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The 7 Parts of a Letter

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

These seven parts of a letter outline the standard letter writing format for communication in the business and workplace.

1. Heading

The 7 parts of a letter with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting

Your contact information, placed at the top of a business letter, lets the reader can identify you and provides a way to contact you in return. If you use preprinted letterhead, you have a ready-made heading for your letter. If not, insert your address at the top of the letter, including your street address, city, state, and zip code. You needn’t include your name in your heading since you will sign the letter.

2. Date

Indicate the date you write – or send – the letter. Write out the month, date, and year like this: July 4, 1776.

3. Addressee Information

Also called the “inside address,” this element includes the name of the person to whom you’re writing, his title, the company, and his full mailing address. Make an almost super-human effort to address the letter to a specific individual within a firm even if you must research to identify the appropriate recipient.

Name, job title
City, State, Zip Code

Insert a line space after the addressee information, prior to the salutation.

4. Salutation

The salutation is a greeting made up of two parts: a word of welcome such as “Dear” and then the individual’s name. Avoid using a generic, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Gentlemen” but instead, greet the specific individual or group you listed in the address information. This attention to detail speaks volumes to the reader.

The salutation can be formal (using the reader’s title, such as Dr., Mr., or Ms., followed by his last name) or informal (using the person’s first name),with the tone matching to the letter’s level of formality. Insert a comma or colon and a line space after the salutation and then proceed to the letter body.

5. Letter Body

The body of letter, the main section, communicates your business. It is comprised of three parts.

  • Use the first paragraph as an introduction to explain why you are writing.
  • Use the following paragraphs to lay out your points, providing more information and specific details in logical order.
  • Use the final paragraph or section to specify what step you want your reader to take after reading your letter. Close this final section with words of appreciation.

As for mechanics, single-space the letter body. Justify the content to the left. Insert a line space between each paragraph and before the closing.

6. Closing

The closing is one of the parts of a letter that, like the letter body, has different elements.

  • Complimentary close. This short phrase ends your letter but continues to communicate your tone. Choose a letter closing that suits your relationship with the reader, always communicating courtesy and respect. (Here is a list of the most professional business letter closings.) Follow your closing phrase with a comma.
  • Handwritten signature. Insert 2-4 line spaces for a handwritten signature. If your letter will be sent electronically, you can insert an email signature.
  • Typed Signature. Type your signature (and your title, if appropriate).

7. Postcript

Among parts of a letter, this element is the most varied. It is also optional.

You may or may not choose to use a postscript (P.S.) in your letter, depending on the letter’s level of formality and its content. When the postscript is short message is inserted after the letter closing, it is abbreviated as “P.S.” It provides a reminder or an extra piece of information for the reader. Formal letters rarely include a postscript. Sales letters and appeal letters, on the other hand, are less formal and nearly always use a postscript, which is considered to be one of the most-read elements in direct mail. (More P.S. writing tips here.)

Cover letters use the postscript section to indicate the inclusion of additional documents (such as a resume, completed application form, references, or other documents) with the abbreviation, “Enc.,” indicating “Enclosures.”

Place your postscript flush left.

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