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Guide to Writing Effective Formal Letters: Format, Tips and Techniques

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Elina

08 June, 2024

Guide to Writing Effective Formal Letters: Format, Tips and Techniques

Writing a formal letter in English is something we come across now and then in our everyday lives. Whether you write a letter for your job or submit a formal complaint, writing an effective formal letter ensures that your message is conveyed clearly and captures the recipient’s attention.

If you want to craft an understandable, to-the-point, and engaging letter, we have everything you’ll ever need to write a formal letter in English.

Let’s dig deeper and understand how to write a well-structured and businesslike formal letter.

What is a Formal Letter?

A formal letter is a type of formal communication in writing that follows a set structure and tone to address the recipient. Specific elements must be included in a formal letter, such as the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, the subject of the letter, a formal greeting, and a closing statement.

We must follow a defined format, have a clear objective, and maintain a professional tone to avoid any vagueness or confusion. Remember, how we express ourselves can shape the recipient’s perception of us and influence our relationship in the long run.

When To Use A Formal Letter?

Many of us wonder, what occasions demand us to write a letter in a formal tone with a set format? Well, we use formal letters in different kinds of business communication, such as writing letters to officials, dignitaries, office colleagues, and business partners.

We do not write formal letters when communicating with personal acquaintances like friends, relatives, and family members. Informal letters are more casual and personal, while formal letters are professional.

Types Of Formal Letters

There are different kinds of formal letters depending on their purpose and the audience. Here are some examples:

  • Cover Letter

  • Business Letter

  • Inquiry Letter

  • Acceptance Letter

  • Termination Letter

  • Letter of Recommendation

  • Sales Letter

  • Making a Claim Letter

  • Apology Letter

  • Thank You Letter

When Do You Send a Formal Letter?

Formal letters are sent on occasions that require a professional approach or official communication. Here are some examples when you need to draft a formal letter:

  • Applying for a Job Position

  • Formally Requesting information from an organisation

  • Registering Complaints

  • Communicating to Govt. Agencies

  • Executing Official Business Transactions

Difference Between Formal and Informal Letter

The difference between a formal and informal letter is discussed below:

Aspect Formal Letter Informal Letter
Purpose Used for Official or Professional communication Used for casual interaction
Audience Addressed to Organisations or officials with whom there is a professional relationship. Addressed to friends, family or acquaintances with whom there is a personal connection.
Tone Polite, respectful, professional Casual, friendly, informal
Language Formal language with no slang Slangs or informal expressions is allowed
Structure Follows a well-structured format (address, salutations, body, signature) No fixed structure, lack of formalities
Length Concise, to-the-point, short More lengthy and can include personal anecdotes
Content Contains formal greetings and closings Often begins with informal salutations like Hi or Dear [Name]

What are the Parts of a Formal Letter?

There are specific elements you need to incorporate while writing a formal letter. The different parts of a formal letter are discussed below:

  • Header: The header part in a formal letter includes the following:

  • Date: When you write a formal letter, it is important to mention the date of writing. This information is crucial for time-sensitive information.

  • Recipient’s Address: Write the recipients’ complete address, including their P.O. Box Number. Make sure you write it accurately.

  • Sender’s Address: Include your company’s full address. This greatly serves when the recipient wants to send back a response.

  • Salutation: In the formal letter, the standard salutation is “Dear”, followed by the recipient’s first and last name. Begin with Dear [recipient’s full name] and a common.

    In case you don’t know the recipient’s name, you may address it to their official designation or title.

  • Body of the Letter:

    The body has the main text of the letter. In the body paragraphs, the sender outlines the purpose of the letter. It generally includes 3 sections:

    • An introductory paragraph that states the main intent/purpose of the letter.

    • One or more paragraphs are included to discuss the subject matter in greater detail. One must organise this section to address each point clearly so that the overall message conveyed makes sense and remains engaging.

    • A final paragraph that summarises the key points of the letter. This may involve suggesting a meeting or requesting a response to resolve the matter at the earliest. The final paragraph is also appropriate to say thanks or express gratitude to the recipient for their time and attention.

  • Closing:

    Once you complete the body section, it is time to close the letter with a simple and professional sign-off. Add one of the following as a polite sign-off:

    • Yours Sincerely

    • Best Regards

    • Respectfully

  • Signature:

    The final component of your formal letter is your signature. It includes your full name, and official designation (if relevant).

How to Write a Formal Letter in Easy Steps

Formal letter writing in English need not be daunting or intimidating. Here’s a tried and true method to efficiently write a formal letter. Follow these easy and simple steps to readily structure a formal letter as per your requirement.

  • Plan Your Message

Before you start, make sure you have clarity about the letter’s purpose. A clear understanding of the message would help the recipient to connect well. Ponder on these points:

    • What is the primary subject matter?
    • What are you hoping to achieve with this letter?
    • Who is Your audience?
  • Heed To A Proper Format

Formal letters have a specific layout to make them look effective and professional. It includes the sender’s address, date, recipient’s address, salutation, body, closing and signature. Adding all these in your formal letter is a must.

Furthermore, while writing a formal letter in English, keep the following points in mind:

    • Align your text to the left and use a professional font like Times New Roman or Ariel

    • Keep your words single-spaced with a blank between the paragraphs.

    • There should be a 2-3-inch margin at the top and bottom of the letter and a 1-inch margin on both sides.

  • Write A Concise & Clear Opening

Don’t choose to write a lengthy introduction. Your opening paragraph should be crisp, short and to the point. It should clearly state the purpose of your letter.

