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Parts of a Letter Below is an elaboration of each of these business letter components. Return Address. Your return address or letterhead is positioned directly underneath the top margin or directly above the lower margin and includes your name and/or the name of your business, address, phone number, e-mail address, and Web site address.design Date Line. Without exception, letters must be dated in order to document the sequence of a paper trail and to provide crucial information in case a letter is considered a legally binding document. Write the date two lines below the letterhead in this order: month, day, and year (February 15, 2007), with a comma between the day and the year. International firms prefer to place the day first, followed by the month, and then the year (15 February 2007) without commas. In any case, do not abbreviate the name of the month; spell it out in full (“February” instead of “Feb.”). Inside Address. Two lines below the date line, (the name and address of the recipient of your letter) is written in the same order you will write on the envelope—the name, title (if any), company (if any), street address, city, state, and ZIP code. Specify the country if the letter is going out of the United States.design Single-space and do not use any punctuation at the ends of the lines. Ms. Angela Berg Chairperson Cherry Hill Citizens Committee 402 Society Drive Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 Write the person’s name, instead of just “Chairperson” or “Contracting Officer.” You might find the name on previous correspondence or e-mail lists. If not, check the Web site, or call the company or association (be sure to ask for the current name, correct spelling, and title). You can abbreviate courtesy titles (Ms., Mr., Dr.). Don’t abbreviate affiliation titles (Partner, Art Director, Operations Manager), civic or political titles (Chairperson, Senator), or academic titles (Professor, Assistant Professor). 24 03 graphic revised 2/12/07 4:26 PM Page 24 Salutation Line. There’s a lot to say about this short line, because it can do much to set the tone for your message. First and foremost, if you misspell or mistake the recipient’s name, you’ve lost your credibility, no matter how well the rest of your letter is written. Set two lines down from the inside address, the greeting begins with the word “Dear” followed by a courtesy title (Ms., Mr., Dr.); the reader’s last name; and ending with a colon (Dear Mr. Garcia:). You’ll see commas sometimes, but the preferred punctuation is a colon. If you are on a first-name basis with your reader, there’s no harm in writing “Dear Al” or “Dear Tracy.” Don’t include a full name in the salutation (Dear Katherine Lee:). This gives your letter the awkward appearance of a mechanical mail-merge rather than the formal but personalized look you are seeking to achieve. We’ve all gotten heaps of mass mailings in our lives and tend to associate them with trash cans and recycling bins—not the response you want.design However, there is an exception to this rule. When writing to people you don’t know who have names that might be male or female, omit the courtesy title and use both first and last names. Your reader is likely to understand that you are writing “Dear Lee O’Connor” or “Dear Terry Arness” to avoid giving offense.design You ought to try to find out the name of the person you are addressing through phone inquiries and Internet research. But let’s face it; sometimes you will be told just to send it to the committee chairperson or managing editor, or to an even less specific designation, like the Selections Committee or Human Resources. In that case, do as you have been advised. There may be a change in personnel in the offing or other reasons for addressing a title (“Dear Managing Editor”) or a group (“Dear Selections Committee”). You shouldn’t, however, use “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam,” which are the equivalent of writing “Dear Anybody.” We can think of one exception to this rule, which is when you are writing a letter of recommendation and giving it to the person to use as she pleases. Because you can’t know who will receive it, you should keep your salutation nonspecific.design