What Are Reference Initials When Writing Letters?

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Reference initials indicate who wrote a business letter.
Reference initials indicate who wrote a business letter. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Business letters are often concluded by the inclusion of reference initials. These initials are designed to serve as a reference regarding the writer of the letter, the signer and the typist. Many companies require the use of reference initials on all business letters; others do not.

Placement

The very last section of a business letter is dedicated to reference initials. These initials are always placed at the bottom of a letter, two lines below the signature block and aligned with the left margin. There may be one or more sets of reference initials.

Details

These abbreviations are used for reference purposes, so understanding the order of the initials is important to the reader of the letter; there may be one, two or three sets of initials. The signer of the letters’ initials is placed first, in all capital letters, followed by either a slash mark (/) or a colon (:). After that, the writer’s initials are written, again in all capital letters followed by a slash or colon. The typists initials are always placed last and should be lower case.

Purpose

Reference initials are used as a way of recording who wrote signed and typed a document. These initials offer a way for businesses to investigate issues regarding letters that a company sent. If a misunderstanding occurs within a letter, the reader may discover that the person writing the letter was different from the person who signed it; the writer may have missed important elements the signer of the letter wanted in the document.

Elements of Business Letters

When a company writes a business letter, it includes certain standard elements. Most companies write business letters on their letterhead stationery. The typist writes the date, the address of the addressee and the salutation. After this, the typist writes the body of the letter, the closing and includes a signature block; reference initials are considered part of the signature block. Other elements often included in business letters are a reference line, which states the purpose of the letter or what it is in regard to, or an attention line, which ensures the document reaches the correct person.

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