How to Write a Formal Letter

How to Write a Formal Letter

Almost everybody should know how to write a formal letter because everybody is required to write a formal letter at some point in life. A formal letter is a letter that is written with an aim of informing the recipient about a serious issue, changing their perception of the sender or getting a job- A formal letter can also be written with an aim of connecting with a person or an entity that is unknown to the writer. It can also be used to make a complaint, an inquiry or ask for information. When writing a formal letter, you should use appropriate format and language.

A Guide on how to write a formal letter that depicts professionalism

There is a distinctive format of a formal letter.

This format comprises of several parts that should be written as follows:

  • Sender’s address

When writing a formal letter, include your address at the upper left side of the letter or page. Usually, the sender’s address is included in the letterhead. However, if your letter does not have a letterhead, the address should be included at the top part of the letter on the left side. The address should include the city, zip code and street address. The title or name of the sender should not be included because it is usually included in the closing of the letter-


Henry Patrick

15 Pilgrim Way,

VA 16732


(123) 765 863

  • Date

This should be included below the address of the sender. The date should be the date when you write the letter. However, in case you complete the letter some days before, write the date when you finish and send it. The format for writing the date varies. However, you should use the date format that is used where the recipient is located. For instance, when writing a letter for a company in America, start with the month, the day and the month.


Henry Patrick

15 Pilgrim Way,

VA 16732


(123) 765 863

June 12, 2015

The date should be written one line below the address of the sender. Including the date is important because it gives the recipient a time frame within which to respond to the letter.

  • Inside address

This is the address of the recipient. It is usually located under the date. It is advisable that you address the letter to a person within the company. If you are not sure of the name of the recipient, conduct some research in advance. For instance, you can call the firm or speak to its employees. These will give you the name of the person that you should address your letter to. Include the title of the recipient such as Mr. Mrs. Ms. or Dr. In case you are not sure about the status of the woman that you are addressing use Ms. –


June 12, 2015

Ms. Beatrice, Human Resource Manager,

Carescorp Consultancy,

1400, Houston, Texas,

USA, 763421

Dear Ms. Beatrice

It is usually fine to address the recipient by their first name only although you can include the second name.

  • Salutation

You can salute the person using the first name without the title. For instance, you can say, “Dear Beatrice:” However, you should use personal title of the recipient and their family name and then a colon. After salutation, you should leave a blank line. In case you do not know the gender of the recipient, you should salute him/her using nonsexist salutations. These include the job title of the recipient and then their name. You can also use the recipient’s full name in case you do not know their gender. For instance, you can write, “Dear Chris Cody”

  • The body

Everybody who knows how to write a formal letter will tell you how important writing a good body for a formal letter is. The body of a formal letter should not exceed three paragraphs. It should be concise and clear. If you cannot say what you want to say in three paragraphs, then you are not concise enough. The body paragraphs should be left justified and single spaced.

Paragraph 1: Open the letter with a friendly tone then state your goal or reason for writing the letter.


“I am writing to request/to confirm/to inform you/ to enquire…”

Paragraph 2: In this paragraph, you should underline or stress the point that you made in paragraph 1. You can use examples if possible.


“In reference to this…”

Paragraph 3: This is the final paragraph of the body in which you should summarize the purpose of writing the letter and then suggest the way forward.


“If you need further clarification…” or “For more details…”

  • Closing

Closing a formal letter should start one line below the last paragraph of the body at the vertical point of the date. The words of the closing should be capitalized. For instance, write “Thank you” then leave some lines preferably four lines between your name or the sender’s name and the closing. This leaves a space for a signature. If you used a colon after the salutation, you should use a comma after the closing. This will ensure that there is punctuation after your closing.

  • Enclosures

In case your letter has enclosed documents such as copies of certificates and a resume, indicate it by writing “Enclosures” just one line underneath the letter’s enclosing. However, you can write the name of the documents that will be included in the sending envelope although this is optional- Nevertheless, it is advisable to list the documents if you want the recipient to know the documents that you included in the envelope.

  • Typist initials

These are the initials of the individual who typed your formal letter. However, if you type your letter, you do not include typist initials.

Proofread the letter

Before you put the letter in the envelope, make sure that everything is written correctly. This entails double-checking spellings of addresses and names among others. Also ensure that your letter is concise and clear and if there are grammatical errors, fix them accordingly-

More tips on how to write a formal letter that will impress the recipient

  • Layout and font

Use a font that the recipient will find easy to read. For instance, you can use Times New Roman, 12 points size. Single space the lines while double spacing the paragraphs. There are different layouts that you can use for a formal letter. They include the block format, modified block format and the semi-block format. Choose the best format to use for your letter and stick to it throughout.

  • Tone and language

Proper grammar should be used in formal letters. Although people use information language and abbreviations like “u” rather than “you”, they are unacceptable in writing formal letters. Additionally, objective tone should be used when writing a formal letter. Also use first person to write your letter.

  • Proper organization

Ensure that your letter is organized properly to enhance clear communication- Be concise by ensuring that there are no unnecessary sentences in your paragraphs. Arrange paragraphs and information in a way that make sense by ensuring that your message has a logical flow.

  • Details and length

The details to include and the length of your letter depend on the topic that you are discussing. Generally, a formal letter should not exceed three paragraphs in the body. It should also be one page long at most unless if there is specific information that you want to send to the recipient. If you must include a huge amount of information, your letter should be at most one and a half page.

  • Be thankful

It is important to thank the recipient. For instance, when writing a resignation letter, thank the employer for allowing you the opportunity to work with them. Let them know that working with them was enjoyable and that you learnt new things while working for the company. This is very important because you may need the recipient to be your referee somewhere in the future-

  • Know the acceptable abbreviations and use them only when necessary

There are abbreviations that are acceptable and widely used in formal letters. They include “asap”, “cc”, “enc”, “ps”, “pto” and “RSVP”- Use such abbreviations only where necessary and appropriate.

We hope that now you know how to write a formal letter from the above guidelines.

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