of the letterhead, they have a special identification of the letter, usually called the “header” or “heading”.

The "header" usually contains the name of the addressee, the page number, and the date. The following is an example:

Mr. Smith
Page 2
15 Jun 2010

Dax Cheng

P.S. Thank you for your compliments.

Business letter onto the next page

by Wijdan

What do you do when your business letter goes on to next page?

Hi Wijdan,
  1. Use a letterhead when necessary for the first page and plain stationery for any additional pages.

  2. Some experts advice you to place a header containing the recipient’s name, date and page number on all subsequent pages one inch from page top. This is necessary for very formal business letters. However, for normal business letters, this is not necessary but you must have page numbers either at the header or footer of every subsequent pages.

  3. Use your judgment. The point of a letter is to get your message across to the reader. So, make your letter easy to read. Don’t squeeze the letter onto one page if it would look better on two pages. The same for the other way round. Don't have one line of text on the next page if you can squeeze the letter to 1 page.

Hope this helps.

Dax Cheng

Header on 2nd page - when multiple people are being sent a letter

Usually when I am writing a letter my header on the second page is:

Mr. John Smith
Page 2
August 4, 2009

How would you do a header for the person's name when you have multiple people the letter is addressed for example
Mr. John Smith
Ms. Tina Smith
Ms. Jody Smith
Mr. Jason Smith


It is good practice to put the header as you have done.

The header you are using contains the name of the addressee, the page number, and the date and is the most common style.

However, there are many variations and since you are addressing the letter to many people, I would just leave out the names. That is to say only use the page number and the date.

Page 2
August 4, 2009

Dax Cheng

How to set up address (address set up in footer) on page 2

by Linda
(Westfield, MA USA)

Our professional letterhead states the name of the Department (Office of the President) in the upper portion of the letter and the address and telephone number are on the lower portion (footer) of the letter.

How should page 2 of a the professional letter be set up? Do you only use the address on page 1 or should it be on page 2?


Hi Linda,

In most formal business stationary, the address is pre-printed in the footer. So, it is acceptable to have the footer on multiple pages. But I would advice using a blank peace of paper for subsequent pages and just include a header or footer information as described in my advice on business letter format or above.

Now this might seem a little strange, but it is also acceptable to not have the footer on any of the following pages other than the first page.

What is required is that you stay consistent. Either you have the footer only on the first page or all the pages. Don't have the footer on only some of the pages.

Hope this helps.

Dax Cheng

Letter via email with no hard copy

by Sheila Morrissette
(Prattville, AL)

When sending a letter electronically, Where would you type 'sent via electronic mail'. To let the recipient know that they will not be receiving a hard copy.

Hi Sheila,

For very official mail, you can add "OFFICIAL ELECTRONIC MAIL SENT VIA EMAIL. NO HARD COPY TO FOLLOW." to the heading of the letter.

For a letter that is less formal, you can add a comment in the email itself stating that no hard copy is being sent.

Since no hard copy is being sent, you will need confirmation that the recipient has indeed received the document. To do so, ask the recipient to acknowledge receipt via replying to the email stating that they have received it.

Dax Cheng

Appropriate closing

Is it appropriate to use the same closing in reply to the original writer especially if the closing is not something like "sincerely" but something more like "with warm regards"? If not what's an equivalent type closing that matches that sentiment?


Yes, provided that the original closing is correct.

However, if the original writer is of high stature, you should use Respectfully yours.


Multiple Titles

by Ruth
(Warrensburg, MO)

How would you sign a letter from an M.D. who is also the mayor of a city of 20,000?

Hi Ruth,

I assume when you say M.D. you mean medical doctor and not managing director of a company.

If ware are talking about a mayor who is also a doctor, then, being a mayor is a higher title than a doctor, so you put the higher title first. In this case

The Honorable Dr. Doogie Howser.

If you are talking about a managing director of a company, then you sign off with

Dr. Doogie Howser
Managing Director
Doogie Medical Supplies

In this case, the person is acting for the company, thus being a mayor should not be highlighted (conflict of interest).


Titles in closing

I have two titles for the signature in the closing, how do I place them? Vice President and Chief Operating Officer


This depends on which capacity you are writing as. If you are writing as the Vice President, then use the Vice President title. If you are acting as both, then use both.

For example:

Donald Duck

Dax Cheng

Two Signatures

by N
( NH)

How do I place two signatures?

Hi N,

Make sure you use 'we' throughout the letter instead of 'I'.

There are two widely accepted options for the placement of 2 signatures. First, you may place the second signature below the first. You may also place the second signature using the same lines as the first but indented to the center of the page.

The first signature is always the more senior person.

For example:

2 signatures



Name of the more senior person


Name of the other person

Dax Cheng

Proper way to enter the cc: on a letter

by Casey Gray
(Louisville, KY US) I need to know the proper way to put the cc: at the bottom of a letter. Do you just put the name, or the name and full address. and how does it look on the letter is it one line will all info or do you type it to look like you would on an envelope.

Hi Casey,

You just need to put the name at the bottom of each page. For example:

CC: Tiger Woods

When you send the letter to the person in the CC, you should send a letter addressed to the person on the envelope and include a cover letter (to the person) to explain why you are putting him or her on CC. Attach the original letter for their reference.



by Carol
(Montgomery AL USA)

What do you use to show there is attachment with the letter?

Hi Carol,

You should use the enclosure notations.

Enclosure Notations

The “enclosure notation” goes flush left two lines below the signature block or the typist’s initials, if they’re included. Identify each and every enclosure that is being sent so that the reader will know if something is missing from the packet.


Enclosures: 3

Enclosures: Hire contract
Check for $458

1. Draft of absentee policy
2. Invoice #459990


Letter written on behalf of another & use of attention line

by Eldebarge

If a letter is intended for Mr. Smith and I also want to send a copy to other people so that they may be informed, do I use the attention line? Is this also the main purpose for the attention line?

If you want to send copies, use the cc (carbon copy). The attention line is used if you want to highlight the letter to an individual(s). In your case, you should only be using the cc.

Regarding the attention line, if the letter is intended for a specific person, why do we have to use it if we can just address the letter directly to their name in the recipient line?

You can simply address it to the person. The attention line is used if you want to highlight the letter to an individual(s).

If I am writing a letter on behalf of another person and he/she can't sign it, whose name should I write after the complementary close? Can I write my name on their behalf and sign it?

You can use the p.p. (per procurationem), which means the power is delegated to you to sign on that person's behalf. When you sign, you can put the p.p. before your signature then followed by the persons name after your signature.

p.p. Your Signature
For The Other Person's Name

Hi Eldebarge,

The answer to your questions are in red above.


When another person other than the author types the letter

How do you state that the letter was typed by someone other than the signer?


When another person other than the author (usually an assistant) types and finalizes a letter, it is customary to include a line indicating who performed this work.

Show the initials of the writer (the signer) of the letter in capital letters, followed by either a colon or forward-slash and the initials of the person who actually typed the letter in lower case letters two lines below the signature line.

For example, If Marc St. James typed a letter for his boss Wilhelmina Slater, It would look like this:


Wilhelmina Slater


Dax Cheng

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