Volume 50, Issue 4 (July 2005)
A Study of Business Letter Features
As part of their work, forensic document examiners examine word processed letters. The purpose of this study, the first of its kind, was to determine how common or rare certain features are in word-processed business letters and if any of these features could determine the author or source. Initially, 114 original business letters were obtained that were dated from 1999 through 2003. Specific features of the letters were selected for examination. These features were letter format, type style, the point size of the font, margin spacing to ascertain the use or nonuse of the default margins for Word (1.25 in. nonjustified) and the default margins for WordPerfect (1 in. nonjustified). In addition, the research involved the examination of the right margins to determine if they were justified or not and the use of the comma or colon in the salutation of the letter. The features of each letter were independently examined by the authors and the findings documented. As expected, several features were found to be very common. For example, full block format was used on 48% of the letters followed by the semi-block with 39%. The Times Family of fonts was used on 67% of the letters. Font point size 12 was the most popular with 70%. The nonjustified default margins were widespread with 67% and the colon was the overwhelming favorite in the salutation with 79%. There were some unexpected findings that could possibly lead to the identification of a source or typist.