All business letters should be professional.  That means they need to be clear, concise and relevant.  They also need to be well-structured. In other words, they should have a good layout and use the correct conventions.

Look at this sample business letter and then read the rules below. Remember, a business letter that is not professional will not be taken seriously.

The rules to a good layout

Business letters are subject to more rules than personal letters:


Your own address should always be in the top right-hand corner of the first page. The address of the person or company you are writing to should go lower down on the left-hand side.


The date can go in one of two places: beneath your address or beneath the reader's address.

It is always best to write the month in full because the British dating system is different to the American dating system (eg: 9/11/2001 is 9th November 2001 in Britain but 11th September in America).

Note that you do not need to write 'the' or 'of' in a date (eg: 'the 16th of October' is wrong; 16th October is correct). It is also acceptable to write 16 October 2008.


Although rules have relaxed over the years, it is still important to address someone correctly. This will depend on your relationship with the reader:
  • Informal or Neutral: Dear Peter
  • Formal: Dear Mr Young / Dear Colleague

The formal style is reserved for customers, members of the public or people in high authority. Unless a man is entitled to a different style, such as Rev. or Dr., then a man should be addressed as Mr (e.g: Mr Grant). Never write out the title in full (e.g: 'Mister Grant' is wrong).

When writing to a woman, you need to be aware of her marital status.

  • Married women: Mrs Collins
  • Single women: Miss Jones
  • Status unknown: Ms Peterson

These days some women prefer to use the title Ms because they do not wish to reveal their marital status. Always check which title she has used in previous correspondence. If you're not sure then the safest option is always Ms.

Greetings and endings

The word 'Dear' always comes before the name of the person you are writing to, even if you don't know them. However, what follows 'Dear' determines how you are going to end your business letter.

If your letter begins 'Dear Ms Foster', 'Dear Gary Stewart', 'Dear Wendy', etc, then you letter should end with 'Yours sincerely'.

If your letter is informal or neutral in style, you know the person fairly well and are on first name terms then you can use 'Best wishes', or 'Kind regards' instead.

If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to then your greeting should be 'Dear Sir or Madam' and your ending should be 'Yours faithfully'.


It is always best to give a heading to a business letter. This helps to ensure that your letter is dealt with as efficiently as possible.

Headings come immediately after the greeting, and should be underlined or typed in bold. Make your heading brief and specific. For example:

Dear Sir or Madam

Closure of bank account no. 56777889

I would like to inform you .....

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