Writing Correspondence
Modules:
 

Letter Parts

Quick Reference:

Heading

Date

Inside Address

Attention Line

Subject Line

Salutation

Body

Complimentary Close

Signature

End Notations

Most letters commonly include the following eight parts:
  • a heading
  • a date line
  • an inside address
  • a salutation
  • a body
  • a complimentary close
  • a signature
  • and when necessary, end notations

Some letters also include one or more of the following: an attention line, a subject line, an enclosure line, and a copy line.

When using letters as your means of correspondence, make sure you include the necessary parts in a clear, correct and professional manner.

Heading

The heading contains an address, a phone number, and an email address. Often headings are set up using a specific company logo. In these cases, the heading may also include the company name.

 

1234 South Main Street
AnyTown, AK, 12345
(999) 555-5555
emailus@company.com

Use letterhead or a formal heading for the first page, but do not number it.

Use blank paper for subsequent pages carrying over the name of the recipient, the page number and the date in the upper left-hand corner. For example:

Ms. Susan Thompson
Page 2
July 12, 20XX

Date Line

When the letterhead is pre-printed, place the date two lines below the letterhead. When using blank paper rather than a letterhead, your address and the date form the heading. Order the date line as follows: month (spelled out to avoid confusion), day and year.

Which of the following is a validly formatted date?

  1. Feb. 28th, 2001
  2. 28th February, 2001
  3. February 28th, 01
  4. February 28th, 2001

Inside Address

The inside address consists of the following, in order: the recipient's name, position, organization and business address.

You can include titles such as Professor, Dr. or Honorable if you know them, but if you're unsure, use Mr. or Ms. (unless you know that the recipient prefers Mrs.).

If the position title easily fits on the same line as the name, put it there. Add a comma after the name and before the position title.

In the address, be sure to spell out the full name of the organization exactly the way that the organization does: for example, United Postal Services calls itself UPS.

Be sure to include the complete mailing address: street number and name, city, state, and zip code.

Which of the following is a validly formatted inside address?


  1. Mr. Pat McCann, Personnel Director
    ABC Inc.
    12 Penny Lane
    Blacksburg, VA 24060


  2. Mr. Pat McCann - Personnel Director
    ABC Inc.
    12 Penny Lane
    Blacksburg, VA 24060


  3. Pat McCann, Personnel Director
    ABC Inc.
    12 Penny Lane
    Blacksburg, VA 24060


  4. Mr. Pat McCann, Personnel Director
    ABC Inc.
    12 Penny Lane
    Blacksburg, VA

Attention Line

Attention lines are optional; use them when you can't address your letter to a particular person because you don't know the name of the person who holds the position in the company.

Place the attention line two lines below the inside address. E.g.

Their Company
Their Address

Attention: Director of Personnel

Subject Line

Depending on the nature of your correspondence, the recipient may find it helpful if you specify the subject of your letter.

The subject line is optional and usually contains either a project number (for example, "Subject: Project 007") or a brief phrase that describes or defines the subject of the letter (for example, "Subject: Price Quotes for Internal Security Systems Analysis").

Place the subject line either two lines below the inside address or two lines below the attention line.

Their Company
Their Address

Attention: Director of Personnel

Subject: Order 12345

 

Subject lines are essential

  1. True
  2. False

Salutation

In many cases, you'll omit the attention and subject lines, and instead place the salutation two lines below the inside address. The following chart lists appropriate salutations for various situations.

Salutation Situation
Dear Dr. Anderson:

Dear Technical Director:

The Preferred options:
If name is known

When position only is known

To Whom It May Concern: Use this salutation only if you absolutely have to. This can appear impersonal and it may help to go with an attention line instead.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Avoid using this salutation; it sounds too much like the beginning of a speech.

Avoid if possible; sounds a bit old fashioned.

To avoid more awkward forms of salutation, simply place an anonymous call to the place you will be sending the letter and ask the name of the recipient.

Body Text

Begin the text of your letter two lines spaces below the salutation. The body text usually includes

(1) a brief introductory section-generally five lines or fewer-that identifies you, your subject and your purpose;

(2) one or more body paragraphs that contain the details of your message;

(3) a conclusion that sums up the contents and encourages action.

Keep body paragraphs short (usually nine lines or fewer) and design the text to make key information easily accessible (bullets, lists, headings, etc.).

When setting up the body of a letter, single-space text within the body of the paragraphs and double-spaced between paragraphs.

The body of a letter should be double-spaced throughout.

  1. True
  2. False

Complimentarty Closing

The most common closings are "Sincerely" ,"Cordially" or "Respectfully".

Place the closing two line spaces below the last line of text

Choose a closing that parallels the level of formality used in your salutation.

In two word closings such as "Sincerely yours", and "Yours truly", capitalize the first word only.

Place a comma after the complementary closing.

Which of the following are valid and appropriate closings?

  1. Cordially,
  2. Your obedient servant,
  3. I can do nothing but kneel in awe of your sumptous presence,
  4. Yours sincerely,

Signature

Type your full name on the four line spaces below the complimentary close. Sign your name, in ink, above the typewritten name. If applicable, include your title or position under your typed name.

Sincerely,

John Brown

John Brown
Personnel Manager

End Notations

An identification line, enclosure information or copy information may all appear after the signature.

The identification line lists the initials of the people who wrote or dictated the letter (in capital letters), signed it (lower case), and transcribed or typed it (lower case). Use / marks between initals. E.g. ABC/xyz indicates that ABC dictated the letter and xyz typed it.

The enclosure line informs the reader of any provided enclosures. If you are providing enclosures, you can write "Enclosure" or "enc." (without quotation marks) at the bottom of the page flush with the left margin. You should also indicate the number of enclosures ("Enclosure: 2." or "enc.2.").

Use cc (carbon copy or courtesy copy) indicates other possible recipients of the letter.

See examples of the most common types of letters -->

 
Copyright 2001 - James Dubinsky, Marie C. Paretti, Mark Armstrong