How to Write a Cover Letter
Does anyone write business letters anymore? Whether or not you still employ this declining form of communication, you should be aware of the customary procedure, because the necessity may come up.
This model is only one of several variations, but whichever version you employ, veer from the template only if you have a good reason to do so. (Word-processing programs generally have a business-letter template, but it’s simple enough to create a letter on your own.)
Start the letter with your own address on one line, followed by the city and state (using the US Postal Service’s two-letter state symbols) and the ZIP code on the next. (It’s not necessary to include your name here.) Enter a line space, and then type the date in full — for example, “November 1, 2012” (or, if you’re writing to someone outside the United States, “1 “November 2012”).
A few lines below that, write the recipient’s name (preceded, if known and applicable, by a title such as Professor or Doctor or by a social title like Mr. or Ms., or a variation you know the person prefers). If you don’t know the name of the person you wish to contact, research it online or phone or e-mail the company and obtain a name. On subsequent lines, add the address and then the city and state and the ZIP code.
Several lines below that, enter the salutation, which should consist of the word dear and the full name as it appears in the address section — for example, “Dear Mr. Mark Nichol,” followed by a colon. If you know the recipient on a first-name basis, write simply, “Dear Mark,” followed by a colon. (If you can’t easily determine whether a person with a name used by men and women alike is male or female, or if you prefer, omit the social title or use another applicable title.)
The body of the letter should be concise, beginning with a friendly introduction and a statement of the purpose of your letter. In one or more subsequent paragraphs, expand on your main point and supporting details, then close with a summary of your intent in writing and a request for action from the recipient or a reference to action you or another party will undertake that the recipient should expect or be aware of.
Separate each pair of paragraphs by a line space (or a double space), and use single-space lines and left-aligned, or ragged-right, justification. (A left-aligned block of type has a straight left margin and a right margin that varies depending on the length of the words in each line, hence the alternative name.) Margins should be set about one inch from the left edge of the paper and should be no wider than six or six and a half inches. Also, because you’re inserting line spaces between paragraphs, it’s not necessary to indent the first lines.
The closing (“thank you,” or, as informal alternative, “thanks” — in either case, the first letter should be capitalized) should be followed by a comma, then leave several line spaces between that and your typed name (which is optional) to allow you to handwrite your signature.
If you are including one or more enclosures, type the initial-capped singular or plural form of that word (or the abbreviation Encl.) so that the recipient knows that he or she should find additional materials in the envelope with the letter. You might also want to list the specific enclosures so that the recipient will be certain that he or she has received all of them.
Times New Roman in 12-point type is the standard font, though other easy-to-read fonts are acceptable.
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