Proper Ways to Address a Letter

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Proper Ways to Address a Letter
Addressing a letter in a proper way is a timeless skill. (rose in blue pen image by OMKAR A.V from

A well-structured letter is important, even in the age of e-mail. One should know the subtle differences between addressing a letter to a personal acquaintance versus a business acquaintance.

First impressions are important in either situation. More white space will lend a more refined appearance, so format your address block with this point in mind. To begin, include your return address, the date, the address of the recipient and greeting. This list sticks to the traditional interpretation of the written letter, not an e-mail.

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How you address a personal letter depends on whom you are addressing. When writing to a close friend or loved one, simply write your return address and date on the right-hand side and your greeting on the left. Place a comma after the greeting or salutation. Address a letter to a friend, neighbour or other acquaintance differently, as in the following example:

                                                                                                 123 Your Return Address

                                                                                                 West Winston, NY 12345


Sarah Moss

45 Personal Place

West Winston, NY 12345

(1 or 2 spaces)

Dear Sarah,


When addressing a business colleague, use the full-block, block, modified-block or simplified format. Most people prefer the simplified format, which is illustrated below. Consider creating a personal letterhead so that you do not have to rewrite your return address each time.

Address the letter to a specific person. If you don't have this information, use "Dear Sir or Madam:" Never guess the gender of the recipient. Unlike the friendly letter in Section 1, you should use a colon after the greeting.

123 Your Return Address (or Letterhead)

West Winston, NY 12345


(2 to 4 spaces)

Ms. Hannah Pownell

Pierce Industries

45 Business Place

West Winston, NY 12345

Dear Ms. Pownell:

Tips and Warnings

  • Disagreements exist about whether to include the friend's address, or go directly to the greeting.

  • Consider cultural implications, such as the proper way to address genders, the order of the first name versus the last name, or whether it is appropriate to use the first name at all.

  • Refer to the U.S. Department of Commerce for a list of numbers to call regarding information about other countries' standards.

  • To write your letter, you will need envelopes, first-class stamps (within the U.S.),

stationary or an Aerogram (for overseas correspondence).

Proper Ways to Address a Letter
Writing a letter is often relaxing. (book, bell and candle image by Graham Lumsden from

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