Parts of a Business Letter: Attention Line

Written by clayton yuetter
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Parts of a Business Letter: Attention Line
An attention line helps directs letters to the appropriate recipient. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

The attention line in a business letter is an element whose conventions are often misunderstood or unknown when the writer is drafting the letter. Although it is a single formality in light of the entire document, the incorrect format can lead to confusion by the recipient or undercut the sender's professional appearance.

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When to Use Attention Line

The attention line directs the business letter to where it should go, often within a company or organisation. This helps the letter reach the specific person it is intended for, perhaps saving it from being circulated within the office's mail system or passed around among colleagues until it lands in the right hands. You can also include the organisation's name in the attention line, indicating that you want the company to respond to your letter if the specific person it is addressed to is unavailable.

Attention Line Format

There are several standards when it comes to formatting the attention line. One of them is to spell out the word "attention" completely, followed by a colon. Always make sure it is capitalised. Another acceptable alternative is to abbreviate the attention line "Attn:" instead. In both cases, it is followed by the person's name or the intended organisation. If "ATTENTION" is in all capital letters, the name or title that follows should also be in capital letters.

Where to Place Attention Line

The attention line should be included two lines below the recipient's address. Note that the attention line tends to be included when the recipient's address is not preceded by the recipient's name. The recipient's company name may be included with the recipient's address, but avoid redundancy in the address and attention line.

Options for Attention Line

There are three general options for including a recipient in the attention line: the recipient's name, the recipient's company or the recipient's title. Using the recipient's title is advantageous when the sender of the letter knows the specific department that is intended to respond but does not know the specific person in charge of it. For further clarification, a subject line can be included below the attention line to inform the recipient of what the letter is in response to.

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