How to write a formal letter


Before tackling the structure of a formal letter, the first thing to establish is what type of letter you need to write. You can discover this easily by answering the question: Why do I need to write this letter?

For example, perhaps you need to write a cover letter to include with your resume when you’re applying for a job. Or perhaps, by contrast, you need to write a letter of resignation. Other types of formal letters include business letters, contracts, thank you notes, invitations, follow-ups, complaints or requests for information, among many others.


Advice for writing a formal letter

These days, we use email or instant messaging services to communicate or request information. However, sooner or later, the time will come when you have to sit in front of a blank page at your computer to write a formal letter. But don’t worry, it’s not a particularly difficult task if you have the necessary tools.

Before you tackle the structure of a formal letter, don’t forget these eight key elements:

  1. Respect the structure of the letter.
  2. Use language that’s simple, formal and to the point.
  3. Be direct; avoid repeating ideas and using sentences that are long and difficult to understand.
  4. The use of transitions is very important for the message to be comprehensible and flow easily.
  5. Avoid informal language; don’t use contractions such as I’m, they’re.
  6. Write short paragraphs and remember to cover one idea per paragraph.
  7. Be polite.
  8. When you finish your letter, check your spelling or use a grammar checker.

Now we will go step-by-step through each of the elements that make up the structure of formal letters.

 


Structure of a formal letter

Sender

The heading of a formal letter begins with the letterhead, which includes the sender’s contact information. This should be placed on the top right of the letter. Usually, the information includes the sender’s first name, surname, address and telephone number.  

For example:

Rodrigo Char

234W 45th Street

New York, 10036

(247) 782-4952

 

Recipient

The recipient’s information is written on the left side and should include their name and complete address.

 

Date

The next thing you should include is the date, and it should be right-justified. Don’t forget that you should write it out completely; for example: January 12th, 2022.

 

Greeting

If you’re wondering how to begin a formal letter, the answer is very simple. You should start with the greeting.

The greeting is very brief. Next, we’ll give you some examples using titles:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

Dear Mrs. Gomez,

Dear Dr. Green,

 

If you don’t know the recipient’s name, you can use Sir or Madam:

Dear Sir,

Dear Madam,

 

Now is an opportune moment to recall a bit of vocabulary.

Mrs.: Used for married women.

Miss: Used for single women.

Ms.: Used for women whose marriage status you don’t know.

Mr.: Used for men, whether married or single.

 

 

Body of the letter

Usually the body of the letter is short, three to four paragraphs in total.

Generally, in the first paragraph, you introduce yourself and establish the purpose of your letter. The paragraphs you write next add necessary information that’s directly related to the purpose of the letter.

Remember that formal letters are pretty short, so it’s important that you organize your ideas clearly and logically. To do so, using transitions is essential.

Here, we’ll share some transitions that will make your letter clear and ensure your ideas flow as smoothly as possible.

In order to

Therefore

Consequently

In addition

Furthermore

However

Otherwise

Nevertheless

On the contrary

 

Finally, the last paragraph is used to clearly establish what you need or anything you may be waiting for from the letter’s recipient.

 

Farewell

Just as you started the letter with a greeting, now it’s time to close it with a farewell. The farewells for a formal letter have already been established, so this won’t be very difficult.

Yours sincerely,

Yours truly,

Sincerely,

Yours faithfully,

Regards,

Best regards,

 

Signature

Now it’s time to sign your letter. Immediately after your signature, you should include your name. In some cases, you may choose to include your phone number and email.

Excellent! Now you just need to check your spelling and grammar and your letter will be ready.

 

We hope this advice and the elements we’ve explained in this article are interesting and useful for you. Don’t forget that in formal contexts, you have the opportunity to put your vocabulary into practice and use the logic of the language to organize your ideas.

If you believe that you still need to improve aspects of your English, at ABA English we’re ready to help you achieve your goals. Did you know that with ABA English you can learn English anywhere, using any device? Don’t wait any longer—join our community!

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