Cover Letter Layout
Business letters in English should follow a set format, one that is slightly different in the UK and the US.
At the top of the letter should be your address. On a British letter, this should go on the right-hand side; on an American letter, it should go on the left. You shouldn't put your name at the top of the letter in either the UK or the US.
As with CVs, don't forget to make your address and phone number international by adding 'France' to the end of the address, and using a '+33 (0)' at the start of your phone number.
Write your phone number next. Your mobile is more important than your landline. If you put both, specify (with 'home' and 'mobile') which is which, since people in other countries won't recognize that an '06' number is a mobile number.
Include your email next. A university or work email looks more serious than a yahoo or hotmail one (especially if you've used a nickname like 'email@example.com' or 'firstname.lastname@example.org'). Try to choose just one address, and make sure you check it regularly.
The company's details
The company's details should always be aligned to the left side, in both the UK and the US. Begin with the person's name and/or title, then the company name, then their address.
In the UK this should go on the right-hand side just below where the company's address ends. In the US it should go on the left-hand side between the addresses.
Remember to adapt the format of the date for the country you're applying to.
- In the US dates are nearly always written monthday, year. For example:
- In the UK it is more typical to put day month year, like this:
March 11, 2018.
(Don't forget the comma, which avoids confusion by separating the two numbers.)
11 March 2018.
Don't include an 'of' between the day and the month: this 'of' is always spoken but never written. Ordinal abbreviations ('st', 'nd', 'rd', 'th') after the day are optional, but don't add anything.
The internet seems to be changing the meaning of this word, which is simply the Latin for 'thing' or 'object', and so is similar to the French 'Objet :'. It is used in letters (and legal documents) to make clear which issue (or legal case) is being discussed. Because it is used in the subject line of email replies, some people are beginning to assume it is an abbreviation of 'reply', but this isn't the case.
It is polite to include a brief summary of the subject of your letter before your begin, to give people an idea why you're writing. You can do this by writing 'Re:' followed by no more than a one-line summary such as 'Application for work placement'. If you're replying to a job ad, there you should precede this (or replace it) with the 'Ref:' plus the reference number (assuming there is one).
Your letter should end with a brief salutation followed by your signature (unless you're sending your letter as an email attachment) and your name. These should be on the left-hand side for an American letter, and on the right-hand side, directly below your address and the date, for a British letter. (For the closing formulas, see the next section.)
Your final document should look something like one of the versions below.
Notice that on the American letter, all addresses, paragraphs, etc., are aligned with the left margin. On the British letter, the sender's address, the date, the closing salutation, signature and sender's name are indented to the same degree (but they are still 'left-justified', not centred or 'right-justified').
Click on the samples to see more details.
If you’re writing a formal letter, say for a job application, you need to get it right. An improperly set out letter creates a negative impression and may even damage your chances of getting that job. The tips on how to write a letter below will ensure your letter is laid out correctly.
Important Parts of a Letter
When laying out a formal letter you need to focus on 6 areas:
- Your address.
- The recipient’s address (who you’re sending the letter to).
- The date.
- The salutation.
- The closing.
- Your signature/name.
Place this in the upper right-hand corner of the letter in the form of:
- Street number and street name
- Post Code
- Country (only if sending the letter overseas)
- Phone number (optional)
- Email address (optional)
Note: do not put your name at the top of the address.
Place this in the upper left-hand corner of the letter, but start it a little below (2 or 3 lines) the first line of your own address. If you wish you may include the name of the person you’re writing to, their job title or department, and company name at the top of this address.
Note: do not include the recipient’s phone number or email address.
The date should be placed on the right-hand side of the letter, in line with your address but at least one line lower than the last line of the recipient’s address.
If you know the name of the person you’re writing to the salutation should be in the form of:
Dear/ Title/ Name e.g. Dear Mr. Smith
Note: in a formal letter it is preferable not to use the recipient’s first name.
If you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to use “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam” instead. If you don’t know the sex of the person you can use “Dear Sir or Madam”.
The closing finishes off your letter and should be placed below the text of your letter on the left-hand side.
If you have used a person’s name in your salutation close your letter with “Yours sincerely”.
If you have used Dear Sir or Dear Madam, close the letter with “Yours faithfully”.
Formal letters must be signed with your name on the bottom left of the page. Print your name below your signature.
Correct Letter Layout
When writing a formal letter there are a number of acceptable layout variations and you may have your own preferences. The letter writing tips above, however, will give you a letter that is acceptable in most formal situations. An example of this layout can be seen below.
Now that you know how to properly write a letter, you’ll be able to look professional the next time you apply for a job or put through a business proposal.How to Write a Letter, 4.0 out of 5 based on 32 ratings
Tags: cover letter, writing