Cover letter spacing — it’s the invisible part of your effort to make a striking first impression in a job search. What isn’t seen on the page is pivotal to whether readers pay any attention to what they do see. The starkness of black text on white alone won’t do it. But the amount and distribution of white space can have a make-or-break impact on how your carefully crafted wording comes across.
Let’s take a closer look at why cover letter spacing is a vital formatting consideration. It should never be an afterthought, nor approached half-heartedly. Here’s what we’ll discuss:
- Why is cover letter spacing important?
- How can you optimize white space?
- Simple guidelines for cover letter spacing
- Cover letter spacing examples
- Cover letter spacing for printed or pdf documents
- Cover letter spacing in the body of an email
Why is cover letter spacing important?
Cover letter spacing is important for the same reason white space is considered your best friend when designing and formatting any document. It’s about a negative element on the page — nothing at all — having a positive impact. The absence of text naturally draws the reader’s eye to where the text appears. As a visual lure, this makes the page inviting to read. Experts contend that the uncluttered result can actually be calming.
Most of us know what “I need space” means when someone is feeling stifled, physically or psychologically. Have you ever pondered the fact that words on a page need space too? On the written page, both literally and figuratively, white space is as vital as the air that we breathe. “White space is about letting your writing and your reader breathe,” says Writers Write blog author Mia Botha. “When your text forms a solid block it overwhelms your reader. The reader is negative about it before they even begin to read.”
How can you optimize white space?
The layout, design, and formatting of a document have a bearing on the amount of white space surrounding blocks of text on all sides, between lines of text, and between words or even characters.
Adjustments to the following formatting settings will affect the spacing of cover letter text.
- Margins — the most obvious white space areas on any document, framing the text on all outer edges of the page
- Indents — space between the margin (usually left) and text, typically to indicate a new paragraph or to format bullet points or numbered lists
- Line spacing — the separation between lines of text in a paragraph, typically single-spaced or double-spaced but can also be customized incrementally in between
- Paragraph spacing — the amount of space between paragraphs
- Text alignment — right, left, centered or justified alignment of text block edges in relation to the side margins
Here are some other ideas for adding white space to your cover letters.
- Use bullet points, or even numbered lists, in the middle section to highlight impressive achievements, in quantifiable terms if possible. Three to five listed points are ideal.
- Vary the length of your sentences by not shying away from shorter ones and breaking up longer ones.
- Break apart paragraphs so each focuses on only one point. This will add variety to the amount of white space between paragraph endings and the right margin.
Simple guidelines for cover letter spacing
We’ll start with general spacing guidelines that apply to all cover letters, whether printed, submitted online as a pdf, or placed in the body of an email. Then we’ll look at differences in the guidelines for print, pdf, or email cover letters.
Cover letter spacing for printed, pdf, and email formats
- Single-space your cover letter text within paragraphs or address sections.
- Skip a line in between paragraphs, before and after the salutation, and before the sign-off (e.g., Sincerely, Regards).
For our purposes in this blog, single-spaced cover letter text more accurately means not double-spaced. Often, depending on the font and word count, the single-spaced default setting may be too tight and create an imbalance of text-dense areas and white space on the page.
Changing the line space setting to 1.5 is a commonly recommended alternative. That’s one of the preset options available using Word and Google Docs, which both enable you to customize line space settings as well.
- Do not indent the first line of paragraphs. The space between paragraphs makes that unnecessary.
- Use an easy-to-read font such as Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, or Georgia, in a font size between 10 and 12 points. Experiment with different styles and sizes, always aiming for optimal legibility.
- Keep your cover letter short — ideally 250 to 350 words, and never more than 400 words. Following an outline of the key cover letter sections — introduction, middle paragraphs and closing — can help you stay focused and concise while still covering everything you need to say.
- Always use the left text alignment setting (sometimes called left-justified or ragged right). This creates extra white space at the right-margin end of most lines, which guides the reader’s eye from one line to the next. It also enhances your cover letter’s overall visual appeal and reader-friendliness.
The justified text alignment setting — giving your text blocks straight edges on both left and right sides — should not be used in job application documents because it’s detrimental to legibility. Forcing all lines of text to be the same horizontal length causes erratic gaps between characters and words. This unnaturally “trapped” white space makes the text more difficult to read.
Cover letter spacing for a printed or pdf document
In addition to the general guidelines above, line and paragraph spacing for a printed or pdf cover letter are as follows:
- Your name, occupation, and contact information section is single-spaced.
- Skip a line before and after the date.
- The recipient’s name, title, and address section is single-spaced.
