The layout or structure of letter is about the systematic arrangement of information in a letter. In other words, “Layout” can be defined as “the logical arrangement of information in a business letter”. If we look at a business letter, we will find that there are various parts like senders name and address, subject headings, paragraphs, etc. The layout is all about the arrangements of all parts in a logical manner. The layout can also be called as “format” of a business letter and involves various part of a letter in a logical manner.
Parts of a Business Letter
The business letter can be divided into various parts and their logical arrangement is the subject matter of Layout. It is important to select the size of note or paper on which letter is to be typed or written. It depends upon the quantum of information that decides the size and type of paper (plain paper or printed letter head). If the information is limited and brief then we may use small size of note or paper otherwise we may use medium or foolscap size of note or paper for bigger information or subject.
These are the following sizes of paper used in business letters:
1) Octavo 5”X 8”
2) Quarto 8”X 10”
3) Foolscap 8” X 13”
It is important to select paper or sheet on the basis of quantum of information otherwise the appearance of letter will be unattractive and unappealing. If we have to write or type two lines, we should prefer smallest size of paper otherwise the letter would look odd and weird.
The various or different parts of business letters can be discussed in the following ways:
1) Letter Heading or Sender’s Name and Address: The first and foremost part of the letter is the HEADING that contains the name and address of the sender firm. The name of the firm is usually written or printed in bold capital letters followed by the nature of business. The address of the sender should be complete and accurate in all respects, i.e. correct number or serial of building, correct name of road, city or town, pin code etc. The heading should comprise of telephone number, telex or fax number, e-mail id, address etc. These details forms the essential part of letter heading. Sometime business concerns get their letter headings as per their convenience. Some letter heads contain address written in the Centre whereas some prefer on the right hand side while some prefer at the bottom.
The ideal specimen of Letter Heading is explained below:
Grams: KINGS Tel: 91-011-2356789
X.Y.Z COMPANY PVT.LIMITED
(Suppliers of Stationary Products)
A-1 Kirti Nagar, New Delhi – 110015
In the absence of printed letter head we can type the letter heading by typewriter to make letter look attractive.
Specimen of Printed Letter-Head
Tel: 91-011-2783467 Grams: AVON
K.LAL & CO.
Post Box No. 125
New Delhi- 110025
T.K.LAL & CO. Fax: 91-011-2567839
Chartered Accountants Tel: 91-011-2589669
2/85 Kidwai Nagar
THE STATE BANK OF MAHARASHTRA
Regd. Office: 10, Deshbandu Gupta Road, New Delhi – 110035
Ref. No. ___________ Dated _________
C.S.T No. DLH/B-6/8978 L.S.T No. 2002
Mfrs. & Dealers in all types of Furnitures
G-67, Kirti Nagar, New Delhi-110015
Ref. No. _________ Dated __________
(2) Sender’s Reference Number – After the letter heading there is a mention of reference number to the sender of the letter. It represents the number of file or folder where the copy of letter sent out has been kept in records. The reference number can be written/typed/printed in the following ways:
Ref. No. _________
(On left-hand side of upper portion of paper)
Or some Business Organizations make a cage and write as:
The reference number of the sender firm is denoted to easily locate the desired bill or information from the records. The format of reference number comprises of initials of firm’s name, name of department, year and then the serial number of Despatch or Outward Mail Register. These details are the fundamentals of a complete reference number. The specimen of reference number is given below:
Ref. No. XYZA/Sales/99/2345
The above reference number is quoted while responding or replying to the letter written by the sender. It helps or facilitates in locating the desired letter in less time.
2) Date – It represents the date when the letter is addressed by the sender. The date is written below the reference number or is written on the upper right hand corner of the paper. It depends upon the style or approach followed in letter writing. The date can be written in any of the fashions or style – 15/8/2007 or August 15, 2007 or 15th August 2007. In some western countries the first digit is treated as month and not day so some times it becomes confusing if the date is written in figures. The ideal way of writing the date in a business letter is 15th August 2007.
3) Inside Address – Inside Address represents the name and address of the person to whom the letter is written or addressed. It is written after the reference number and the date in a business letter and should contain the full name and address of the addressee – person or firm, number of building or plot, name of street, road, name of town and city with its pin code number. There should be no abbreviation used while addressing name and address of the addressee. The letter should be addressed in the name of firm and should have prefix ‘Messrs’ or ‘M/s’ attached with the name of the company or firm. The inside address is always written towards the left hand margin. In case of “window cover” envelops sufficient space should be left above and below the inside address. The letter is folded in such manner that the inside address is visible through the window. The inside address should be written completely and legibly.
