Formal Letter Format Examples – PDF

Letters are both verbal and written forms of communication. It can contains various information about different things. It has been used as early as 500 BC mainly to pass on information and to help preserve early traditions and memories through story telling, music writing and festivals. It has always been a significant part of people’s lives and has continued to be of use until today. You may also see formal letter examples and samples.

In the early days of letter writing where pictures where painted in caves to tell a story, through evolution and continuous improvements, leaves were then used as paper and tree barks as pen and its precedent has been slowly left behind. Fast forward to the present times when the only means of communication from people separated by distance was writing letter or what is called the snail mail. It then evolved after the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century, however, it eroded the necessity to write letters rendering it as only one option of the many.

formal letter

To this day, the necessity to write letters has only become limited to the professional aspect of one’s life. The need for letters are only remembered when writing a cover letter for a job or scholarship application and transacting business related activity. Especially in the advent of technology and social media where sentences and phrases are abbreviated and emoticons are used for communicating instead of actual words, the art of letter writing has slowly gone downhill.

However it is still considered as a major form of communication, it still effectively helps people communicate and relay information. Although there are a couple types of letters out there, the most commonly used are either the formal and informal types. There are quite a few differences to each but it is still used to express complete thought and used as means to exchange information. You may also see email cover letter examples.

What is a Formal Letter?

A formal letter is any letter written with a professional language that follows a specific format that serves a formal purpose. It is the standard genre in letter writing used in the professional and academic setting. It is normally used for recommendation letters, inquiry letters, complaint letters, cover letters, and so on. Although all business letters are formal letters, it is impossible when applied vice versa. Business letters are used for various reasons like making a complaint or inquiry, applying for a job, etc.

Formal letters are different from e-mails and even professional letters in some ways. Formal letters are usually used for serious reasons as mentioned above. Information that are too important to be written in an e-mail and memos are written in a formal letter especially when a permanent copy of the letter is kept under you file. Furthermore, formal letters provide the necessary formal gesture such as the affixed signature of the sender. You may also like complaint letter examples & samples.

Normally, applicants for a job or promotion opts to use formal letters as form of formal correspondence. If you seek a position in your field, you will need to write this letter to express you interest in the position and to showcase your qualifications. The same can be said if you are applying for a university scholarship, research grant, business proposal letters, and so much more.

Key Differences Between Formal and Informal Letter

Before you head on to write your own version of a formal letter, it is best to know the key differences between a formal and informal letter. In order to avoid confusion with the two, here are the differences between a formal and informal letter:

  1. A formal letter is written in formal language, in the customary format and is often used for official purposes. A letter written in a friendly manner, to someone you are familiar with and has no official or of the highest important purpose, it is an informal letter. You may also check out notice letter examples.
  2. Formal letters are written for official or professional communication. While informal letters are used for casual or personal communication.
  3. When writing formal letters, there is specific manner to be followed. Unlike informal letters which free-flowing and does not follow any format.
  4. Formal letters are usually written in the third person, although, for business letters, first person is used. As mentioned above, informal letters are free-flowing and can be written in first, second and third person. You might be interested in how to write an official letter.
  5. When writing letters for business for example business partners, suppliers, customers, clients, etc., college or institute, employer, professionals, etc., a formal letter is used. Opposite to this, informal letters are used to communicate, correspond and update friends, relatives, acquaintances, etc.
  6.  Passive voice is used when writing formal letters. While an active and imperative voice is used in informal letters as it is conversational. You may also see offer letter examples.
  7. The sentences used in formal letters are usually business-like, long and complex sentences. Unlike an informal letter short and simple sentences are used so that they are easy to interpret.
  8. Since formal letters have a matter-of-fact nature, it does not need irrelevant matters to be included, therefore, the size should be short and concise. In contrast, informal letters can be concise or large, just according to the writer’s discretion. You may also like acknowledgement letter examples & samples.
  9. Formal letters forbid the use of contraction like (didn’t, can’t, don’t, doesn’t, etc.) and abbreviations, it strictly encourages the use of the full forms of words. On the other hand, informal letters can make use of contraction, abbreviation, idioms, phrasal verbs and even slang and colloquial terms since it does not follow a strict format.

In conclusion to the differences between the two, before writing a letter you must identify who is the recipient of the letter, what is the nature of your relationship and what purpose does the letter serve in order to clearly choose which type you should follow. You may also check out two weeks notice letter examples & samples.

Formal Letter Format Example

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Letter of Inquiry Example

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Formal Letter Structure

As been said earlier, a formal letter follow a stipulated format. It should include the following in order to be effectively called a formal letter:

  • Return address – the name, address and contact information of the sender
  • Date of the letter
  • Inside address – the name, address and contact information of the recipient
  • Formal greeting – most commonly used greeting for letters is ‘Dear’ along with the title of the recipient for example: “Dear sir or madam” or “Dear Mr., Ms., Mrs.”
  • Body of the letter – this where the sender expresses the message of the letter
  • Complimentary close – commonly used close for formal letter are ‘Sincerely’ ‘Respectfully’ ‘Cordially’
  • Signature of sender
  • Printed name of sender

You may also see how to write a personal letter with examples.

