Formats for Letters, Memos, and E-Mail Messages
normally go to people outside your organization;
other people in your organization. E-mails go to both audiences. Letters,
memos, and e-mails do not necessarily differ in length, formality, writ-
ing style, or pattern of organization. However, letters, memos, and e-mails do
differ in format.
means the parts of a document and the way they are
arranged on the page.
Formats for Letters
If your organization has a standard format for letters, use it.
Many organizations and writers choose one of three letter formats:
Figure A.3 ), or the
Figure A.4 ). Your organization may make minor changes
from the diagrams in margins or spacing.
shows how the three formats differ.
Use the same level of formality in the
or greeting, as you would
in talking to someone on the phone:
if you're on a first-name ba-
Dear Mr. Helms
if you don't know the reader well enough to use the first
Some writers feel that the simplified format is better since the reader is not
Omitting the salutation is particularly good when you do not know the
reader's name or do not know which courtesy title to use. (For a full discus-
sion on nonsexist salutations and salutations when you don't know the read-
er's name, see Chapter 3.) However, readers like to see their names. Since the
simplified format omits the reader's name in the salutation, writers who use
this format but who also want to be friendly often try to use the reader's name
early in the body of the letter.
The simplified letter format is good in business-to-business mail, or in let-
ters where you are writing to anyone who holds a job (admissions officer, cus-
tomer service representative) rather than to a specific person. It is too cold and
distancing for cultures that place a premium on relationships.
When you are
writing to people in special groups or to someone who is a friend as well as
a business acquaintance, you may want to use a less formal close. Depending
on the circumstances, the following informal closes might be acceptable:
dially, Thank you,
a colon follows the salutation and a comma follows
tells what the message is about. Subject lines are required in
memos and e-mails; they are optional in letters. Good subject lines are specific,
concise, and appropriate for your purposes and the response you expect from
After studying this appendix, you will know:
Formats for letters.