Fonts, spacing and margins
A great cover letter is also defined by proper use of margins, white space, and font style and size.
Not all fonts work well on cover letters. Some, like Times New Roman, are easy to read while others, such as , and are not. Remember your cover letter has to be both professional and easy to read, so choose one of the standard business-style fonts: , , or and use only that font throughout.
Font size matters, too! Most business writing experts and professional cover letter writers recommend using 11- or 12-point fonts because those sizes are easiest for most people to read.
Spacing and alignment
Cover letters should have one space between lines of text and between words; two spaces between paragraphs; and two spaces between each section.
Margins and alignment
The standard rule of thumb for cover letters is that margins should be 1 inch and text should be in standard business letter block format, in which text is aligned to the left of a document. Some designs allow headers to be centered or right-aligned, but always align the salutation, body and complimentary close to the left.
Cover letter examples and templates
Here are some examples and styles demonstrating how to properly format a cover letter, paying particular attention to fonts, space and margins, as well as paragraph treatments within each cover letter.
Tips for properly formatting a cover letter
Follow instructions. Read the job description carefully. Some employers prefer cover letters written in the body of an email rather than attached, and others might want you to send your cover letter through postal mail or via their online application system. That said, digital cover letters and resumes have become standard, so if you’re not instructed otherwise, attach your cover letter along with your resume to an email message.
File format matters. If you are sending your cover letter digitally, then you need to know which file format to use when saving it. Employers sometimes specifically ask for a particular file format and reject cover letters sent in a different one, so to be safe, save your document as a PDF unless otherwise indicated in the ad.
The PDF file format is the safest bet because:
It is compatible with most systems, browsers and applications;
It is easy for applicant tracking systems (ATS) — software companies use to scan cover letters and resumes for the best matches to job descriptions — to read; and
Because they can’t be altered, so your formatting and content are preserved.
Give it a proper name. Naming your cover letter file is an important part of overall formatting — it’s got to be legible and professional. For best results, use the standard convention: your first and last name, the job title you are applying for, and close it with “cover letter.” Put spaces and/or dashes or underscores in between each part to make it easy to read.
Jane Doe_Medical Assistant_Cover Letter
Pat Sommer — History Teacher — Cover Letter
Use an email address that sounds and looks professional, like: YourName@email.com, Your_Name@email.com and Your-Name@email.com; not SoccerMom20@email.com or Golfer517@email.com. Remember to use a professional email address in your cover letter’s contact information as well.
Write a relevant subject line if you send your letter by email. Otherwise your cover letter may go to the employer’s spam or trash folders without ever being read.
Read the instructions in the job description. Employers often specify what they want applicants to write in an email subject line.
Be clear. Specify why you are writing along with your name and the job you are applying for; something like: “Construction Job Inquiry — Joe Smith or “Receptionist Job Application — Sam Jones.”
Keep it short. The Nielsen Norman Group recommends that you limit your subject line to 40 characters.
Proofread it! Even one typo could cost you the interview.
Don’t forget to add a message for the hiring manager to explain why you are contacting them if you are attaching your cover letter to an email. Your message should be brief and to the point. Just let the employer know in two short paragraphs that you are writing with interest in the position and that your resume and cover letter are attached. You might also let them know how you can be contacted should they require additional information.
T-format cover letter variation
If you have over 20 years of experience or if you have a highly specialized job, such as a small-aircraft technician, you might want to put the focus on your skills and show employers exactly how each one matches the job requirements. You can do this easily with a T-format cover letter.
To create a T-format cover letter:
Add a header to the top of a blank document, followed by the date, employer’s name and address, and a salutation.
Write a one-paragraph introduction below the salutation.
Divide the rest of the page into two columns — one with a bulleted list of the job requirements (with Your Job Requirements as the header) and the other with a list of your qualifications (with My Qualifications as the header).
Wrap it up with a paragraph that summarizes your interest with confidence and an invitation to connect with the hiring manager.
Conclude with a professional and respectful closing statement like “Respectfully yours,” for example, and your name. If you are mailing your letter via post then hand-sign it above your typed name.