Writing Business Letters - Tutorial 1: Letter Format

Robin Henry
 


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Everyone in business needs to write letters. It's unavoidable if you want to run your business or just stay in touch with your suppliers and clients. How well . . . or not so well . . . you write reflects on you and your business. Write poorly constructed letters with unprofessional layout and format and you will look like a rank amateur, no matter how good you are at plumbing, cooking or whatever it is you do.

If you are a seasoned letter writer who has completed a business communication course, this series of articles is probably not for you. It will help, however, if you haven't been educated in communication skills. You will be able to improve your writing very quickly just by following a few simple rules.

Letter Format

The easiest, quickest and most efficient letter format is known as “full block" or simply “Block". A block letter has all its text left justified ie, there are no indents. This method is very popular because it is simple to produce. Here's an example using Australian address formats - modify it for your own country:

Parker Morgan Finnigan
Lawyers
PO Box 2345
SYDNEY NSW 2000

29 October 2010

Ms Janette Jameison
PO Box 34687
NORTH SYDNEY NSW 2005

Dear Ms Jameison

CONTRACT WITH ACME FINANCE CORPORATION

I refer to our previous correspondence requesting a copy of the contract between you and Acme Finance Corporation.

If you do not provide us with a copy of the original contract, I'm afraid we will not be able to act on your behalf. We need the contract to accurately assess the claims you have made and to question legal staff from Acme Finance Corporation.

Please send us a copy of the contract at the earliest so we can get this matter under way.

Yours sincerely

Parker Johannson
Principal Legal Consultant
PARKER MORGAN FINNIGAN

Whether you use Letter or ISO A4 paper, this format looks good and saves time. Your paper needs to have a border all round of 2.5cm (1") and you should endeavour to place the total content of the letter so that it is symmetrical on the page ie, don't have more text in the top half of the page than on the bottom half. A balance of black and white and good position on the page makes the letter look good.

You'll see that there is no punctuation except within the body of the letter. This is called ‘open punctuation’ because the text is open where punctuation doesn't add significantly to the reader's understanding of the letter.

Using Letterheads

Some letterheads I see are poorly designed. While they look good from a graphics and colour perspective, the flow between logo and letters is poor eg, when you run your eye down the left column, there is no, or poor alignment between text and letterhead elements.

If you design a letterhead page that is left or right justified, design it so that the left most portion of the letterhead graphic or text is 2.5cm (1") in from the left or right sides. The best design is one that is centered on the page. This is because it doesn't ‘force’ a right or left margin allowing users to set margins of any width that still appear balanced on the page. When you have a short letter you can bring your left and right margin in a little to make the text area look larger.

Tutorial two of this series discusses the parts of a letter.

Copyright 2005 Robin Henry

Robin Henry is an educator, human resources specialist and Internet marketer. He helps small to middle-sized businesses and individuals improve performance by using smart technology, smart processes, and personal development. He runs his business Desert Wave Enterprises from Alice Springs, Central Australia and can be found at http://www.dwave.com.au or http://www.winagovtjob.com

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