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Setting out your letter

It is important to achieve a good balance between the size of the sheet of paper and what is to be written on it. It will detract from the overall appearance if the first sheet is closely spaced, and only one or two short lines go over on to the second sheet. Try to space the letter more generously, so that more text appears on the second sheet.

Remember that a draft will make it easier to refine and correct the content before you begin to write or type your letter. The final letter, whether it is handwritten or typed, should be free of correc­tions and errors.

If you use a word processor – especially one of the newer word-processing programs available for use on personal computers, and incorporating some of the features of desk-top publishing – much of the setting-out and formatting can be done automatically by the machine.

The letter below is from a private individual in Denmark to a company in the UK. It shows the basic features of a simple business letter.

Figure 2

1Sender’s addressBredgade 51

DK 1260

Copenhagen K


2 Date 26 May 20—

3Inside addressCompuvision Ltd

Warwick House

Warwick Street

Forest Hill

London SE23 1JF


4Attention lionFor the attention of the Sales Manager

5 SalutationDear Sir or Madam

6Body of the letterPlease would you send me details of your

DVD video systems. I am particularly

interested in the Omega range.

7Complimentary closeYours faithfully

8SignatureB. Kaasen

(Ms) B. Kaasen

The text of your letter should be positioned on the page with appropriate spacing. The print or handwriting should be neither too cramped nor too widely spaced. Use a two line space between paragraphs or individual lines if this will improve the general appearance. If the letter is short, the text should not be pushed up to the top of the sheet with a large area left blank at the bottom – leave some space at the top to balance that at the bottom of the sheet.

Sender’s address / outside address

In correspondence that does not have a letterhead, the sender’s address is placed in the top right-hand corner of the page. It is also acceptable, but less common, to place it in the top left-hand corner. Punctuation is rarely used in addresses these days.

The blocked style is the most widely used, i.e. each line starts directly below the one above.

In contrast with practice in some other countries, in the UK it is not usual to write the sender’s name before his or her address.


The date is written directly below the sender’s address, separated from it by a space. In the case of correspondence with a letterhead, it is usually written on the right-hand side of the page.

The month in the date should not be written in figures as this can be confusing; for example 11.3.03 means 11 March 2003 in British English, where the sequence is day-month-year, but 3 November 2003 in American English, where the sequence is month-day-year.

It is acceptable to write the date with or without the abbreviations -th and -nd, e.g. 24th October or 24 October, and to transpose the date and the month, e.g. October 24 or 24 October. These are matters of personal preference, but whatever you choose you should be consistent throughout your correspondence.

The year should always be included as it may be important for both you and the recipient if you need to refer back to your correspondence in the future.

Avoid using the term ‘Date as Postmark’ as the envelope is usually soon discarded, especially where companies have a post room that opens the mail and just delivers the letters to the recipients, so no one will know exactly when it was sent.

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