When it comes to crafting the perfect cover letter, job seekers often wonder about the finer details, such as whether or not to indent paragraphs. The answer to this question is simple: No, you do not need to indent paragraphs in a cover letter. By not indenting your paragraphs, you create a cleaner, more modern format and save space to discuss your qualifications and skills. This article will dive deeper into formatting best practices for a polished and professional cover letter. We'll begin by exploring the history of indentation in formal writing, discuss different cover letter styles, and then delve into the best practices for formatting a cover letter that will leave a lasting impression on potential employers.

The History of Indentation in Formal Writing

Indentation has been a hallmark of formal writing for centuries, with its roots in the ancient practice of beginning each paragraph with a decorative initial letter. As writing evolved, indentation served to visually separate paragraphs and create a clear structure within a document. However, as technology and design preferences have progressed, the use of indentation in modern writing has diminished. The shift away from indentation can be attributed to the rise of digital communication and the preference for cleaner, more streamlined document formatting. As a result, current formatting trends in cover letters have moved away from indentation, opting instead for a more contemporary approach.

Cover Letter Styles

There are various cover letter styles, each with their own formatting guidelines, but indentation is generally not necessary in modern cover letters. Below, we'll detail three common cover letter styles:

  1. Full-block style: This style features left-aligned text without indentation, and is considered the most modern and clean format. In a full-block style cover letter, all elements of the letter are aligned with the left margin, creating a streamlined appearance.

  2. Modified-block style: Similar to the full-block style, the modified-block style also has left-aligned text without indentation. However, the date, your closing, and your signature are aligned with the right margin, creating a slightly more traditional look.

  3. Modified-block style with indented paragraphs: This style is less common in modern job applications, and is characterized by right-aligned dates, closings, and signatures, as well as indented paragraphs. While this style may be considered more traditional, it is less popular due to the preference for cleaner, non-indented formats.

The full-block and modified-block styles without indentation are the most prevalent formats in modern job applications, with the former being the most widely preferred.

Formatting Best Practices

Proper formatting, including spacing, margins, and alignment, is crucial for creating a professional and polished cover letter. Here are some best practices to follow:

  1. Length: Keep your cover letter to one page, focusing on your most relevant qualifications and experiences.

  2. Spacing: Single-space your cover letter, but add a blank line between each section of your cover letter, such as after your address, the date, their address, your salutation, and each paragraph (source).

  3. Margins: Use one-inch margins on all sides of your cover letter to maintain a clean and balanced appearance.

  4. Alignment: Align your text to the left margin for a full-block style cover letter, or use a combination of left and right alignment for a modified-block style cover letter.

By adhering to these formatting best practices, you'll create a cover letter that is visually appealing and easy to read, without the need for indentation.

The Impact of Correct Formatting

The way you format your cover letter can have a significant impact on the reader's perception of you as a candidate. A well-formatted cover letter is easier to read and demonstrates your attention to detail and professionalism. For example, a hiring manager once shared a story about two equally qualified candidates; however, one had a poorly formatted cover letter with inconsistent spacing, while the other's was perfectly formatted. The hiring manager ultimately chose the candidate with the impeccably formatted cover letter, as it showcased their professionalism and attention to detail.

In some cases, employers may specify their preferred formatting for cover letters in the job posting. It's crucial to adhere to these preferences, as it shows that you can follow instructions and care about meeting the employer's requirements. Moreover, a properly formatted cover letter creates a positive first impression, which is vital in setting the tone for the rest of your application.

Common Formatting Mistakes to Avoid

Being aware of common formatting mistakes in cover letters can help you avoid potential pitfalls and create a polished, professional document. Some of these mistakes include:

  1. Inconsistent spacing: Ensure that the spacing between paragraphs and sections is consistent throughout your cover letter.

  2. Inappropriate font choice: Stick to professional, easy-to-read fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri, and avoid using overly stylized or decorative fonts.

  3. Excessive or insufficient margins: Maintain one-inch margins on all sides of your cover letter for a balanced appearance.

  4. Incorrect alignment: Ensure that your text is aligned correctly, whether you're using a full-block or modified-block style cover letter.

  5. Overuse of bold, italics, or underlining: Use these formatting tools sparingly to emphasize specific points, but don't overdo it, as it can make your cover letter appear cluttered.

Proofreading and editing your cover letter for formatting errors is essential to ensure a polished final product. Additionally, seeking feedback from trusted sources, such as friends or career counselors, can help you identify and correct any formatting issues before submitting your application. By avoiding common mistakes and adhering to formatting best practices, you'll create a cover letter that leaves a lasting impression on potential employers.


In conclusion, indentation is not necessary in modern cover letters, and proper formatting can greatly impact the reader's perception of the applicant. This article has provided a comprehensive overview of the history of indentation in formal writing, various cover letter styles, formatting best practices, the impact of correct formatting, real-life examples of well-formatted cover letters, expert opinions, and common formatting mistakes to avoid.

To reiterate, you do not need to indent paragraphs in a cover letter. Instead, focus on adhering to formatting best practices, such as consistent spacing, appropriate font choice, and one-inch margins. By following the guidance provided in this article, you can create a polished, professional cover letter that effectively showcases your qualifications and skills, ultimately increasing your chances of securing the job you desire.

As you embark on your job search, remember the importance of creating a well-formatted cover letter and the impact it can have on your application. With attention to detail and a commitment to excellence, you'll be well on your way to crafting a cover letter that stands out from the competition. Good luck on your job search journey!