In this section, you will find many instructional materials we’ve developed for our Writing Center teaching.
However, there are limitations to these materials. Assignments vary, and different instructors want different things from student writers. Therefore, the advice here may or may not apply to your writing situation.
Finally, handouts can give only a fraction of the customized guidance that an individual conference with a Writing Center instructor can provide. If you have questions about the information in our handouts, please make an appointment to see a Writing Center instructor.
5 Hill Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53700
Ms. Helen Jones
Jones, Jones Jones
123 International Lane
Boston, Massachusetts 01234
Ah, business letter format-there are block formats, and indented formats, and modified block formats. and who knows what others. To simplify matters, we’re demonstrating the block format on this page, one of the two most common formats. For authoritative advice about all the variations, we highly recommend The Gregg Reference Manual. 9th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001), a great reference tool for workplace communications. There seems to be no consensus about such fine points as whether to skip a line after your return address and before the date: some guidelines suggest that you do; others do not. Let’s hope that your business letter succeeds no matter which choice you make!
When you use the block form to write a business letter, all the information is typed flush left, with one-inch margins all around. First provide your own address, then skip a line and provide the date, then skip one more line and provide the inside address of the party to whom the letter is addressed.
If you are using letterhead that already provides your address, do not retype that information; just begin with the date. For formal letters, avoid abbreviations where possible.
Skip another line before the salutation, which should be followed by a colon. Then write the body of your letter as illustrated here, with no indentation at the beginnings of paragraphs. Skip lines between paragraphs.
After writing the body of the letter, type the closing, followed by a comma, leave 3 blank lines, then type your name and title (if applicable), all flush left. Sign the letter in the blank space above your typed name. Now doesn’t that look professional?