- Skip a line before and after the salutation, introduction and middle section, and closing paragraph.
- Skip three lines below the sign-off (e.g., Sincerely, Regards).*
- Your name and title are single-spaced.
* A three-line gap allows you to insert a handwritten signature on a printed hard copy of your cover letter. If the letter is being sent electronically as a pdf, you have the option of placing a scanned digital signature, but it’s not necessary or expected. If you don’t, just skip one space below the sign-off.
Eye-pleasing header adds bonus white space
A distinctive cover letter header adds a personal branding touch that sets your job application apart from the rest. And it also has built-in spacing benefits, drawing the reader’s eye to where your name, occupation, and contact information appear on the page. This is offset from your letter’s body text by white space, making the page much more inviting to read.
Cover letter margins should be consistent with the standard for business documents — one inch on all sides — which is also the default Word and Google Docs setting.
Cover letter spacing for an email message
The subject line should indicate your name and the position you are applying for.
Otherwise, in the top part of your letter, there is no need for your contact information, the recipient’s name and address, or the date. The letter thus begins with the salutation.
After the sign-off, skip one space before adding your name, occupation and contact information, single-spaced. Or, you can skip two or three spaces if you opt to insert a digital signature.
Otherwise, the same general guidelines apply regarding single-spaced text components, space between paragraphs or sections, left alignment, and font legibility.
Should cover letters ever be double-spaced?
The answer to this frequently asked question is “no.” Cover letters should not be double-spaced the way many of us associate with school essays.
Cover letter spacing examples
Letter document format
Below is a sample cover letter you can customize, for printing a hard copy or sending online as a pdf attachment.
Somewhere Drive, Chicago, IL 60643
Phone: (312) 555-5555
August 6, 2022
Ms. B. Speedie
Go Now Airlines
Thereway Road, Chicago, IL 60642
Dear Ms. Speedie,
Having clocked over 2,500 hours in both long and short-haul flights and having acquired six years of experience as a flight attendant, I’ve learned that a variety of passengers bring with them a variety of challenges. I take pride in excelling in every aspect of customer service.
In my six years at Wings, I was involved in change initiatives across pre-flight, in-flight, and post-flight customer service. From the moment passengers walk up to the check-in desk to the moment they leave the airport, they associate their experience with your airline. Ensuring their well-being, safety, and comfort at every stage is our job. I received 97% positive recognition from passenger surveys and consistently high ratings from my team.
I hold all of the relevant certifications, including the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency. I am an advanced first aid provider and I helped lead the Wings training on emergency response. I have coordinated the in-flight and air-to-ground responses to terrorist threats, abusive passengers, and (more happily) multiple childbirths. I have passed my experience on to over 170 flight attendants and value my role as a leader in the cabin crew.
My contributions have made a broader impact on Wings, in ways I hope to replicate in the future:
- Designed a more efficient boarding protocol — speeding up procedures by 16%
- Improved customer satisfaction metrics by 12% on long-haul flights
- Updated the cabin crew first-aid manual after noticing deficiencies in advice
Putting passenger needs first is at the heart of everything that I do. The most-common passenger feedback describes me as warm-hearted, soothing, and attentive. Being professional in the air does not preclude being caring.
I would love to hear more about the Go Now Airlines culture in a potential interview.
Below is an email cover letter example you can modify as appropriate.
SUBJECT: Daniel Drake — Human Resources Director Position
Dear Ms. Fair,
I would like to convey my genuine interest in being considered for the Human Resources Director position at the Gromwell Group. During the last eight years, I have had the pleasure of serving as an HR Administrator for two of the busiest staffing firms in New York.
My wealth of experience has instilled a unique passion for the human resources field, where I have found my strengths are most needed and best applied. I am highly skilled in overseeing HR systems, handling employee relations, and ensuring compliance with all rules and regulations.
My research tells me that the Gromwell Group has earned the "Top Staffing Agency" award two times in the last seven years. I am not surprised, as I am well aware of the reputation Gromwell has for expending the time and effort to provide clients with high-quality services.
Is there a time we can arrange to further discuss the value I can bring to the Gromwell Group as Human Resources Director? I hope to hear from you soon about this wonderful opportunity.
Human Resources Director
Key takeaways for cover letter spacing
- Cover letter spacing is integral to the recipient’s overall first impression and willingness to read any or all of the text.
- White space around and in between lines of text provides “breathing space” for both the reader and the writer’s words.
- There are many ways to ensure cover letter spacing enhances legibility, including line and paragraph spacing adjustments, one-inch margins, left text alignment, and brevity.
- Start building your cover letter with our well-designed cover letter templates.