4) Salutation – The next part after inside address is salutation. It can be describe as token of respect shown in business letter to the reader. The customary form of writing salutation in a business letter is ‘DEAR SIRS’ when we address company or firm and ‘DEAR SIR’ when we address a letter by the person’s name or designation. When it is addressed to lady we prefer to write ‘Madam’ and when it is addressed to group of ladies we prefer the salutation by ‘Mesdames’. If we address the letter to honorable dignitary or V.I.P or Highest Authority, then we may write ‘Sir’ as salutation to the letter. The salutation should be written on the left hand margin below the inside address and after leaving two-lines space. The usage of words like ‘Gentlemen’ or similar terms should be avoided as they become obsolete in present context of business world.
5) Subject Heading – It is referred to giving short title given to the subject-matter of a business letter. For example – we can have subject heading as “Supply of goods” or “Placing an order” as subject heading if we prefers to supply goods or place an order to business firm or company. The subject heading is generally written after the salutation in a business letter. In official letters we can write subject before salutation. The subject heading is preferred to be written in bold capital letters and should be underlined so that it is displayed prominently and significantly in a business letter. It can be denoted by words like ‘Sub’, ‘Reg’ or ‘Re’ and also be prefixed to the subject heading but in modern letters prefixes are avoided. The subject heading should be either written in middle or towards the left hand margin. The examples of subject headings can be described as:
Sub: Order of Goods
Quotation of Items
The subject headings should well define the contents of a business letter and should serve purpose for reader.
7) Body of a Letter – The body of a letter refers to collection of lines or paragraphs of information included in a business letter. The body of letter comprises of the following facts:
(1) Opening sentences – The opening sentences consists of few words in the beginning of a letter and they are of great importance to both sender and receiver of the letter. The opening sentences are different for different kinds of letters depending upon the subject-matter of the business letter.
(2) Paragraphs – The rest of the information is divided into suitable and convenient paragraphs and each paragraph should have close link with each other. The paragraphs should be brief, concise and should be in continuation to the subject matter.
(3) Closing sentences – The business letter is closed with a suitable and fitting closing sentence and consists of a closing suggestion from sender’s side about future course of action. It should be impressive, congenial and friendly so that it leaves a good impression on the reader. Like opening sentences, they are different for different types of letters.
8) Subscription or Complimentary Close – The ideal business letter should be closed with suitable complimentary words like “Yours Faithfully”. The other customary words used are “Yours Truely” or “Yours Sincerely” etc. the words “truly” or “affectionately” are used for personal and friendly letters while “Yours Sincerely” is used for demi-official (personal cum official) letters. The subscription or complimentary close is written at the end of the letter. It can be written either on right hand corner or on lower left hand corner of the page depending upon the style used in writing a business letter. The subscription is accompanied with the name of a company or firm and can be written or addressed as:
(For XYZ Co.)
(Space for a signature)
The business letter should be duly signed by the Authorized Signatory of the company or firm. The unsigned letter shows the negligence or unprofessional attitude of the sender and leaves a bad impression on the reader.
9) Other Miscellaneous Information – There are other matters that form part of layout of a business letter and they are as follows:
(a) Enclosures – Enclosures are referred to those paper, document, price-list, catalogues, samples etc that are enclosed or attached with the business letter. The enclosures should be clearly indicated in the letter as to how many paper or documents have been enclosed in the letter. The usual or common way of writing enclosures in a letter is as under stated:
ENCL: AS ABOVE
ENC: Cheque No. 012789 for Rs. 5000/-
If we know the exact number of enclosures then we should write down the number in words or figures or we can use the words ‘As Above’. In case of cheque or draft we should write its particulars and details. Enclosures are written on the left hand bottom corner of the end of the letter.
(b) Postscript – Postscript refers to the left over information to be incorporated in a letter and can be written at the end of the letter in a blank space available on a paper or letter head. It should be done by writing words ‘P.S’ and should be signed by authorized signatory. It is advisable to avoid writing the postscript in a business letter.
(c) Mailing Directions – If sender prefers to specify any specific direction of posting a letter like ‘Registered Mail’, ‘Registered A.D’, ‘Urgent’, ‘Confidential’ or ‘Express’, then it has to be written or typed at the top of the letter heading or in blank space available on the right hand side after the date. These notations or mailing direction should bear prominence in a letter and should be written with red ink or with bold letters.
(d) For Personal Attention – If the sender wishes to draw attention of a particular person or officer then it can be addressed as “FOR PERSONAL ATTENTION OF…” at the top of the letter or in the blank space available after the date.
(e) Carbon Copy Notations or Endorsements – If we prefer to deliver the same letter to other person or office then we prefer to take out its carbon copies and write the notations as under:
Copy to —
C.C. to —
Copy forwarded to —
The above notations are written or typed at the end of a letter. It should start from the left hand margin and may be typed on the original copy of letter or on the respective carbon copies. These notations or endorsements should be signed by the authorized signatory.