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Paper quality

Business notepaper should be of good quality. Paper suitable for letters is often described as ‘Bond’ or ‘Script’ and is classified according to its weight in grams per square metre – usually shown as g/m2, or simply as grams. A weight of 70-90 g/m2 is suitable for most purposes, but if you are using a computer printer make sure that you select paper of a weight and texture that your printer can cope with. Similarly, it does not give a good impression if your business communication is printed on photo copier-weight paper, which is a cheap alternative that does not absorb printer ink well – especially noticeable when using colour and images.

Paper size

Paper of A4 size (210mm x 297mm) is most commonly used in business these days, in Britain and most of Europe. A4 allows adequate space for most letters and is best suited to standard envelope sizes, and most computer software assumes this is the size you want to use: templates for memos, faxes and letters are invariably based on A4 paper. A small stock of A5 paper (half the size of A4) is useful, particularly if you regularly send notes that are short and to the point.

Headed notepaper

Nearly all businesses, and many private individuals, have a printed letterheading on their paper. Like all other parts of the letter, the heading should present a suitable image, and give all the necessary relevant information. Most word-processing and desktop-publishing software these days contains a graphics or WordArt library from which you can import images or fancy text into your document to make up your own letterhead. On letterheads, all businesses should for obvious reasons include the business name and address and telephone number plus the fax number and e-mail address if you have them. Depending on the legal status of your business it may be necessary also to include other information – for example, a private limited company (Ltd) must show its registration number, registered office address and the names of its directors on its letterheaded paper, and if registered for VAT, the VAT registration number must also be shown. You should always check the precise requirements with your accountant and, if necessary, solicitor. In some cases it may also be useful to include a brief description of the business somewhere on the letterheading if it is not apparent from the company name, for example, R Johnson & Sons is not very informative; R Johnson & Sons (Builders) is much more helpful.

Here is an example of a heading that might be used by a British company:

Figure 1

Continuation sheets

Don’t forget when ordering or designing headed notepaper that you will almost certainly need some continuation sheets – plain sheets of paper in a matching weight and colour – on which you can continue your letter should it run to more than one page. Some people use a lighter weight paper for continuation sheets but having equal weight paper gives an impression of quality and attention to detail.

LAYOUT

Having given some thought to the type and size of paper, the next (and equally important) aspect of letter-writing to consider is the setting out of your letter.

Although there is no one correct way to structure or lay out a business communication, it is important to develop an attractive and consistent style, and one that your reader finds easy to read and understand.

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