I’m sure there are different conventions around the world, so this module and example may not be applicable to everyone reading this.
In the U K at least, there are some conventions that are used when writing a business letter, or a formal letter. They are conventions, that is to say it is customary to adopt these principles.
Remember the objective is to communicate clearly, so write as simply and clearly as you can, and don’t make the letter longer than it needs to be.
However if you need to give some context or background information, you can refer to previous correspondence by date or reference, and even include a short paragraph summarising the situation.
Write the return address, your address, at the top of the letter. It used to be customary to position it in the top right-hand corner of the letter, but it is now often written in the top left hand corner. It is usual also to write it on the back of the envelope too, in case the letter cannot be delivered and needs to be returned to you.
If it is a business that is sending the letter then their address may be incorporated into the header and /or footer of the stationery used, so does not need to be written at the top of the letter.
Their address should be written on the left, starting below your address, whether you have positioned it left or right.
Opinions and practices vary here. This can be written on the right or the left, on the line after the recipients address. Write the month as a word, to avoid confusion with UK/USA dating conventions.
Salutation or greeting:
This depends on whether you know the name of the person to whom you are writing. It is helpful to find a name to ensure the letter gets to the right person. Sometimes you will address it to the holder of a position. Select one of these as appropriate;-
Dear Sir or Madam
If you don’t know the name of the person to whom you are writing.
Dear Ms Smith,
If you do know their name, use their title (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Dr, Professor) and surname. If the recipient is female and you are not sure of her marital status, or whether she prefers to be addressed as Mrs or Miss, you could use Ms
To the Customer Services Manager
Dear Sir or Madam
If you can’t find out who holds the position you are addressing.
Include a reference if there is one
Your reference abc123
Ending a letter:
This depends on whether you have their name or not
if you do not know their name, so have addressed then as dear Sir or Madam, or by job title.
if you have addressed them by name
Print or type your name, then sign above it. You can put your title in brackets after your name if you wish.e.g.
Francis Jones (Mrs)
See sample letter, which would be printed and signed above the name at the bottom of the letter