How to Write a Professional Business Letter in 5 Steps

Ready, set, write!

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Business Letter

Keeping a business alive and thriving relies heavily on a team’s ability to communicate effectively. That’s how you market your product or service in a manner that stands out, provides support to your customer base, wins investors over and, of course, discusses what needs to be done — and how — amongst yourselves.

While many of these exchanges occur verbally, sometimes the situation will require a formal written piece to be produced, such as a business letter.

In this article, we’ll discuss what this should look like, how it should be structured and when it should be used!

What is a business letter?

A business letter is a formal document that serves as a form of communication between a company and another business, a stakeholder, a potential hire or even a client. Business letters, therefore, can vary greatly in content; they may function as invites to a business event, take on the form of a complaint letter, outline a request, and more.

Unlike emails or instant messages, which tend to be shorter and more informal, business letters are a form of professional correspondence and, as such, are standardized.

When should you send a business letter?

Business letters are preferred over emails and instant messages when the point you’d like to raise is serious, when addressing someone you’re not entirely familiar with, or when the situation calls for a higher degree of formality.

For example, if an employee is breaching company policy with their behavior, the first time around you may go for a verbal warning. The second time, however, you’re better off giving a written warning (which will take the form of a business letter) to reprimand their actions and highlight any next steps you may take should they fail to comply.

How to structure a business letter

For your document to look official, you need to pay attention to how you lay out your message and what information you include. Business letters typically follow this structure:


This goes at the very top of your document and comprises the logo of your company, followed by the company’s address and other contact information, such as phone or fax number.

The contact information should fit in a single line, ideally just underneath your logo. Including your full address is not necessary; therefore, your city and state initials will suffice.

You can use a symbol such as the vertical bar (|) or bullet point (•) to separate the information you include as a divider between your area information, phone number and website address, for example.


All formal letters need to be dated, with the full date written in the top left corner, right underneath the letterhead. Most commonly (at least in the US), dates are expressed as follows: name of month, day of month, and year. For example, “April 19, 2024”.

Recipient’s details

This section spans a few lines. The first one carries the recipient’s prefix and full name; the second their street name and building number; and the third their city, state and zip code.

In some cases, you may also like to include the recipient’s job title (such as “Project Manager”) on a separate line right below their name, preceding their address.


Perhaps the most common salutation on formal letters is “Dear”, followed by the person’s prefix and last name. (“Dear Mr Jameson”, for example.)

Although salutations like “Hello” and “Greetings” may appear appropriate (and perhaps friendlier and more personable), a business letter is, by nature, a formal feat. This is why “Dear” takes the win in this instance.

To be avoided as much as possible is the opening “To whom it may concern”. If you don’t know the name of the reader, it’s best to use a broader term, such as “Dear Marketing Team” to address the recipient.


Much like the rest of your content (barring the letterhead at the top, which will be center-aligned), the body paragraphs should be left-aligned and left-justified.

Your first sentence or two should clearly indicate what your letter is about, followed by a longer expansion on the subject. All in all, however, you should aim to keep your letter as concise as possible.

Leave a blank line between each paragraph (these should be single-spaced), and try to limit the length of your letter to one page, or a maximum of two.


The closing refers to the single line that follows your final paragraph and precedes your name and signature.

Much like your salutation, it’s a good idea to use a closing that’s a bit more formal than “Thanks” or “Best”.

Some standard examples include “Respectfully”, “Sincerely” and “With appreciation”.

Signature block

When your business letter is submitted electronically, a hand signature often becomes optional. You don’t often get job applicants signing their cover letters, for example, despite those being professional letters.

Depending on the subject and who you’re addressing, however, you may like to include an electronic signature even when sending your letter digitally.

How to write a business letter

Many people become stuck when it’s time to write a formal letter. To help you find some inspiration (or, at the very least, a starting point), we’ve listed five pointers that can make the process easier.

1. Consider your audience

You can’t get the tone of your letter right unless you know who you’re talking to. So, the very first step to writing a professional business letter is to consider who the recipient is.

Although business letters are formal letters and, as such, require a professional tone throughout, who you’re talking to still matters. Writing a letter to reprimand an employee, for example, isn’t going to read quite the same as a letter to a new client who’s just starting to use your service for the first time.

Similarly, when addressing people of higher seniority (especially when you’ve got quite a few years between you!), you may want to take the formality up a notch.

2. Consider your message

Once you have a clear idea who you’re addressing, it’s time to think about what you have to say. Consider what the main points you’d like to touch upon are, and outline them in bullet form so you have something to refer to once you’ve started writing.

Bear in mind that your opening paragraph should concisely explain what’s to follow within your letter, and the closing paragraph should come with some kind of call to action for the reader.

3. Look at examples

Whether you’re a recent graduate writing your first cover letter or a small business owner putting together your first apology letter, reading through other examples online can make the process less daunting.

While you’re at it, take notes of what you like (or dislike) about each letter you read so you can apply the right approach when writing your own.

You may end up encountering different kinds of business letter formats when you do this little exercise. Namely, they’ll be semi-block style, block format, and modified block format, which are normally used when there is no customized letterhead across the top of the page. This makes it possible to shift some components, like the signature block, from the left side of the page to the right.

4. Use a gen AI or text editor tool

Technology can be your friend, no matter what stage you’re at in the writing process. From brainstorming your opening line and creating your first draft through to polishing off your document, tools such as ChatGPT and Grammarly can make life easier.

Although we discourage relying on a generative AI tool too heavily (in other words, having it do all the work for you without you adding a personal touch), smart use of such tools can save time and get your thoughts flowing.

5. Read it out loud

We know, we know… the other person likely won’t read your letter out loud, but in their head. However, reading your business letter out loud will help you notice any accidental repetitions, awkward (and unintentional) rhymes, and any problems with flow or continuity.

Indeed, reading your written piece once out loud can play a vital role in the successful editing of your document, allowing you to notice and paraphrase (or cut out) what doesn’t work.

Business letter example

Business Letter Example

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FAQs about business letters

Are some things still a little unclear? Let us share a few more insights into business letter writing!

Q: How many types of business letters are there?

Business letters are used by professionals in a wide range of contexts. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Cover letters and job offer letters
  • Letters of commendation and recommendation
  • Complaint and apology letters
  • Office memorandums and welcome letters
  • Sales letters, introducing a product or service to a client

Q: How long should a business letter be?

Business letters, on average, consist of three or four short paragraphs, totaling up to one page. As we’ve seen, the opening paragraph should concisely explain what the letter is about; the closing paragraph, meanwhile, typically entails some sort of call to action, such as “If you are happy to proceed, let us arrange a virtual call next week.”

Q: What font should I use?

Serif typefaces, like Times New Roman, Cambria and Georgia, are commonly used in professional letters, although others are also acceptable. Popular sans-serif typefaces include Arial, Calibri and Helvetica.

Twelve-point font sizes are standard.

Key takeaways

Over the course of our careers, each of us will write and receive multiple business letters. Be that a job application letter to advance your career with or a letter apologizing on behalf of your company for a mistake, the way you write can make all the difference in the ensuing outcome. To summarize:

  • Business letters typically span a few paragraphs and are limited to a single page.
  • Addressing the recipient by name (or by title, when no name is available) is considered best practice.
  • The most widely used fonts for formal letters include 12-point Times New Roman, Cambria and Arial.
  • To write an effective letter, consider your audience and message, and make use of AI tools for guidance and inspiration.
  • Look at examples online to familiarize yourself with all vital parts of a business letter so you can get the structure right.

Do you have any other business letter writing tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is a complete update of an earlier version originally published on June 25, 2014.