  • Develop The Body

In the body, write thoroughly about your request, query or information that you are conveying. Discuss each point in separate paragraphs to keep your letter easy to read and engaging. Add specific examples or facts to support your statement.

  • Conclude Your Letter Effectively

Summarise the key takeaways of your letter and clearly state what actions you expect from your recipient. This may include a reply by a certain date or a meeting request.

Don’t forget to finish your letter with a polite closing such as “Yours Sincerely”, “Yours Respectfully” or “Best Regards”, followed by your signature and a printed name.

  • Review & Proofread Your Letter

Before sending your letter, you must take time to proofread. Ensure that your document is free from grammatical, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Check the tone of your writing to make it sound professional and polite.

Formal Letter Template

[Sender Name]

[Sender Address]

[Sender Email Address]

[Sender Mobile Number]

[Letter Date]

 

[Recipient’s Name]

[Recipient’s Company]

[Recipient’s Address]

 

Dear xx,

[Opening: Introduce yourself and write the purpose of the letter.]

[Body: Discuss the main points of your letter. Write in detail on each topic to make it understandable and easy to grasp.]

[Closing: Summarize the key points, and express your gratitude]

 

Respectfully,

[Your Name]

[Your Signature]

Example of Formal Letter Writing in English

Here’s an example:

 

Sudhir Sharma

157 Jyoti Tower

Mahatma Road, Bengaluru – 560041

 

May 23, 2024

 

Ms. Nisha Jain

Unicorn Miracles

114 Modi Tower

Nehru Place, New Delhi – 110019

 

Dear Ms. Jain,

 

Subject: Application for Content Writer Position at Unicorn Miracles

I am writing to express my interest in the position of Content Writer at Unicorn Miracles. I came across your job opening at your careers page and I believe that I would be the right fit for the job role. I would like to know about the position in detail.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication, from which I developed a solid foundation in research, writing, and editing. Over the last 3.5 years, I have honed my skills to create high-value content that engages the audience. I write articles, blog posts, web content, press releases, social media posts and case studies. I sincerely believe that my skills and passion would be a great addition to the content team at Unicorn Miracles. Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Sudhir Sharma (Your Signature for a hard copy letter)

Sudhir Sharma

9987xxxxx4

[email protected]

 

Enclosure: Resume

Common Mistakes To Avoid in Formal Letter Writing in English

When writing a formal letter, it is important to avoid some common mistakes that can leave a wrong impression on your reader. Take note of the common mistakes:

  • Avoid sounding too casual. Do not use informal phrasing, slang or jokes.

  • Avoid using inconsistent formatting.

  • Do not fail to proofread your draft before sending it.

  • Be mindful that you do not use any outdated or incorrect information.

  • Omit a Call-to-action

Abbreviations Used in Formal Letter Writing

Several abbreviations are commonly used in formal letters. Know all these abbreviations in detail:

Abbreviations What Do They Mean
AKA Also known as – Used to introduce an alternative name
ASAP As Soon As Possible – Used to indicate the urgency of a situation
BCC Blind Carbon Copy – Similar to “CC” but the recipient’s name will not be visible to other recipients.
CC Carbon Copy – When you send a copy of the letter to more than one person
COB Close of Business – Specifies that a task or response is expected by the end of the business day
Enc. Enclosure – Used to indicate that additional documents are attached to the letter.
EOD End of Day – Specifies that a task is expected by the end of the workday
ETA Estimated Time of Arrival – Indicates the expected time of arrival for the package or person or anything
FYI For Your Information – Used to share information without expecting any specific response
N/A Not Applicable – Indicates that something does not apply to the given context.
PS Postscript – Used when you want to include any additional thought or message at the end of the letter (after the signature)
Re: Regarding – Indicates that the letter is about a particular subject or previous correspondence
RSVP Répondez s’il vous plaît – French abbreviation – Meaning “please respond”
TBD To Be Determined – Indicates that a decision or information is yet to be finalised.
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions – Indicates a list of common or commonly asked questions.

Tips On Formal Letter Writing In English

To enhance the quality of your formal letter, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Be Crisp and to the point

Be clear about the purpose of your letter. Keep it crisp, and short so that the recipient gets clarity when he reads it.

  • Use a  Professional Tone

Use a positive and formal tone while writing your piece. You need to be respectful and polite in your language. This will help your recipient get a better perception of you.

  • Use a Proper Format

A formal letter needs to include all the necessary elements like name, address, sign and more as discussed above in the blog.

  • Proofread

Once you finish writing, ensure that you proofread your draft 1-2 times to avoid any formatting or language errors.

Final Thoughts

Hope you have gained insights about formal letter writing in English. If you follow all the steps of writing a professional letter, you will easily be able to convey your thoughts clearly and respectfully.

Remember the way you present your words not only influences the recipient’s perception but also helps you maintain a long-term business relationship with an individual/organisation.

So, practice and pay attention to details to craft a flawless formal letter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How do I start writing a formal letter?

To start writing a formal letter, first, you should know who you are writing to and what is the purpose of your letter. You can start drafting your formal letter with your sender’s name and address to the top left, followed by the date.

Q2. What are the types of letter writing?

Letter writing is mainly classified into 2 types – Formal Letter and Informal Letter. A formal letter is written for official purposes while an informal letter is written to friends and family.

Q3. How to write a Resignation Letter?

A Resignation Letter is a formal letter. So follow all the parts that a formal letter includes such as the sender’s Address along with the Date, Receiver’s Address, Salutation, Body of the Letter, Close and Signature.


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