Documents Using Formal Letter Format

Here are some documents that follow a formal letter format:

Parts of a Formal Letter and How to Write Them

Since a formal letter follows a specific format, it is best to know how to do it properly. In order to formulate a flawless formal letter you must first know what and how to write each of its parts.

1. Return Address

This is the sender’s address. It includes the name and address of the letter’s sender. The return address can be printed in a letterhead, if this is he case do not type it out. If the return address is not on the letterhead, include it as the first column in your letter. You may also see employee reference letter samples.

2. The Date

As all letters should have a date in order to arrange it in a file, it should not be forgotten. The date indicates when you wrote the letter and not when the letter will be received. After tow spaces down the letterhead or return address, type the date out.

  • In the UK, the date format is day-month-year. For example: 14 April 2017
  • While the USA uses the month-day-year date format. For example: April 14, 2017

3. Inside Address

The inside address is the recipient’s address. It includes the name and address of the recipient of your letter. However, it can be omitted in an informal and social semi-formal letters. It is typed out two spaces after the date. And regardless of format, it is always flushed to the left. You may also like reference letter examples.

The inside address must start with the title of the recipient so it is always advised to research his/her title beforehand. However, there are names that can confuse you on the person’s gender (unisex names), it is understandable to omit it. For a female recipient, if you are unsure whether she is married or not, just use the title Ms. And in case you do not have knowledge about the recipient’s name, just use his/her job position and company name. You may also check out how to write a job resignation letter.

4. Salutation

This uses the same name indicated in your inside address along with including a title. If you have personal connections with the recipient, it acceptable if you just use the first name in the salutation. For example: Dear John. In all other cases, use the title and the last name of the recipient followed by a colon. For example: “Dear Mr. Smith:” If you are unsure of the recipient’s gender, it is acceptable to write his/her full name in the salutation. You might be interested in recommendation letter examples & samples.

5. The Body

The body of the letter contains all the details regarding the purpose of the letter.

  • Opening: In the opening you should introduce yourself and briefly explain the purpose as to why you are writing. For example in cover letters, you should indicate in the opening the position you are applying for and how you learned of the position. In others, always immediate state the purpose and what you wish to accomplish through the letter. You may also see how to email a resume and cover letter.
  • Middle: The middle part of the letter emphasizes all the other details relating to the introduction. For example you have stated in the introduction that the purpose of the letter is to propose a business proposition to the company; other details such as what the proposition is about, how to implement it, how can it help he company and so on are explained further in the middle part or the second and third paragraph of the letter. You may also like termination letter examples & samples.
  • Conclusion: In the conclusion, you basically summarizes all the major points stated in the middle part and reiterate the pros of your proposal of the main goal of your purpose. You emphasize your willingness to pursue the said the purpose in order to encourage the recipient. The conclusion should not be used to impose a deadline for a response especially in cover letters because it can have tarnish the tone of your cover letter and might be interpreted as being pushy and demanding. You may also check out new hire welcome letter examples.

6. Closing

The closing of your letter is not the conclusion of the body of the letter. It is the final sign off your entire letter. It should be brief and courteous. Common closings include Best regards, Sincerely, and Yours truly.

7. Enclosures

If you have other documents attached to your letter, be should to indicate it in the last part of your letter. In a cover letter, a resume or CV usually comes along the cover letter. In order to let the recipient know their is in fact a resume that comes after the cover letter, you can simply indicate it by typing Enclosures below the closing. In case there are more than one included enclosures, it is better to list the names of the said document for easier perusal for the recipient. You might be interested in what is an application letter?

8. Signature

To formally acknowledge that the letter is in fact from the sender and is true and relevant, it is better to affix a signature below the closing and above your printed name.

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Formal Letter Formats

1. Full-Block Style

This is the most popular format used in formal letters. In this style, the letter follows a specific direction of where to put the primary contents of the letter such as the return address, date,  inside address, salutation, closing, the signature along with the name of the sender, and all the beginning of each paragraph. All the aforementioned details are typed out flushed left. For example:

[Your Name / Company Name]
[Title (Optional)]
[Address]
[Tel]
[E-mail (Optional)]
[Date]

[Recipient’s Name]
[Title (Optional)]
[Company Name]
[Street Address]
[Town, County Postal Code]

Dear [Recipient Name]:

[1st paragraph of the Body of the letter]

[2nd paragraph of the Body of the letter]

[3rd paragraph of the Body of the letter]

Yours sincerely,

[Signature]
[Your Name, Title]

2. Modified Block Style

The only difference of this format with the full-block style is that the return address, date, the closing and the signature along with the name of the sender and his/her title are all flushed to the right. The inside address, salutation and all the beginning of each paragraphs remains flushed to the left. For example:

