How to Write a Formal Business Letter

Writing a formal business letter is a lot different than writing a creative, personal essay in humanities, literature, social sciences and in other academic subjects. Writing one involves accuracy and conciseness. It does not need to include high-sounding, flowery words. It is direct. It does not beat around the bush. It is important to keep in mind that readers of most business letters are busy people.

They do not have the luxury of time of reading them, and would most likely skim. This is where the accuracy and succinctness of your letter comes in.

Writing a formal business letter may be in two styles: conversational (as the ones in most email messages) and the legalistic (as in contracts). The voice one uses in writing this type of letter is as important as the message it conveys.

Below is a guide in the step-by-step process of writing a formal business letter in block form, meaning, lines should be in the left:

  • The letter should be encoded or typed using the writer’s preferred word processor. One must remember that formal business letters are not handwritten.
  • If one has his or her own letterhead, make use of it. However, in case you don’t, you can make use of a legal-sized stationery (8 ½ inch by 11 inch) with envelope. Do not make use of scented, colorful papers. Avoid using note cards from stores.
  • If the writer does not have his or her own letterhead, he or she can type his or her name, title, designation or position, and return address down the topmost part of the page, about four to six spaces from there.
  • The date should be typed two to six lines from the letter head or from the typed return address. Usual standard is three lines below.
  • Check your letter alignment. You can choose from left indented or both sides justified.
  • After two lines more below, you now type the recipient’s name, his or her title or designation, his or her business or company, and its address. Do not forget to make use of Mr., Ms., Mrs., Dr., or any other appropriate before the recipient’s name.
  • Following the last line above, skip at least two and at most four lines. Formally greet your recipient using his or her name and close the greeting with a colon (e.g. Dear Dr. Lee: ).
  • Before beginning your letter, skip two more lines from your greeting. If the recipient of your letter does not know you, introduce yourself. Here is an example: “We met at a conference in Baltimore.”
  • Proceed with the body of your letter. State the purpose of your letter. It may be to complain, praise, commend the business services offered, make an inquiry, or request for product or services information. Be as brief as possible.
  • Following again the last line of your letter’s body, skip two lines. Conclude your letter with “Thank you” or “Sincerely”, followed by a comma.
  • Leaving at least four spaces for your signature, type your name and title. Sign your letter in ink in the space provided.


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