Can “Enclosure” go at the top of a letter?

By Maeve Maddox

A reader inquires:

Is it permissible to list Enclosures at the top of a letter right after Subject and/or References or should they always be listed at the bottom of the letter after your closing?

I suppose that anything is “permissible,” but some things are not advisable. Shaking up the conventional order of a business letter is not a good idea.

People opening a business letter expect it to be arranged in the following conventional order:

1. writer’s return address
2. date the letter is being written
3. name, title, and address of recipient
4. salutation (with colon)
5. a RE or subject line if desired (some guides place the subject line above the salutation)
6. body of the letter
7. closing and signature
8. notice of enclosure

Busy people appreciate anything that makes their work easier. Observing conventional order in a business letter is one of those things.

Here are some related articles:
Dear Sir and other business conventions
The perils of writing to someone you don’t know

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10 Responses to “Can “Enclosure” go at the top of a letter?”

  • spike1

    When you say “enclosure”…
    What do you mean?
    Is this some american thing? Or is it just something specific to the publishing industry?

    ‘Cos unless it’s something like “Please find enclosed the completed manuscript, as requested.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it…

    And I for one have always put that in the last line before the closing/signature.

  • randomjohn

    @#1, it’s simply a line that says “Enclosures” (typically underlined) that alerts the recipient that the correspondence isn’t the sole item in the mailing.

    There are other things that can go there and my secretary knows them all and the “proper” order – if she says it’s proper, I’m not even going to question it.

    So you might close a letter:

    “have a nice day.

    Love,
    Johnny

    Attachments
    Enclosure

    cc: Mary
    Sue

    cc (w/o enc): Freddy”

    I have no idea if that’s the right order, I’m just pointing out that below the signature, in addition to Enclosures you may have attachments and distributions.

    Oh, and I almost forgot the most-important one: typist’s initials. So there would be a line that looks like “mfs:RQJ” which means “typed by My Fabulous Secretary (for) Random Q John.” I can’t remember where that fits in the order, but I think it comes first after the signature but ahead of enclosures/attachments

  • Maeve

    Spike,
    In addition to the closing line mentioning the enclosure, American practice also places a note that lists what is being enclosed after the signature:

    Yours sincerely,
    signature

    Encl.
    Complete draft of It Was A Dark and Stormy Night
    S.A.S.E.

  • David

    I welcome breaking convention. Look at it from the point of view of ‘is this practical and helpful to the reader’. For me – I would welcome an inventory of contents at both the beginning and ending of letters. If nothing else a top & tail inventory serves to confirm the contents.

    In the invoicing business , bills of shipping etc – you can never be told what is enclosed too many times.

    I saw a great sign on a shop in London the other day. One shop said “Established 1869″ – the shop next door read ” We’re Never Established!!” – that’s funky!

  • Cassie Tuttle

    I spent a summer (many years ago) attending secretarial classes — and, boy, am I glad I did!

    I agree: The “enclosure” line goes at the bottom of the letter.

    I learned a slightly different method, though, for formatting correspondence.

    1. writer’s return address
    2. date the letter is being written
    3. name, title, and address of recipient
    4. a RE or subject line if desired
    5. salutation (with colon or comma, depending on relationship)
    6. body of the letter
    7. closing and signature
    8. initials of typist*
    9. notice of enclosure (if any); item(s) enclosed/attached may or may not be spelled out. I do not underline “Enc.”
    10. notice of cc and bcc (if any)

    * randomjohn mentioned including the author’s initials with the typist’s initials. I learned to just note the typist’s initials; however, if you want to include both, it would be: “RQJ:mfs” (author first).

  • Peter

    Is that standard in the US?

    The writer’s address and date should go on the right and the recipient’s address on the left, side-by-side (old style rules normally put the writer’s address higher on the page, and the date lower than the recipient’s address, to avoid having to type two columns on a manual typewriter – not a problem nowadays; the recipients address should of course be aligned to fit in the window if using windowed envelopes). I can’t imagine any circumstance in which it would appropriate to use a colon after the salutation…?

  • Bonnie

    It is absolutely the standard in the U.S. when writing a business letter to use a colon after the salutation. Always!

    As well it is standard practice for business letters in the U.S. to be laid out using “full block” format. Using this format, the entire letter is left justified in the order that Cassie suggests. This is the only format I ever use for business writing.

  • Cassie Tuttle

    Peter,

    I’d have to say that there really is no “standard” format that is always used by everyone in the U.S. who writes a business letter. And of course, when using business stationery that already includes company name, address, etc., the writer’s return address is not necessary (but the date still is).

    Some people line up everything along the left margin. Personally, I like to line up the date (and closing) so that they start in the center of the page.

    As far as Bonnie’s comment about “always” using a colon after the salutation, there is an exception (— of course: it’s English!). It is acceptable to use a comma instead of a colon if the business letter is “informal” and if the writer and addressee are “friendly.”

    For example —

    Dear Mr. Smith: (formal and common in business writing)
    or
    Dear Ed, (informal and sometimes appropriate)

    At least, that’s been my experience. 🙂

  • shadae

    what is the importance of enclosures in letters

  • amanda

    My question relates to ‘closure’ of a letter, when written to a friend which covers ‘confidential’ information..do I sign off with ‘respectfully yours’ or ‘yours respectfully’ ?

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