Letters are one of the most ancient formats of written communication and correspondence. The Persian Queen Atossa supposedly composed the first recorded hand-written letter around 500 BC. The practice of letter writing, however, existed in ancient India, Greece, Egypt, Rome, and China. The first stamped letter came into being during the reign of English Queen Victoria in 1840.
Letters were always the primary form of expressing and communicating ideas, opinions and perspectives to others in historic times. For many, letters were a medium of practising critical reading & writing and expressive writing. In Byzantine epistolography, letter writing was considered a distinctive genre of literature. With the development of communication systems & technology, letters gradually began to lose their importance and exclusivity as the primary medium of long-distance communication. Today, electronic media is the dominating channel of communication with letters acting as a legacy medium of correspondence.
But, the art of letter writing is not yet obsolete. Hand-written letters carry an air of authority and indicate that the subject of the message is of utmost importance. From job applications to business correspondence to recommendation and resignation letters, the formal letter format continues to thrive on.
While other forms of letter write-ups are also still in practice, this blog is going to focus on specifically on formal letter writing as it looks into the nitty-gritty of the various formal letter templates and writing formats.
Let's begin by quickly defining what a formal letter is.
A Medium of Formal Correspondence
As the name suggests, formal letters are a medium of official communication between concerned parties. In the age of electronic communication, hand-written formal letters command a unique identity and importance.
- Formal letters have several conventions in terms of tone, language, layout and format that every writer needs to follow.
- Though the structure and nature of the content can vary, it is essential to express everything in a formal and dignified fashion.
- Whether you are writing a formal letter of complaint, writing to an editorial, or sending an application to an employer, it is vital to create the perfect impression. You need to use words and dress up your content to make it look well dignified.
Formal letters can become quite challenging if one does not know how to craft the perfect document. The different types of formal letters written in today are generally reserved for business correspondence and professional communication purposes. Some common examples of formal letters are:+
- Cover Letters
- Letters of Correspondence
- Reference Letters and Letters of Recommendation
- Letters of Intent
- Resignation Letters
- Promotion Letters
- Interview and Joining Letters
- Letters of Confirmation
As evident, formal letters are generally reserved for addressing persons with whom one shares a professional relationship. The writer must make sure that every aspect of the content within, along with its format, must be impeccably formal.
Next up, please go through the following section to find out how to format a formal business letter to perfection.
The Official Formal Letter Format
The general format letter-writing format is applicable for different purposes and across different domains.
- Date and sender's address
The sender's address and the date of writing are the first things to include at the top of every formal & professional letter format. Unless you are using a letterhead that consists of this information, remember to include them. Have sender's information at the top of the letter at a gap of one line above the content.
The norm is not to include the sender's name or title as it's mentioned on the envelope and at the closing of the letter too. Only the sender's address that consists of the street name & locality, address, city and zip code.
The date added is the date on which the letter is being written. If you have been writing a letter for a certain period, mention the date on which it was completed. Remember to follow the proper date format too.
- Starting the letter
The salutations of a formal letter need to be very appropriate to make the right impression right away.
- If you do not know the name and other details about the person you are writing to, then it is best to use Dear Sir or Madam, while addressing the person concerned.
- If you know the name of the person, then use the right kind of greeting along with the surname.
For example, if you are writing to a woman but don't know their relationship status, then use Ms instead of Mrs. or Miss.
- Remember to add the comma after Dear Sir/Madam,
- Make sure that your opening sentence should states your intentions and objectives right away. Formal letters are not the place for petty exchanges.
For example, when it's an application letter, then it's best to write "I would like to apply for the position of.." or "This is my application for the position of.."
- Use an appropriate font and font size that suits the letter's formal nature.
- Purpose and tone
The body of the letter, just like its opening line, must be formal, concise and compact. The tone, that is, the way the message is going to sound while reading, plays a critical role in the impression it will have on the reader.
Finding the right balance in the writing style and tone can be challenging. One needs to be firm as well as polite. Maintain formality throughout your writing. Conciseness is every important. Start justifying the importance of the letter and mention the purpose in brief details.
- Determine the purpose of the letter and add relevant details for a valid response.
- Remember to describe every point in a separate paragraph.
- Stay focused on the main point and do not drag on with something.
- Avoid contractions and write tactfully.
- Closing the letter
Before you sign off, suggest or provide a straightforward course of action for the reader. Make sure it is in line with the purpose of your letter and mention it as clearly as possible. It is essential to end on a positive note.
- Write Yours sincerely if you used the addressee's name.
- Use Yours faithfully if you have not mentioned their name.
Proofread the final copy to make it flawless.
The next section offers some excellent tip for writing a letter in a formal format. Please go through them to write flawless formal letters in any template.
Tips On How To Format A Formal Letter
- Always be brined in your introduction. Let the recipient know the purpose of the letter in precise details.
- Remember to thank the person being written to, even if it is a formal complaint letter.
- Do your homework before writing a job application letter. Research about the company and be well aware of the specific job requirements.
- While writing a formal application letter, mention the reasons behind your interest in applying for the interview. Mention the skills, strengths, and achievements that showcase why you will be an asset to the company.
- Do not forget to add all the necessary contact details.
- Mention all necessary details if it's a complaint letter to help recipients understand your grievances clearly. Tell how you want things resolved and also add any extra documents if required.
- Remember to keep your tone and emotions in check while writing formal letters.
- Conciseness and clarity are essential features of every kind of formal letter.
- Use bullet points to make things easy for your audience.
The above tips will come in handy while writing any professional or formal letter format and template. The generic formal letter format in this article is suitable for every official letter template.
While it is not possible to add every formal letter format samples, here is a general formal business letter format.
Sample Business Letter
ABC Education Inc.
1234 – 123 Street
New York, NY 01218
May 21, 2018
XYZ Company, Inc.
6789 – 789 Street
New York, NY 04851
Re: Updated Billing Frequency
Dear Ms Greens,
I am writing to inform you of our new pricing model effective February 1, 2020. On February 1, we will be switching from an annual billing cycle to a quarterly billing cycle, and this letter contains important information that may impact your organization.
To best suit your needs, we have decided to offer this benefit, which will take effect on February 1, 2020.
This letter is to notify you of the upcoming changes, and no immediate action is required from you at this time. We thank you for your continued business.
Well, that rounds up this little write-up. Here's hoping it helps you craft some impressive formal letters with ease.
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