All content (save the author's address, date, and closure) is left aligned in a modified semi-block format letter; paragraphs are indented; and the author's address, date, and closing are normally indented in the same location. The result is that most sentences begin at the left margin and most words appear in a line of text that is uniform throughout.
Modified letters were popular during the Industrial Revolution, when hand-written communications were the norm. As typewriters became available, they quickly replaced modified letters in business contexts. However, modified letters continue to be used by some authors as a simple way to get their work published because there are many word processing programs that can convert modified letters into formatted manuscripts.
The main advantage of using a modified letter format is that it can be easily read by someone who is not familiar with your writing style. This may be important if you need to notify someone about something included in your manuscript or if you want to include a disclaimer on why certain claims were made in your study. The disadvantage is that modifying your manuscript in this way makes it less attractive to publishers because it is not considered professional writing practice.
As you can see, the choice between using a modified or standard letter format depends on what type of document you are sending out and how much control you have over its design.
Business letters are indented in one of six ways: normal, open, block, semi-block, modified block, and modified semi-block. Simply put, "semi-" implies that the initial lines of paragraphs are indented, whereas "modified" means that the sender's address, date, and closure are indented greatly. All other types of business letters are called "formatted."
The term "business letter format" may cause confusion because most letters sent through the mail are not formal documents governed by style guides; they're simply notes from friends, family, and employees. As such, there is no single right way to format a business letter. But many style guides do exist for good reason, so we will discuss what those reasons are as well as some basic guidelines for formatting business letters.
The main purpose of a business letter is to communicate information from a writer to readers. Therefore, it should be clear and concise without being terse or vague. It should also be accurate insofar as possible given the limited time constraints involved. Formal letters tend to follow a very specific order based on how the reader will read them. For example, an opening paragraph that introduces the topic at hand will come before any quotes or anecdotes in a formal letter.
Most letters contain several sections including names and addresses, subject line, introduction, body, closing, and attachments. Each section has its own importance and requires proper attention to detail.
The modified block format is another extensively used format. The body of the letter, as well as the sender's and recipient's addresses, are left justified and single-spaced in this style. For the date and closure, however, tab to the middle position and begin typing. Semi-block is the final and least utilized style. It is identical to the block style except that the body is double-spaced.
The paragraphs are kept left justified in semi-block format, but the first line of each paragraph is indented by one tab (five spaces). Each paragraph should be separated by a line space. A conclusion section allows you to summarize the content in the letter while still maintaining clarity and readability. Include a clear call to action in any letters that you send out.
Common Block Letter Format: The text in the common block letter format is flush with the left margin. Every paragraph is double spaced, while every line of text is single spaced. The margins are set to one inch in a conventional word processor. A period at the end of a sentence is followed by a blank space.
The first word in each paragraph is centered in a box of some kind unless it is the title of a section. The rest of the words in the paragraph are aligned along either the left or right edge of the box depending on whether they are shorter or longer than the center word. These are called "aligned" paragraphs.
The other way to align paragraphs is by using the "block" command. When you use this command, the whole paragraph is moved away from its original position and placed into a separate column. Only the first line of a block-aligned paragraph is centered; the others are aligned with the left or right margin.
In addition to the common block letter format, there is also no-indent block text and indented block text. In the no-indent block text, everything is aligned using the block command but there is no indentation of any kind. In the indented block text, each line of text after the first is indented by one full margin indentation.
The block format is the most frequent arrangement for a business letter. Except for a double space between paragraphs, the whole letter is left justified and single-spaced in this style. It is identical to the block format except that some modifications have been made to accommodate special circumstances. For example, if there is not enough room on the page for everything to be left justified, then parts may be ragged right aligned.
The tabular format is used when you need to present information in tables or charts. The text is divided into columns with each column containing approximately one topic covered in the letter. The columns are separated by tabs. Each tab should equal about 1/4 inch or 6 mm. The text inside each cell is left justified but there can be padding between cells. Padding is usually done using spaces but it can also be done using other characters such as * _ - + etc.
The informal style is used to communicate with friends and family. It does not use formal grammar or punctuation. Words and phrases are expressed in simple language without any fancy expressions or complicated sentences.
The formal style is used in letters that are considered official documents such as contracts, reports, and memos. These letters follow a specific format that includes a header, body, and footer.
Formal business letters are written in full block style. This style is distinguished by the fact that each line begins at the left margin. None of the type lines are centered or to the right. The first word or phrase on a line must be capitalized, the rest of the words and phrases on that line should be lowercase.
Full block formatting can be used when writing formal letters, emails, or memos. It is also suitable for publishing materials such as posters or flyers. Because all text is formatted in full blocks, these documents can look elegant even if you do not use any fancy fonts.
When writing a formal letter, begin each paragraph with a horizontal rule. Then follow standard punctuation rules when ending the paragraph on a sentence and adding a closing parenthesis on a quote.
Example: "This is my first sentence. I would like to finish this sentence by saying thanks for reading my letter."
Closing parentheses are used when giving credit to someone else for an idea or concept they have presented to you. For example, "I took her idea and ran with it" could be written as "I took her idea (out for discussion at our meeting) and ran with it (in order to develop it further)."