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Cover letter Formatting Basics

Format a cover letter like a standard business letter:

Administrative Assistant Centered CoverLetter
  • Margins

    The side, top and bottom margins should be one inch all the way around.

  • Font type and size

    Stick to a point size of 12 and a standard font that’s easy to read like Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial.

  • Line and paragraph spacing

    Your cover letter should be single-spaced, with a double-space between paragraphs.

  • Text alignment

    The text on the letter should be left-justified.

  • Length

    Your cover letter should be one page and between 250 and 500 words.

  • File format

    It’s crucial to save your cover letter in a readable format. The best way to do this is to save it as a PDF file, unless the job posting asks for a different format.

How to Correctly Format Your Cover Letter

Slide left for the “wrong” cover letter, slide right for the “right” cover letter.

Salutation

It’s best to be straightforward and use “Dear,” rather than “Hello,” or “Hi,” even if you’re addressing someone you know in the company. If you’re contacting someone for the first time, use formal titles such as “Mr.,” “Ms.,” and “Dr.” Always address the letter to a specific person when you can, rather than going with “Dear hiring manager” or “To whom it may concern.” For more tips in this area, see our article Who to Address in Your Cover Letter.

Opening

Keep your opening paragraph to a few crisp sentences. Rather than just stating the obvious, such as “I’m interested in applying to job X,” grab the hiring manager’s attention by making your pitch: a brief rundown of who you are and why you think you’re a good fit for the job. Establish your enthusiasm and positivity about the opportunity. Read our article Writing the Perfect Cover Letter Opening for more advice.

body

This is the time to tell your story: Get more detailed about your best skills and career experiences, and explain why they help fill what the new job requires. You can do this in the paragraph, with a sentence followed by bullet points or a paragraph with bullet points.

The body is also your chance to show you’ve done your homework and mention specific aspects of the job and the company that attract you. As with the opening paragraph, keep each of your body paragraphs concise (three to four sentences at most).

closing

As they say in show business, leave them wanting more — conclude your letter by reiterating your enthusiasm for the new job, but also tell employers you’re excited to further discuss your qualifications. Finish by requesting a follow-up call or interview, putting the ball back in the hiring manager’s court. Finally, use a simple, formal phrase such as “Best regards,” or “Sincerely,” for your sign-off. Our article How to Write a Killer Cover Letter Conclusion gives some more examples of how to finish with a flourish.

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For a more detailed guide with examples, read our How to Write a Cover Letter page.

How To Format Your Cover Letter for an Email

If you are going to email a cover letter, you will follows the same cover letter formatting standards we explained above. You begin with a salutation such as:

Email Cover Letter

Don’t forget this information — the recruiter or hiring manager you’re writing to needs to know the best way to contact you. Make sure to list the position you are applying for in the subject line of your email, and spell-check your email before you send it.

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Cover Letter Templates That Save You Time

Instead of creating your cover letter from scratch, use one of our professional cover letter templates. They’re pre-formatted correctly and are a breeze to make your own.

Cover Letter Examples To Get Inspired

Explore our library of cover letter examples, sorted by different scenarios, industries and job titles.

Bartender

Restaurant Manager

Dental Assistant

Customer Service Representative

How our Cover Letter Builder helps you

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    Job-specific examples

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    Step-by-step guidance

    Our builder contains expert cover letter tips to help you feature the right content in your letter — every step of the way.

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    Create and save as many versions of your cover letter as you want.

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    Complements your resume’s look

    Create a unified “look” for your job application by using our Resume Builder to create a resume that complements your cover letter’s design.

  • Export In Seconds

    Export in seconds

    When you’re done with your cover letter, download it to your computer as a PDF, plain text file, Word document, SVG, or JPEG.