A formal letter uses official and ceremonial language and follows a prescribed format. As the language indicates, it is written for official purposes to authorities, colleagues, seniors, etc. My reminiscence of introduction to formal letter writing dates back to my early schooling, wherein the teacher taught us the nuances of writing formal letters. I recall these letters were well structured and in order to polish our writing skills, we were asked to write official requests, announcements, cover letters, and much more.
Later in my life, when I became a certified IELTS trainer, I again had a brush with formal letters when I had to prepare students for the coveted exam. In today’s technology-driven society, the need to write a formal letter seldom arises. However, it is still necessary to know the fundamentals of a formal letter since we may need it to request for information, or apply for courses to educational institutions or for jobs to corporates, or write a grievance letter to the editor of a newspaper, and so on and so forth.
So, let us walk over the basics of formal letter writing, which can serve as a checklist when we have to write them on those rare occasions.
The Structure is the Key to Writing an Effective Letter
Since structure plays a pivotal role, remember to follow the below-mentioned tips to create an effective document.
- To kick-off, start with your mailing address, the full date, and the recipient’s name, company, and address. Maintain a single line spacing between each piece of information. For instance:
14, Hamilton Road
October 14, 2021
Mr. Thomas Miller
2, Downing Street
- This should be followed by salutation along with the recipient’s title and last name, followed by a colon. For instance: “Dear Mr. Miller:”
- Thereafter, the body of the letter starts. If you are writing the letter, the first paragraph should contain your introduction and purpose for writing the letter.
- Subsequently, the following paragraphs should elaborate on the purpose and provide details pertaining to the main point of your letter, while the final conclusion should list out the action points if any.
- Formal closings like “Sincerely” or “Yours truly” are recommended.
However, in the case of semi-formal letters, “Cordially” or “Best regards” can also be an option. Irrespective of what you choose, add a comma after the closings.
- Leave some space for your signature and thereafter write your name, job title, and company name. Remember to sign in the blank space in case you are using a printout.
- In the event of the letter containing enclosures, list them out.
- Please note that in a business letter all text should be left-justified and single-spaced, except for double spaces between the paragraphs. This keeps the letter uncluttered and improves readability.
Additionally, here are a few tips to consider while writing the formal piece:
- Make sure your information is accurate and precise. This essentially means that every written word should serve a purpose and you need to carefully pick and choose the words which are necessary and which are not.
- Use a formal tone and avoid slang, jargon, contractions, etc. Even if you are complaining, be courteous and polite.
- Once the letter is drafted, set it aside for a few hours or even a day (depending upon the urgency), and then review it with a fresh pair of eyes. You might want to incorporate some changes. You can even request someone else to proofread it since errors if left unattended, can minimize the effect of the statement you are trying to make.
- Finally, pay extra attention to the presentation by using superior-quality paper and a decent envelope. Be doubly sure that the recipient is addressed properly and the name is spelled correctly. Finally, sign off the letter before it makes its way to the dispatch section!
Currently, online writing classes are a boon for beginner writers.
Individuals with discipline, keen observations, strong vocabulary, and a passion for writing can excel in writing. So, utilize your time to polish your writing skills and read books of different genres. With the basic nature of writing, you can nurture by following the above tips.
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