How To Craft the Perfect Professional Letter
The art of letter writing is a skill you'll need in the business world. Entrepreneur has the info you need on how to address a letter like a pro.
While the business world has evolved over the years, there are a few things about it that haven't: elements of formality and respect. When you are addressing someone in a professional setting, especially a superior, there is a certain way to go about it. The same goes for addressing a professional letter. And while business letters might seem old school, they still play many different roles in the industry.
If you're looking for a guide on professional letter writing, look no further. We've got the tips and tricks to help you draft and address your best letter yet.
Why Should You Write a Professional Letter?
If you need to evoke formality and professionalism, physical letters are a great avenue to take. While internal company communication can be done via email, writing to other businesses via a letter shows an air of class and polish.
Reasons to write a professional letter include:
- Official requests
- Cover letters
- Thank yous or follow-ups
No matter which reason is right for you, the format of your letter should follow a pattern. Keep reading to learn more about the structure of your business letter.
How To Write a Professional Business Letter
Letter writing is an art. And when you combine it with business, it is an art combined with a process. When it's time to write your letter, use our step-by-step instructions to guide you from the inside contents of the letter to what goes on the outside of the envelope.
1. Inside the Letter: The Header
Before you begin writing the letter, you need to include a header that provides important contact information. If you are using a professional letterhead that provides that information, you can skip ahead to the next step.
The header should be located in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope and include the address format:
- Your full name
- Your full address (home or business, depending on the situation)
- Sender's address (your address)
- City, State Zip Code
- Country name
- Your phone number (your most reachable number)
- Your email address
Skip for separation and include:
- Full date (July 19, 2023)
Skip the next line and continue with the second line:
- Recipient's full name (if you know the person's name)
- Recipient's job title
- Name of the company (if applicable)
- Recipient's address or the address of the company
- Street address
- City, State Zip Code
Once you've got the labels set up, it's time to get drafting.
2. Inside the Letter: The Contents
When writing a professional letter, you need to find the balance between being eloquent yet direct — friendly yet formal.
The contents should be:
- Easy to read
A salutation is the first line of your letter. It is a way to open your letter by directly addressing your intended recipient. How much you know about your recipient will dictate how you can greet them with the salutation.
Greeting options include:
- Dear Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Ms. (only use these abbreviations if you are sure)
- Dear Sir or Dear Ma'am (only use these titles if you are sure)
- Dear Professor
- Dear Recruiter
- To Whom It May Concern
Once you have decided which salutation to use, you need to make sure you format it properly in your letter.
The salutation should be left-aligned, followed by a comma, and standing alone on a line. For example:
Now it's time to get to the body of the work. Professional letters should not exceed one page. To make sure you stay on topic, constructing your letter in three paragraphs is a helpful structure to live by. Make sure that each of your paragraphs is indented to show separation.
The contents should cover:
- Paragraph One: opening statement with the letter's purpose or intent
- Paragraph Two: elaborate on your point with background information, supporting details, and reasoning
- Paragraph Three: reinforce the letter's purpose and end with a CTA (call to action)
A call to action shows the recipient that you are expecting a response. A CTA can be something like:
- I look forward to hearing from you.
- Please reach out with any questions you may have.
- I am looking forward to your response.
- Please keep me informed of the process.
Once you have said what you needed to say and included your call to action, you need to include a formal sign-off.
Closing phrases can be things such as:
- Thank you
After the sign off you should include a comma, move down a space, and sign your name.
Even though we've given you all of the information, it might be helpful to have everything in one place. Next time you need to write a professional letter, use this letter to guide you.
Your full address (home or business, depending on the situation)
Your phone number (your most reachable number)
Your email address
Full date (July 19, 2023)
Recipient's name (if known)
Recipient's job title
Name of company (if applicable)
Recipient's address or the address of the company
My name is [your name], and I am reaching out because [your reason]. [Continue with your reason for one to two more sentences].
To provide you with more information on the subject, [background information]. In addition to that, [provide supporting details in one to two sentences]. This is significant because [provide reasoning in one to two sentences].
Again, [reinforce the letter's purpose in one to two sentences]. [Include your CTA in one sentence].
3. On the Envelope
Once you've got your letter just the way you want it, it's time to prepare it for the mail. What you put on the envelope is just as important as what you put inside the envelope.
On the outside, include a return address in the top left corner of the envelope, including:
- Your name
- The company's name (if necessary)
- Your mailing address
In the middle of the front of your envelope is where you will include the recipient's information in this order:
- Professional title of the recipient and their full name
- Name of company
- Accurate street address
Once you've properly formatted and included the necessary information, it's time to apply postage. If you aren't sure what kind of postage you'll need, a good rule of thumb is:
- 1 oz (4 sheets of regular 8-1/2" x 11" paper and a business-sized envelope) for 1 First-Class Mail® Forever® stamp (currently $0.60)
You can purchase postage stamps on the United States Postal Service website or at any post office location. Most grocery and drug stores also carry USPS stamps.
Other Things To Consider
Now that we've got the basics covered, it's time to go over the little details that make a big difference.
When sending a professional letter, you need to make sure your font is professional. For formal font options, stick to:
- Times New Roman
As for font size, 11-12 point font is acceptable.
This might sound like common sense, but this is your official reminder — proofread your letter! Errors in your letter are unprofessional and do not provide a strong impression on the recipient.
Proofreading means reading your letter aloud to yourself. Reading out loud will help you hear the tone and rhythm of your letter. It will also help you catch errors you wouldn't have when you read only by sight.
The Email Address Line
Providing a personal email address as part of your contact information is perfectly acceptable. However, you need to make sure it is professional-sounding. Try to avoid nicknames or slang terms. Steer towards using an easy-to-read version of your real name, so recipients can easily recognize you in further interactions.
This is a tiny detail, but the stamp on the top right corner of the letter adds to the overall aesthetic of your letter upon arrival. The USPS offers many choices when it comes to stamps, but try to stick to something standard when you mail it. Avoid "happy birthday" and things to that effect, as that sentiment does not match your intent.
If you are addressing your letter by hand, make sure your penmanship is neat and legible. This is another small detail, but it speaks to the impression of your work, itself. If you are not confident in your handwriting, then you can always type your letter address.
The art of professional letter writing is still very much alive. When it comes to formal letter writing, remember these three things:
- The contents of your letter should be clear, concise, and easy to read
- Your letter's envelope should provide sender information, recipient information, and proper postage
- It's the little things that will set your letter apart from the rest.