Out of the hundreds of pages of “writing help” content on my main Writing Help Central website, two of the top 10 most visited pages are related to formatting business and personal letters. It seems that even when people have been able to string together all of the right words for their letter, they often aren’t sure how to format the final product.
In my opinion one of the most unprofessional things that one can do is to send a poorly formatted letter. Doing such a thing is an instant credibility destroyer. Even if your letter is perfectly worded and devoid of grammatical and spelling errors; sending it out in a sloppy unprofessional format will always reflect badly on the sender.
That being said; are you aware that there is NO single international standard for formatting the three main groups of letters used in day-to-day life: business letters, business memos, and personal letters?
As I mentioned above, among the most sought-after info that visitors are looking for when they come to my Writing Help Central website is how-to properly format letters. In addition, I often receive e-mails from people asking such questions as:
– What should I include in a signature block?
– Where do I place the signature block?
– How do I indicate attached documents?
– Where do I position the address block(s)?
As I stated above, there is NO ONE international standard for formatting letters.
If you spend some time searching through textbooks at your library or bookstore, or checking out some online info sources you will come across many different ideas about what a properly formatted letter should look like; some reasonable and some questionable. In fact, you will find so many different formatting suggestions that you won’t know where to start.
I encountered this same multiple-choice conundrum a few years ago when I was conducting the research for my two general letter-writing toolkits: Instant Letter Writing Kit and Instant Business Letter Kit. So, what I did to sort things out was to review all of the reasonable letter layouts that I could find, and then I assessed them based on two main criteria: 1) most appealing overall appearance and, 2) most effective visual presentation impact.
What I arrived at in the end were three (3) distinct layout formats as follows:
1. Business letters – Full-block format
2. Business Memos – Full-block memo format
3. Personal letters – Semi-block (modified) format
Accordingly, these are the three standard formats that I have adopted and use in all of my Writing Help Toolkits. You can see a fully-formatted real-life example of each of these letter layouts at the following link: