The Dying Art of Letter Writing - for job search etc

As I hadn't finished the story of my fax merges back in the day, I finish it here by detailing the important parts of the business letter. Cover letters for job search mail merge as well as more websites to make it happen are not forgotten.

screenshot of WinFax Pro Send Fax GUI with traditional business letter sample format superimposedVarianta în limba română pe FaṭăCarte Meta.

  • A cover letter for business has a few simple and discrete parts.
  • Mail merge is a procedure that allows to quickly send a large number of personalized letters.
  • Numerous websites make job searching a breeze – just do it!

Not long ago, I asked a relative to send a letter on my behalf. I wrote the letter in Google Docs and shared it with him. It was something like Shockingly, my relative copied the letter and pasted it in Ms Word, apparently unaware that in Google Docs you can print a document from its own menu or save it as a PDF. When copying the letter, he failed to copy other features of the letter, which suggested either that he was unaware of how the typical business letter is written, or that there is a different standard in Romania. I was unable to find info on that, so I will assume that there is the same standard – if you know differently, let me know.

It’s important to use a standard, if one exists, because people are accustomed to it and it saves time (people know where to look while quickly parsing it and where to expect key elements of the letter to be) when time is scarce (as it is in business situations).


In the anglosphere, business letters have different formats based on indentation. The simplest and most used is the “full block style” (no indentation): everything is “flush left”. You might want to indent paragraphs if writing a “friendly” letter but that is not what we usually call a business situation, and as such, not covered here.


You start your letter with your name and address. You have a choice. The simplest way is to write it in a block of text in the top left corner. However, I prefer to write my name and address in the “header” of the letter, at the very top, centered. This gets printed on every page. It’s a holdout from the days when businesses and “serious” individuals had “letterhead” stationery pre-printed, saving time to type on the typewriter the same thing. Today, it makes more sense to have that in the header of your template and print the “stationery side” as necessary. You can see the header in the letter linked above.


Next is the date of the letter. With modern word-processors you can use a self-updating field. On Google Docs, you can type @today for instance. You use words and the formatting for the country (locale) where you send the letter. For example, in English the date is typically written as Month ##, year.


You continue with the name of the addressee, followed by their title, then the company or organization, the address, and you may add other details such as Email, Phone or Fax, especially if using these ways to send the letter. If sending by snail-mail, this (name, title, company, address) will also appear on the envelope.


What typically follows is the salutation, such as “Dear Mr Candidate”. However, I typically “sandwich” the salutation in-between two important items. First, “Sent by” which indicates how the letter was sent (by Email, Regular Mail, Fax etc). I typically include the short URL ID on this line as well as the short URL ID for the confirmation (e.g., for fax). I write it as “Draft” while the letter is being written or collaborated on and it (the Sent by part) is typically formatted bold and italics. On comes the salutation (which shouldn’t need explanation).


The letter body typically starts with a brief introduction, explaining what the letter is about. However, before even that I include a subject line, which I underline. This gives me the freedom to be more detailed in the intro. After the intro paragraph, on comes the main paragraph, where the substance of the letter resides, and then the conclusion, which may be an expression of gratitude for attention or, if it’s a legal “situation”, some kind of “legal” statement.


You then close the letter. This is quite standard, something like “yours truly”, “sincerely yours” etc, followed by your name. If you’re printing it out, you typically type your name at more than single space from the actual closing, to leave space for your signature, which should be on top of your typed name. Underneath your name you write Enclosures (#), if enclosing anything, such as a resume, with the number of pages, then on a separate line CC: Name, if you are also sending someone else a “Courtesy Copy” and finally your initials if typing for someone else (often, typist initials: AUTHOR INITIALS). You don’t use italics here.

There are numerous guides to writing letters, if you need more than the above. I’d start with aom-h2wal and / or the video (yt-hw), but you can also check out the Chicago Manual of Style (cms-org) or APA’s (apa-style) for much more.


There’s a good chance that you need all this stuff on letter writing in order to write a cover letter for a resume. That is also how I ended up using my Winfax Pro setup most of the time. If that’s what brought you here and you also read books, go get Martin Yate’s Knock’em Dead (3n4BQpn) – it’s the job seeker’s bible. If you can’t get that book, try jh-clc or ae-uclmy – these are resources that lead to more of his writing elsewhere.

I was able to send hundreds of resumes daily (with a personalized cover letter) using fax merge which is a form of mail merge by fax. It’s useful to go through that exercise because today you can do pretty much the same thing.

Back then, I would go through job ads, then enter in my database the fields necessary to write the fax cover letter and keep track of the ad, such as salutation (sal) interviewer first name (fname), interviewer last name (lname), interviewer title (title), company (emp), ad date (adate), where was the ad published (where), remuneration (salary), requirements (req), how I fit them (fit), address (address), fax number (fax), website (web), email (email), phone (ph). You then create a form letter much like utx-smpl and enter the fields to be replaced in the mail merge. Some fields don’t have to be entered – for instance, if you send the letter by fax or email, there’s no need to take up space with the actual address. Likewise, you use the salary / req fields for your own records and to prepare for the interview if you make it – there’s no need to put that in the letter. I used something like the fit field in a paragraph in my form letter following the sentence “I am an excellent fit for this position because ” (i.e., I’d write that half-sentence in the database for every job ad and that was key to hiring).

The idea of applying by fax may seem funny today, but when faxing from a computer the quality is typically laser-like, and a fax gets to the interviewer as fast as an email, with the advantage of being pre-printed – i.e., the interviewer does not have to print the email; this is an inherent advantage that should not be overlooked. Still, today I’d probably just do an email merge in Google Docs, as explained by Kevin Stratvert (yt-ks) and (dg-mm).

It’s important to remember that for entry-level jobs and internships you might be better off going directly for the interview, at the first opportunity, as EGA explains in Vice (vc-ega). Some jobs websites may be able to help even more – for instance, ejobs have their own special number (ej-crr). In Romania (where it’s worth getting started, for the exercise if not fo’ shizzle), such sites are olx, jobzz, dc, at, jooble, ejobs, hipo, jobslist (I haven’t tried any of these, only did a quick search).

In the aforementioned article I didn’t mention 3rd party recruiters (agencies) for Canada because they keep part of your earnings. Here’s a quick list: Manpower (I once worked on a contract through these guys), Randstad, HuntP, Miles, PristineL, Apple1.

LE: Let me reiterate that I don’t recommend Microsoft Word under any circumstances. The best word processor is in the cloud and it’s called Google Docs. If you need encryption you can use mine. If you really need something on your computer, use LibreOffice.

Good luck!

Sources / More info: aom-h2wal, yt-hw, cms-org, apa-style, amzn-myked, jh-clc, ae-uclmy, dg-mm, yt-ks, utx-smpl, vc-ega, ej-crr


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