How to write a formal letter in English? In the work environment, one of the key skills that any professional will need is the ability to write a formal letter. As with face-to-face social interactions, written communication has a series of rules that must be followed in order to maintain a certain level of professionalism. However, by keeping these rules in mind, one is sure to write a formal letter that will impress any reader.
How to Write A Formal Letter
The Format of A Formal Letter
Any good letter is made up of a series of key components: the heading, the information of the recipient, a salutation, the body of the letter, and a closing and signature.
A letter’s heading is the uppermost section of a letter and the first thing that a reader sees. This section is composed of your own personal information: your address or the address of the institution you represent, and the date. In some cases, you may also include your full name or the name of the company that you represent and relevant contact information, such as a telephone number or email address. Whether or not to include this information comes down to personal preference. However, if you do not include this information in the header, it is key to include it as a part of the letter’s signature. The general rule of thumb is that this section is meant to tell the reader where the letter is coming from, and where they can send further correspondence. The heading can go at either the top-left or top-right corner of the page.
- Information of the Recipient
4 lines below the heading lie the information of the recipient. This next section is similar to the heading, except that it contains the recipient’s information instead of the sender’s. Be sure to include the recipient’s full name or the name of the organization and the street address that the letter is being sent to. Skip 1 line before including the letter’s salutation.
This part of the letter is where you may usually see phrases such as “Hello“, “Good Evening“, and “Dear“. Depending on who the intended recipient is, the salutation that is most appropriate will change. Whenever possible, use the recipient’s name and proper pronouns or titles. In the case that you do not know who you may be writing to, as may be the case with contacting large corporations, a simple “To Whom It May Concern” will suffice. Always follow the salutation with a comma (,) and skip 1 line before starting the main body of the letter.
The main body is the meat and bones of the letter; it’s where you include all of the pertinent information that needs to be communicated to the sender. Start the main body of the letter with a short paragraph outlining the key points that you will use the remainder of the letter’s body to elaborate on. Keep sentences brief, easy to understand, and on-topic. Skip 1 more line before including the letter’s closing.
- Closing and Signature
A letter’s closing is where you will see phrases such as “Sincerely“, “Regards“, and “Yours Truly“. These closings can, in general, be used interchangeably. However, “Sincerely” tends to be the most commonly used option. Follow the closing with a comma (,) and skip 3-4 lines before writing your full name in print. The purpose of this large space is to leave room for a signature, preferably written in ink. In most cases, the formal letter will be typed on a computer, printed, and then hand-signed before being delivered. If it is the case that the formal letter is being transferred electronically, use this space to include an electronic version of your signature. If you did not include your telephone number and email address in the letter’s heading, include it after your signature and full name.
Learn more about how to format a formal letter.
Tips and Tricks for Formal Letter Writing
When writing the body of a formal letter, keep the following tips in mind so as to write clearly and concisely.
- In the first paragraph, include the 5 W’s and 1 H that prompted the letter in the first place: who, what, when, where, why, and how
- Keep all information firmly on topic and related to the matter at hand
- Make sure to include any relevant reference information that the reader may immediately need, such as account numbers or other referential information
- Keep paragraphs short, preferably no longer than 3-5 sentences
- Be respectful; use please and thank you
- Make sure to proofread the letter before printing or sending so as to check for grammatical and spelling errors
- Learn more about how to write a perfect letter in English.
Things to Avoid When Writing a Formal Letter
- Going off on tangents, or including information that is unrelated to the topic at hand
- Personal information or anecdotes, unless it is pertinent to the situation at hand
- Using vulgar, disrespectful, or otherwise inappropriate language
- Using slang or colloquial terms
- Using contractions, such as “can’t” or “won’t“; instead, use the uncontracted “can not” and “will not“
- Using the abbreviated forms of words, such as “TV” for “television” and “photo” for “photograph“