[Your Name / Company Name]
[Title (Optional)]
[Address]
[Tel]
[E-mail (Optional)]

[Date]

[Recipient’s Name]
[Title (Optional)]
[Company Name]
[Street Address]
[Town, County Postal Code]

Dear [Recipient Name]:

[1st paragraph of the Body of the letter]

[2nd paragraph of the Body of the letter]

[3rd paragraph of the Body of the letter]

Yours sincerely,

[Signature]
[Your Name, Title]

3. Semi Block Style

In this format, flushed to the right are only the return address and the date. The rest of the parts of the letter are flushed left. For example:

[Your Name / Company Name]
[Title (Optional)]
[Address]
[Tel]
[E-mail (Optional)]

[Date]

[Recipient’s Name]
[Title (Optional)]
[Company Name]
[Street Address]
[Town, County Postal Code]

Dear [Recipient Name]:

[1st paragraph of the Body of the letter]

[2nd paragraph of the Body of the letter]

[3rd paragraph of the Body of the letter]

Yours sincerely,

[Signature]
[Your Name, Title]

Abbreviations Accepted in Formal Letters

Here is a list of the most commonly used abbreviations used in letters:

  • asap = as soon as possible
  • cc = carbon copy (when you send a copy of a letter to more than one person, you use this abbreviation to let them know)
  • enc. = enclosure (when you include other papers with your letter)
  • pp = per procurationem (A Latin phrase meaning that you are signing the letter on somebody else’s behalf; if they are not there to sign it themselves, etc)
  • ps = postscript (when you want to add something after you’ve finished and signed it)
  • pto (informal) = please turn over (to make sure that the other person knows the letter continues on the other side of the page)
  • RSVP = please reply

Formal Letter Writing Example

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Tips in Writing a Formal Letter

1. Understand why you are writing the letter

Before you even start writing your letter, understand why you are writing in the first place. Consider the purpose of your letter first, ask yourself “What am I hoping to achieve with the letter?” After finding out the reason and purpose of your letter, it will be easier for you to structure and write your letter towards achieving your goals. You may also see writing a cover letter.

2. Understand who your audience is

The next thing you need to do is identify who your recipient is. You need to identify more than just the name of the recipient, you need to understand you he/she is (his/her designation and importance) and determine what type of communication will they expect and accept. For an instance, there is a huge difference when writing for a close friend and for the CEO of a company. Carefully consider what type of language is appropriate to use for your recipient and make sure the tone of your letter directly reflects it. You may also like how to write a letter for failure to meet minimum sales goals.

3. Keep to the point

Just because it is a formal letter does not mean it needs to lengthy. The people you usually write formal letters for are very busy people and very much appreciates brevity. They do not want to wade through details the are unnecessary to the point at hand. Stick to the key purpose of your letter and only include relevant supporting details. The main goal of your letter is to deliver the information as efficiently and as simply as you can. In fact, it is well known that shorter letters have a higher chance of being read and entertained than the lengthy ones. You may also check out incident report letter examples.

4. Keep the language simple

The letters does not need to be complicated, either. It is best to avoid using technical terms if possible and avoid using jargon. The simpler and not complicated your sentences and paragraphs are, the easier for you to get your point across. Avoid using long words and complicated sentence constructions, and use terms that are easy to understand in first glance to avoid confusion and misunderstanding. You might be interested in simple two week notice letter.

5. Get straight to the point

As you open up your letter, it should be made clear from the start what the purpose of the letter is. The introduction should quickly summarize the point you are trying to make. Avoid leading the tension to your main point as it may waste more time for your recipient, and annoy him/her causing him/her to uninterested to the rest of the letter. You may also see

6. Format the letter appropriately

Make sure you follow the appropriate format for your formal letter. If you fail to do it may result in your letter going straight in the garbage.

7. Proofread

It doesn’t matter how good your command with the language is or how good you are with spelling words, there is bound to be a mistake anywhere – in the format, punctuation, name spellings, etc. Always proofread and check if your letter is polished to perfection. A single mistake in spelling or sentence construction can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. Never rely in spell check alone as it cannot detect minor errors. You may also like writing a touching farewell letter to colleagues with examples.

8. Let it rest for a while

If you still have enough time after writing your letter, let rest for awhile. If you are writing to complain or are addressing a topic that you feel particularly passionate about, apply this technique. Taking time to let it rest can help you read your letter in a more relaxed manner and can easily spot what you don’t want in your letter and what you want to include. You may also check out temporary job resignation letter examples.

formal letter1

In conclusion, a formal letter serves various purposes. However, it differs from the informal format since it follow a strict format. But just like any letter, it aims to get the point across and to help people communicate with each other. We hope this guide can be of big help to you and your letter writing activities. You might be interested in examples of writing a board resignation letters.

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