Types of Letters
There are two main categories of letters: formal and informal. Formal letters are professional in nature and follow a specific structure and formality. Examples include business letters, official letters, and letters to authorities. Informal letters, on the other hand, are personal in nature and do not have to adhere to any specific structure or formality. They may contain personal information or be a written conversation between friends, acquaintances, or relatives.
Other types of letters include business letters, which contain commercial information such as quotations, orders, complaints, and claims; official letters, which inform offices, branches, or subordinates of official information; social letters, which are personal letters written on the occasion of a special event, such as congratulatory letters, condolence letters, or invitation letters; circular letters, which announce information to a large number of people; and employment letters, which relate to the employment process, such as joining letters, promotion letters, and application letters.
Contact Info & Date
To begin writing a formal letter, you will need to include your contact information and the date at the top of the page.
In the full block style, this is typically placed in the upper left-hand corner of the page. Begin by typing your full name and address, aligned to the left side of the page. If you are writing on official company letterhead that already includes this information, you do not need to include it again.
After your address, skip a line and add the date that you are writing the letter. Then, skip another line and add the recipient’s name and full address. You can also include their job title below their name if it is relevant.
Leave a blank line after the contact information before writing the salutation. This will give your letter a professional and well-organized appearance.
Write The Saluation
To begin your formal letter, you will need to include a greeting known as the salutation. This serves as an introduction to your message and signals the start of your written content.
Most salutations begin with the word “Dear” followed by the name of the recipient. Remember to use title capitalization and end the salutation with a comma. If you are unsure of the recipient’s name, you can also use their job title or the department name, such as “Dear HR Representative.” As a last resort, you can use the generic salutation “To Whom It May Concern.” Avoid using “Dear Sir or Madam,” as it is somewhat outdated.
The body of the letter is where you write your message. This should follow the normal rules of grammar and be written as you would any other formal document. In the full block style, the first lines of paragraphs are not indented.
Formal letters are typically straightforward and direct, so don’t be afraid to get straight to the point. Some formal letters are only a sentence or two long, while others may be longer if there is a lot of information to convey. It’s important to stay focused and avoid tangential topics.
To maintain a professional tone, it’s best to avoid casual phrasing and jokes and to use proper grammar and punctuation. Some companies may also advise against using contractions. It’s also important to avoid using slang, profanity, or other inappropriate language.
If your letter covers a lot of information, it may be helpful to include a closing paragraph at the end to summarize everything the recipient needs to know. Remember to edit and proofread the body of the letter before sending.
Tips for Formal Letter
The opening paragraph: This should be very short and should clearly state the purpose of the letter. This could be to make an enquiry, complain, request something, etc.
The main body paragraphs: These paragraphs should cover the topic of the letter, which is usually provided in the original question(s). Make a plan based on the specific topic of the letter.
The closing paragraph: This should be a short paragraph that states the action(s) you expect the recipient to take in response to your letter. This could include requesting information, requesting a refund, etc.
Closing words for informal letter
Informal letters also include a complimentary close before the signature, using the same format as formal letters. This includes using sentence capitalization (capitalizing only the first letter), adding a comma at the end, and leaving enough space to sign your name if you are sending a paper letter.
However, you don’t have to stick with conventional sign-offs like “Sincerely.” If you are writing a personal letter, you can use something more sentimental depending on your relationship with the recipient, such as “Love,” “Warm regards,” or “See you soon.” Be sure to choose a sign-off that is appropriate for the tone and relationship with the recipient.
Closing words for formal letter
Formal letters also include a standard complimentary close or sign-off before the signature. This serves as a final farewell or expression of goodwill.
Some common closers for formal letters include “Sincerely,” “With sincere gratitude,” and “Sincerely yours.” Other options include “Best” and “Yours.” Unlike salutations, closers use sentence capitalization, which means you should only capitalize the first letter. Remember to end the closer with a comma.
If you are sending a paper letter, skip a few lines after the complimentary close and sign your name in this space. Be sure to also type your name below the signature, along with your job title if relevant. If you are sending an email or other digital letter, you do not need to leave a blank line before typing your full name.