HUNTER COLLEGE READING/WRITING CENTER
BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL WRITING
Writing a Business Letter
Depending on the purpose of your business letter, there are
several formats from which you can choose. The most widely used
business letter formats are full block, alternate block, modified
block, and memo. Remember, the format of the letter helps to
establish its tone.
I. FULL BLOCK FORMAT
This is the most modern of the formats and the one most widely
used; its clean direct look lends itself well to technical
communication, and its simple vertical format tends to reduce the
error rate since you simply do not have to be concerned about
horizontal spacing to indicate new paragraphs.
Eight Components of Full Block Format
1. The heading includes the date the letter is written. If you do
not use letterhead stationery, you need to include your address
over the date.
2. The address above the salutation is the letter recipient's full
address. This address should match the address on the envelope.
3. The salutation is the line that begins "Dear..." Use Mr. for
men and Ms. for women. Try to obtain a name to whom you can
address your letter. If you cannot obtain a name, you should use
"To Whom It May Concern" as a salutation. You can also include
an attention line two spaces down from the recipient's address as well
as a subject line (if necessary):
Attention: Technical Director
Subject: Purchase Order #41763
4. The body of your letter contains the text of your message.
5. The complimentary close should appear two lines below the last
line of the body, at the left margin. Capitalize only the first
letter of the first word and always end the line with a comma.
You can use a variety of closures including Yours truly, Sincerely,
Sincerely yours, Best regards or Best wishes.
6. Your signature should be in blue or black ink. Allow four
vertical spaces for your signature.
7. The identification line contains your typed name, and, if you
have one, your title. Depending on the purpose of the letter, you
can position your phone number or social security number in place
of your title.
8. Enclosures or distribution of the letter is placed two vertical
spaces below the identification line.
EXAMPLE OF FULL BLOCK FORMAT
895 North Main Street |
Bowling Green, OH 43402 |-- HEADING
February 16, 1994 _____________|
Ms. Maria Reinaldo |
Customer Relations |
Ohio Telephone Company |-- ADDRESS
133 Buckley Street |
Columbus, OH 43217 _____________|
Dear Ms. Reinaldo: _____________|--SALUTATION
| I received a collection notice from the Ohio Telephone Company
| on February 13, 1994. The letter states that I owe a past due
| balance from the September 16 to October 16 billing period in
| 1993. The letter also states that my service will be
| disconnected unless I act immediately; however, I am now
| informing you for the second time that I paid that bill on
| January 1st, 1994.
| On January 15th, I received a call from one of your
| representatives about this matter, and I immediately told him
| that approximately two weeks ago I sent a check to your office
| for the due amount of $132.57. Unfortunately, I failed to get
| his name. I am irritated that you have not taken care of this
| matter since I have the canceled check in my possession, and
| I am enclosing a copy of it herewith.
| I hope that this will settle the matter once and for all.
Sincerely yours, _____________|--COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE
Bill Moritz _____________|--IDENTIFICATION LINE
(419) 352-5555 _____________|--TITLE OR PHONE NUMBER
Encl: copy of canceled check ________|--ENCLOSURES OR
II. ALTERNATE BLOCK FORM
The only difference between the alternate block and the full
block is that the alternate block has a subject line. The subject
line can save time for the receiver by informing her/him of the
purpose of the letter. The subject line is situated between the
recipient's address and the opening salutation. Skip two vertical
lines down from the address and skip another two vertical lines
before the salutation.
EXAMPLE OF ALTERNATE BLOCK FORMAT
895 North Main Street
Bowling Green, OH 43402
February 16, 1994
Ms. Maria Reinaldo
Ohio Telephone Company
133 Buckley Street
Columbus, OH 43217
SUBJECT: Collection notice of February 13, 1994
Dear Ms. Reinaldo:
(The remainder of the letter is exactly the same as the full block
III. MODIFIED BLOCK FORMAT
Modified block format differs from full block in the placement
of the heading, date, complimentary close, signature, and
identification lines. These components should all start about
halfway across the page, and be aligned vertically. The sample
also shows that you begin the paragraphs of a modified block letter
with a one-tab or three to five space indentation. You should
retain the vertical doublespace between paragraphs. Although
businesses seem to prefer full block format, modified block is
acceptable. Many people consider the modified block's appearance
more balanced and traditional.
EXAMPLE OF MODIFIED BLOCK FORMAT
123 Corina Blvd.
Flushing, NY 11235
July 27, 1994
115 Eiken Street
New York, NY 10009
Subject: Article written by Ms. Tutenberg on June 30
On June 30, 1994, you published an article by the author Mary
Tutenberg, which I found to be very disturbing. Finally, President
Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton are getting closer to providing
Americans with an opportunity to receive health care regardless of
age, sexual orientation or economic status. But Ms. Tutenberg does
not want to see these health care reforms take place, and so she
makes it her ambition to use the health care issue as an
opportunity to unjustly attack homosexuals with AIDs, claiming that
"the health care plan is nothing but a disguised liberal plot to
bring homosexuality and other such deviant behavior into the main
Being a homosexual, I find Ms. Tutenberg's homophobic
commentary to be extremely offensive, misinformed and
unenlightened. To blame any disease on a particular group of
people or to punish people for the disease they have contracted is
destructive to all Americans both spiritually and physically. In
the past, I have purchased your magazine because I found it to be
very informative: a magazine that views contemporary issues
objectively. If you continue to include such moral majority bigots
as Ms. Tutenberg, I will stop buying Popona -- and so will a lot of
Mr. Wallace Davis
cc: Ms. Tutenberg
IV. MEMO FORM
Memos are mainly used for inter-office, institutional or
organizational communication; however, increasingly, the memo
letter format is being used for formal, external communications as
well as in informal, internal communications. If the memo is used
for inter-office purposes, leave out the "Dear" salutation and the
"Yours truly" complimentary closure, and initial the memo to the
right of your name.
EXAMPLE OF MEMO FORMAT
Sophia Hawkins, Fashion Director, Kuku Designs
Pat Klodowsky, Editor, BeeBop Magazine
September 10, 1994
Fashion shoot on October 3, 1994
It was great talking to you on the phone the other day, and I want
to confirm the arrangements we made for the fashion shoot.
As we briefly discussed, the shoot will feature all of your
upcoming Spring Kuku Designs collection, and we will be using the
Central Park Zoo for our location. We are supplying all models,
props and equipment, and we will be picking up all clothing from
you on September 25 -- a list of which you will be sending me this
week (as we arranged).
I will call you as soon as I receive your clothing list. At that
time, I would love for us to have lunch together. Looking forward
to hearing from you.
(Just use your signature here, since your name is listed above.)
cc: Max Photo Inc.
Encl: Detailed location site for shooting
CORRECT USAGE AND APPEARANCE
Remember to proofread your letter for these items:
Spelling of the receiver's name;
Spelling of the receiver's place of business;
Spelling elsewhere -- including your own name and firm;
Correct typing throughout;
Did you type in a dateline to validate the letter as a record?
Did you place a colon after the salutation?
Did you place a comma after the complimentary close?
Did you sign the letter below the complimentary close?
Did you initial or sign the memo to the right of your name?
*Please note, if you are using company letterhead, type the second
and all subsequent pages on blank paper with the recipient's name
and the page number in the upper left-hand corner. You can also
include the date, but this is not mandatory. For example:
Dr. Paula Mott
May 2, 1994
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