How to Format a UK Business Letter
I covered writing US business letters, but I know we have a number of readers in the United Kingdom too – or readers who might want to write to companies within the UK. I’ll just be covering the formatting here rather than explaining again why each element is included, so you might want to read the article on US business letters first.
The UK format is similar to US full block format, with these key differences for UK letters:
- The return address is right-aligned
- The date is written as “15th May 2008” not “May 15, 2008”
- A comma, not a colon, follows the recipients’ name
- The subject (if included) is centred
In the UK, a standard business letter looks like this:
Just as with the US examples, I’ll break the letter down into the main elements, working from the top to the bottom.
Your address, also known as the “return address”, comes first (leave this off if you’re using letter-headed paper).
123 Old Road
Your return address should be right-justified.
Directly beneath this, the date on which the letter was written:
15th May 2008
In the UK, the day comes before the month, and it is fine to put “st”, “nd” or “th” after the day’s date, eg. “15th” “1st” or “2nd”.
You can position the date on the right or on the left of your letter.
Recipent’s name and address
Beneath this, you should put the recipient’s name and address, just as it would appear on the envelope. If you’re using a window envelope, make sure it’ll show through when the paper is inserted.
The recipient’s name and address should be positioned on the left-hand side.
After their address, you should leave a line’s space then put “Dear Mr Jones”, “Dear Bob” or “Dear Sir/Madam” as appropriate. Follow this with a comma.
The greeting should be left-aligned.
You may want to include a subject for your letter — this is often helpful to the recipient, especially if they receive a lot of mail. If you do include a subject line, thsi should be directly below the “Dear name”, centered on the page, and can be in bold, uppercase or both to make it stand out.
The Text of your Letter
The main body of your letter should have:
- Single-spacing between lines
- A blank line (NOT an indent) before each new paragraph
Each new paragraph should start at the left hand side.
The Closing and Your Name and Signature
After the body of text, your letter should end with an appropriate closing phrase such as “Yours sincerely” or “With best regards”, and a comma.
Leave several blank lines after the closing (so you can sign the letter after printing it), then type your name. You can optionally put your job title and company name on the line beneath this.
Marketing Director, BizSolutions
The closing and your name and signature should all be on the left hand side.
Still stuck? Try this letter writing exercise – it’s aimed at school-kids in the UK, but it’s good fun for adults too!
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39 Responses to “How to Format a UK Business Letter”
My understanding is that the subject line should come after the salutation, since you address someone first, and then tell them what you are contacting them about. I, personally, also tend to include the reference in the subject line, since that way every bit of important information is in one place.
The most important thing, surely, as many people have said, is to get your point across clearly and successfully. Everything else is relatively unimportant.
Thank you for the web site.
While it seems the boffins have various opinions how things are done, at least I have been given a good head start in letter formatting.
I doubt many really give a hoot these days any way.
So again, Thank you for the fine work this site has achieved.
With regards to a subject line. I understand that it should be positioned btween the salutation and the body of the letter. For example when speaking to someone we always say “hello” first before launching into conversation. The same rule applies to letter writing.
Actually, there are a few things wrong with the so called UK letter/email. Most of them mentioned in the comments.
Wouldn’t it have been better to get a British person to write the letter, or at least check it.
Now it looks like everyone is more confused than when they started.
I wonder how the greeting should go if you’re writing to someone who is already a Sir, for instance Sir Paul McCartney or Sir Patrick Moore. Thank you for your response and for reminding me of the rules…
In a UK buisness letter addressing it as follows:
For the attention of Mrs J Bloggs
Bloggs and Bloggs Ltd
address line 1
finishing with yours faithfully
I was always told that this format was addressed to the company so a general Dear Sirs was acceptable and the for the attention of was not classed as addressing it to a person so yours faithfully was correct, I’d be interested in your oppinion on this. I find this a useful in between letter (addressed to a person but not one you know)
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I’m sorry. I would like to get a complete lesson cours of how to write a business letter from you.