How To Structure An English Business Letter

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How to Structure an English Business Letter?
  • Sender's Address in a Business Letter
  • Date in a Business Letter
  • Recipient's Address in a Business Letter
  • Salutation in a Business Letter
  • Subject Line in a Business Letter
  • Body of a Business Letter
  • Greeting in a Business Letter
  • Enclosure in a Business Letter
 

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Sender's Address in a Business Letter
Don't write your address if you use paper with a ready-printed sender's address.
If you write your own address, only give the following information: house number, street, area code, place, country, telephone. (Don't include your name here; in English the name is only put at the end of the letter.)
Note: The order for sender's addresses in English is: house number, street, area code, place. If the order is different in your culture, keep to the structure used in your country, don't adopt the English way.
British English
Position: In British English, the sender's address is usually placed in the top right corner of the letter.
American English
Position: In American English the sender's address is usually placed in the top left corner, below the date, or at the end of the letter, below the signature..
Sender's address below the date:​
Sender's address below the signature:
 

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Date in a Business Letter
British English
  • Write: 30 October 2010
  • Position: on the right, one line below the sender's address (in letters with a ready-printed sender's address, the date can also be put in the top left corner)
American English
  • Write: October 30, 2010
  • Position: top left corner (sometimes centred)
 

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Recipient's Address in a Business Letter
Ms / Miss / Mrs / Mr / Dr ...
house number, street
place
area code
COUNTRY (in capital letters)
In American English, the area code is usually at the same level as the place, separated by a comma.
Position: on the left
British English
In British English, the recipient's address starts on the same line as the date or one line below the date.
American English
In American English, the recipient's address starts two lines below the sender's address (or two lines below the date if the sender's address isn't placed in the top left corner).
 

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Salutation in a Business Letter
If you know the person's name:
Dear Ms / Miss / Mrs / Mr / Dr + surname
Dear Mr Miller
You can also write the person's full name. In this case, leave out the title (Mr/Mrs). This way of writing the salutation is very handy if you don't know the gender of the person.
Dear Chris Miller
If you don't know the person's name:
There are several possibilities to address people that you don't know by name:
Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 7.06.08 PM.png
Business partners often call each other by their first names. In this case, write the salutation as follows:
Dear Sue
Punctuation
In British English, don't use any punctuation mark or use a comma.
Dear Mr Miller or Dear Mr Miller,
In American English, use a colon:
Dear Mr. Miller:
Ms, Miss or Mrs?
  1. Mrs – to address a married woman
  2. Miss – to address an unmarried woman (rarely used now)
  3. Ms – to address a woman whose marital status you don't know; also used to address an unmarried woman
Note: The abbreviations Mr, Mrs etc. are usually written without full stops (Mr) in British English and with full stops (Mr.) in American English.
 

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Subject Line in a Business Letter
A subject line is not really necessary. You may want to use one, however, so that the reader immediately knows what your letter is about. There are three common methods to distinguish the subject line from the body of the letter:
Use "Subject:" or "Re:"
Type the subject in bold letters
Type the subject in capital letters
British English
The subject line is usually placed between the salutation and the body of the letter (with a blank line in between).
American English
In American English, the subject line can also be placed between the recipient's address and the salutation (with a blank line in between).​
 

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Body of a Business Letter
Capitalise the first word of the text (even if the salutation ends with a comma). The text is left-justified and a blank line is put after each paragraph. It is not common to indent the first line of a paragraph.
Content
  • first paragraph: introduction and reason for writing
  • following paragraphs: explain your reasons for writing in more detail, provide background information etc.
  • last paragraph: summarise your reason for writing again and make clear what you want the recipient to do
Note: Your text should be positive and well structured.
 

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Greeting in a Business Letter
British English
If you used the recipient's name in the salutation, use 'sincerely'.
If you did not use the recipient's name in the salutation, use 'faithfully'.
American English
Use 'sincerely', no matter if you used the recipient's name in the salutation or not ('faithfully' is not common in American English).
Salutation - Greeting
British English
Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 7.12.10 PM.png
American English
Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 7.12.18 PM.png
In emails you could also write:
  • Regards
  • Kind regards
  • Best wishes
Note: If you end the salutation with a comma or colon, use a comma after the greeting. If you didn't punctuate the salutation, don't punctuate the greeting.
Position: Write the greeting two lines below the last paragraph and left-justify it. If the date is centre-justified, however, do also centre-justify the greeting.
Leave 4 blank lines after the greeting (space for the signature) and write the sender's name below that space.
 

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Enclosure in a Business Letter
If you wish to enclose documents, you can either list all enclosed documents separately or just write the word 'Enclosure' below the signature.
 
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