Business letters may be written in any of the following styles:
- Full block.
The full block style has all the letter elements flush with the left margin. It is asymmetrical because there are wide white spaces on the right.
It differs from the simplified style in the sense that the salutation and the complimentary close are absent in the latter.
The modified block style, the semi-block style, and the hanging-indented style share the same format, that is, all the letter elements, except the salutation, complimentary close, and signature (which are begun at the center) are flush with the left margin. The three differ in paragraph indention: the modified block has no indention, the semi-block style has a normal or standard indention, while the hanging-indented style, as its name suggests, has a hanging indention. The indented style has most of its elements indented.
A. Full Block Format
The Full Block business letter layout is the easiest to format. Here everything starts at the left margin, in the fact that no tabs are needed. This style is efficient and businesslike. No wonder it has become so popular.
Setting up a block style letter is quite simple, since every line starts flush with the left margin.
To format a business letter in block style:
1. Type all lines beginning at the left margin.
2. Center the letter vertically, then type the date.
3. After the date, press Enter 4 times and type the inside address. Leave 1 space between the state and the ZIP code.
4. After the inside address, press Enter 2 times and type the salutation.
5. Press Enter 2 times and begin the body of the letter.
6. Single-space the body, but press Enter 2 times between paragraphs.
7. After the last paragraph, press Enter 2 times and type the complimentary closing.
8. Press Enter 4 times and type the writer's name and address.
B. Block Format
In block letter style, standard punctuation is placed after salutations and in other headings. Open punctuation, however, refers to a modification of style where all nonessential punctuation is omitted. A few key factors will help you understand block style format and the difference that open punctuation makes.
Block Format Headings
In block letter format, all text is flush with the left margin. The sender's address is written at the top of the page, unless the letter is written on letterhead. After the sender's address or logo, a space is entered, followed by the date. After the date, another space is entered, and the recipient's full name and address are typed. For example: Joe Smith 123 Pine Road Fayettville, Georgia 33889 July 16, 2012 Mr. Richard Jones 456 Oak Lane Farmville, Georgia 33888 If you are using open punctuation, omit the punctuation from the address lines and write the addresses in all capital letters. For example: JOE SMITH 123 PINE ROAD FAYETTVILLE GEORGIA 33889
In block letter style, the salutation should begin with "Dear" and should be followed with the proper prefix and last name of the recipient. Although many letter writers are used to following a salutation with a comma, the salutation is followed by a colon in block letter format. For example: Dear Ms. Smith: In open punctuation, the colon is omitted because all punctuation is left open on headings and salutations. For example: Dear Ms. Smith Because the colon is not essential after "Smith," the punctuation mark is omitted.
The body of a block letter is written in single-spaced paragraphs aligned to the left margin. A single space is placed between paragraphs. Even in open punctuation, periods and commas are still necessary within paragraphs to separate sentences. However, if you include a list of bullet points in the letter, omit the punctuation. For example: Mrs Smith: Your recent order has been shipped. It will arrive on July 28th. Your order contains the following items: three end tables two dining chairs one lamp one table setting Because punctuation was necessary for meaning within the sentences, it was included. Punctuation was omitted from the list because the spacing makes it clear that the items are separate.
In the closing of a block style letter, a formal salutation is again aligned against the left margin. In regular block format, a comma is placed after the closing. For example: Sincerely, Mark White In open block style, the comma is omitted because the space indicates the necessary separation between words. For example: Sincerely Mark White
C. Semi-Block Format
The Semi-Block style's return address, date, complimentary closing and the signature line are at the center of the paper, or rather to the right of center. Everything else is flush with the left margin. Most of us are comfortable with this business letter layout as it has traditionally been the most commonly used.
Semi-block style is characterized by certain parts of the letter being offset. This is usually the header, where you put your name and address. Also, it includes the date and the signature line at the bottom of the letter. These two elements should be aligned with one another, though they are offset from the rest of the letter.
D. Indented Format
In case of the indented/semi-block layout the paragraphs in the body are indented one tab stop. So, you need to use two tabs: one for the indented paragraphs and one for the return address (again, in case no letterhead is used), date, complimentary closing and signature line. Dixie thinks this style is a little outdated. On the other hand, most of us are comfortable with it and a lot of companies still use it. This is how it looks:
E. Simplified Format
The simplified style business letter is a variation of the full-block and semi-block letter formats. Business professionals take you more seriously when you format your written communications using one of these formats. A personal letter format is acceptable for writing to a friend, but using this format when you are sending a communication to another business owner can make you look unprofessional.
Simplified-style business letters contain all the same elements as the full-block and semi-block letters. Like the full-block format, the simplified format left-justifies every line except for the company logo or letterhead. The date line is either slightly right of center or flush with the center of the page. Letters written in the simplified format have fewer internal sections, such as the body, salutation and date line.
When it is Useful
Using the simplified style is the most useful at times when you don't have a recipient's contact name. Because the simplified style does not require a salutation, you don't need the person's name. The simplified format does away with unneeded formality while maintaining a professional approach.
Set up the margins for the simplified format letter. The right and left margins should be 1 1/4 inches and the top and bottom margins should be 1 1/2 inches. The date of the letter should be placed six to 10 spaces under your company's letterhead. Position the recipient's name, if available, the company name and full address two to four spaces below the date of the letter. Two spaces below this address, type in the subject of your letter in all capital letters. Do not include an opening salutation. Begin the first paragraph of your letter two spaces below the subject line. Single-space each paragraph and place a full space between paragraphs. End with a closing salutation, such as "Sincerely yours," then, five spaces below the salutation, type your name in all capital letters. Immediately under your name, write down your title, again, in all capital letters. Two spaces under your title, type your initials. If your office assistant types your correspondence, she should add a forward slash and her initials in lower-case letters. If you are including an enclosure, type "Enclosure" two spaces below the initial block.
The simplified letter is often used for mass mailings.
- Instead of a salutation, use a heading.
- Leave 2 spaces above and below this heading to set it apart.
- Instead of a closing, write your signature.
- Put your name and title on the same line and in capital letters below your signature.
F. Hanging-Indented Format
Hanging-Indented Format is the style of paragraph composing in which the first line of a text is aligned with the left-margin, and all other linesare indented (moved toward right) by an equal amount of space. Used rarely, except in displaying lists of data. Also called out-denting.
The form of this letter on letter head, date, complementary close and signature are in the position of the Middle letters. The other part on letters such as the inside address, salutation, body, subject of letter are in the position of left-align. At the beginning of the paragraph, paragraphs hanging is not space.