Despite the growing preference for short messaging services (SMS) and emails nowadays, it is still important to know how to address a letter. Formal letters are still in use in the modern world, especially in formal communications and when sending job applications. Recruiters are interested in hiring candidates who show their capabilities from the first point of contact, which is the cover letter.
Therefore, the letter must follow all the rules of professional letter writing, including the sender’s contact information, date, salutations, and recipient’s address. Learning how to address a letter the right way helps the sender stand out from the rest and create a positive impression on the recipient.
Things to Include When Addressing a Formal Letter
When writing a professional or business letter, there are some things that the sender must include in the letter if he/she wants to impress the recipient and expect a response. In knowing how to address a letter, here are some of the things to include:
1. Contact information at the top
When writing a letter, you want the person you are addressing to know who you are, your designation, where you come from, and the address they will use when responding to your letter. The sender’s contact information should be as follows:
First line: Full name
Second line: Company name
Third line: Street address
Fourth line: City or town, followed by the state name and zip code. The state name can be abbreviated to its official postal two-letter abbreviation.
The address should appear under the sender’s name and should be aligned to the left.
If you are writing to someone in another country, put the name of the country in the fourth line.
Include an email address and phone number for easier communication.
The next step is to write the date on which the letter was sent, and align it to the left or right margin. Spell out the month using letters, and numbers for the day and year. For example, the date can be written as November 15, 2020.
3. Recipient’s Name and Address
This information appears on the left margin below the sender’s address. It includes the name and mailing address of the intended recipient. It essentially tells the recipient that you know him/her, helping create a personalized connection. You should also include the title or degrees that the recipient holds.
For example, if you are writing to an English professor, you should write, “John Jones, Ph.D.” Beneath the name, put the company name on the second line. Write the mailing address of the recipient, starting with the street and city on the third line, and state and zip code on the fourth line. If the recipient is in another country, indicate the name of the country in the fourth line.
After the recipient’s address, skip one line and write the salutation. The choice of salutation depends on whether or not you know the recipient of the letter. The most widely used salutation is “Dear,” and is recommended if you’ve never met the intended recipient. The salutation is followed by the person’s name and punctuated with a colon or comma.
If you do not know whether the recipient is a man or a woman, it is safe to use “Dear Sir or Madam” followed by a colon. Use “Ms.” in the salutation if the recipient is a woman and you do not know her marital status. The same applies to professional titles such as Dr., Professor, and Honorable. Examples of salutations include:
Dear Mr. Jones
Dear Ms. Jones
Dear Dr. John
Dear Professor Markle
How to Find a Contact Person
Another thing to note when learning how to address a letter is to know the name of the intended recipient. Even though it is not mandatory to know the recipient’s name, addressing the recipient using their name demonstrates personal initiative on the part of the sender.
It is especially important when sending a letter to a recruiter in response to a job advert. Spending some extra time researching the right name of the recipient speaks well for the sender, and helps them stand out from the competition.
1. Ask around
One of the ways that you can use is to ask around. Start by asking colleagues and close friends the best person to talk to, especially when applying for a job. Try to get the phone number and mailing address of the specific person.
Also, you can call the company’s receptionist or customer care person to ask for the name and contact information of the hiring manager or the person conducting the recruitment for advertised positions.
2. Find contact information on the internet
If you still can’t get the right contact information of the hiring person, do extra research online to find out the company’s personnel and their contact information. Start by visiting the About Us section on the company’s website to see if they’ve included the HR manager’s name on the list of the company’s management team. The other option is to visit the LinkedIn profile of the company to get the HR manager’s contact information or a connection to the person you’re looking for.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide on how to address a letter. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful: