Formal Letter Format
(with Free Template Examples)

Writing formal letters and emails is something we all do at some point. Whether we write to a client, professor, faculty admission program, or administrative organization, we need formal writing skills to choose the right tone and format for our message. A format letter or email is a powerful first impression. So learn everything there is to know about formal letters and use them to your advantage.

Table of contents

  • What Is a Formal Letter?
  • What to Include in a Formal Letter (Parts and Elements)?
  • How to Format a Formal Letter?
  • How to Write a Formal Letter?
  • Tips for Official Letter Writing
  • Formal Letter Template
  • General Formal Email Template
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Formal Letter?

A formal letter is a letter for which the writer uses a strict format and formal, professional language. They address business, professional, or protocol matters and convey information without personal mentions. Organizations and companies often use predetermined formats for particular formal letters and provide templates to those interested.

There are three main types of formal letters based on the occasion on which they are used:

  • business or professional letters used for writing to clients, business associates, or companies (e.g., order letter, appointment letter, inquiry, business proposal letter, letter of interest, sales letter, payment request letter, etc.);
  • work-related letters, used in a work environment for interacting with managers, HR recruiters, or departments (e.g., sick leave application, leave application, resignation letter, job offer letter, job acceptance letter, reference letter, promotion letter, welcome letter, work from home letter, return to work letter, termination letter, cover letter, etc.);
  • official letters, used for writing to organizations, officials, and newspapers (e.g., complaint letters, inquiries, thank you letters, invitations,  announcement letters, official apologies, etc.)

Formal letter format.
For this infographic we used an example letter format from Purdue University.


What to Include in a Formal Letter (Parts and Elements)?

If you don't have a template provided by your company or the organization you want to write to, you need to know the information to include in a formal letter.

A formal letter shall cover the following parts:

  • Senders address
  • Date
  • Recipient’s address
  • Heading (Optional)
  • Salutation
  • Body
  • Closing
  • Your signature
  • Enclosures

Let's detail the importance of each of these elements and how to use them like a professional.

Senders address

The first part of a formal letter is dedicated to contact information, yours, and the recipients. Contact information should include:

  • Company or organization details
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address

If you use corporate letterhead paper, then you can avoid this part.

Tip: The sender's name and title are included in the letter's closure, so do not write them in this section. 


Date

The date when this formal letter is written must be added here. It will help your recipient know when the letter was written and inform them that they need to reply in a timely manner. 

Note that the date format is different across different countries:

  • For US and Canada, use this format: April 7, 202X
  • For the UK, Europe, New Zealand, or Australia, use this format: 3rd April 202X.


Recipient’s address

The contact information must include:

  • Full name
  • Job title
  • Company
  • Address
  • City, state, ZIP Code.


Heading (Optional)

To highlight the role of the letter, write a heading. It will have the same effect the subject line for an email. When you see it you will know what this is about without reading the details.

Here are some examples:

  • Application for Project Manager
  • Request for Payment

Note: It is better to omit the heading if you are unsure of its necessity.


Salutation

The next part is dedicated to a formal salutation, followed by the letter's body.

The greeting you use is determined by how well you know the recipient. 

  • Use "To whom it may concern" if you're not sure about who will receive and read your letter. 
  • If you are formally acquainted with the receiver, use Dear [last name]. 
  • You can include their official title, such as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms. 
  • Use "Sir" or "Madam" in your letter if you are not sure about their name.
  • If you are writing to a specific department manager:
    • Dear Hiring Manager
    • Dear HR Leader
    • Dear Accounts team


Body

In the letter's body, you should include a few paragraphs:

  • I. Introduction. The first paragraph is a short introduction mentioning who you are and the purpose of your writing.
  • II. Context.  The second paragraph is a clear explanation of your request or reason for writing and, in some cases, a call to action. 
  • III. Conclusion. The third paragraph can serve as a conclusion in which you outline your expectations for the situation. You can end the conclusion with common sentences such as:
    • "I look forward to hearing from you"
    • "Please contact me at your earliest convenience."


Closing

End your letter with a formal closing that summarizes the message, thanks for the recipient's time, and adds your signature.

The following are some of the most typical business closing salutations: 

  • Sincerely, 
  • Cordially, 
  • All the best,
  • Best regards,
  • Best wishes.

Tip: Discover the top 10 ways on how to end a letter.


Your signature

Even if the message is typed, it should always end with a handwritten signature. Even if this is your first correspondence, handwritten signatures aid in developing a connection with the recipient. 

By signing the letter, you increase the formality of the letter, making it more important.

Always include your entire name and job title beneath your signature.


Enclosures

If you send a digital letter, you may consider including documents, links, or references to any materials that sustain your message (e.g., attach reference letters when sending a job application letter).


How to Format a Formal Letter?

Find below a series of characteristics that are essential when formatting your formal letter:

Letter length & structure

A formal letter shouldn't have more than a few short paragraphs. It's essential to structure your information well, leaving enough space between sections and paragraphs to make the letter easy to read and understand. 

Margins

You also have a standard 1-inch margin for all sides of the page. 

Spacing

Add extra blank lines between contact information and greeting, greeting and body, and body and closing.

Alignment

In many formal letters, contact information is either left or right-aligned, leaving the middle of the page empty.

The letter's body looks better aligned to the left or justified. The greeting is usually either to the left or in the middle, while the closing is generally to the right. Alignment segregates the information and makes it easy to follow. The recipient will know exactly where to look to find what they need.

Font style and size

Use a standard font that looks professional, such as Calibri, New Times Roman, Arial, or Helvetica, and a regular font size, such as 12. Avoid fancy fonts that may not be available for everyone or distract from the message of your letter. Also, stick to black text on a white background and avoid embellishments such as bold, italics, and underlining.

Letter printing

Formal letters should be printed on plain white paper in a portrait layout.


How to Write a Formal Letter?

As a professional in the business world, it is important to know how to write a formal letter. Whether you are communicating with clients, customers, or other businesses, a well-written letter can make a significant impact on your success.

Step 1. Identify the purpose of the letter

Start by considering the recipient of your letter and the reason for which you are writing it. Then, get together all the information you need: the recipient's contact data, essential details that need to be in the letter, and references and documents that support your point of view.

Step 2. Choose the appropriate format

Formal letters typically follow a specific format, which includes a header, date, recipient's address, salutation, body, closing, and signature. Make sure you choose the appropriate format for your letter. Look above where we expand more on the elements of a formal letter.

Begin the letter by adding vital information, such as your contact data, date of writing, and recipient's contact data. If you are sending the letter by email, summarize the content of the message in a few words and put them in the Subject line.

Step 3: Address the recipient

Continue with an appropriate greeting. Use a generic salutation if you don't know the name or function of the recipient. But if you know them, use them. For example, you can begin with a cordial 'Dear Sir or Madam,' with an efficient 'To the Director of Company ...', or with a generic 'To all whom it may concern.' Be polite and try to include as much information as you can.

Step 4: Write the body of the letter

In the two or three paragraphs of the letter's body, include everything there is to say concisely and to the point. Avoid using metaphors and flowery language that may be misinterpreted or even offensive. Introduce yourself clearly (e.g., client id, candidate for the job, position in your current company, etc.) and write the letter's purpose in the first paragraph. The second paragraph includes additional information. The last may be a call to action, a repetition of your purpose, or a statement.

Step 5: Close the letter

End the letter with a summary of the content and your signature. Use a formal closing, such as "Sincerely" or "Best regards," followed by your signature. If you're sending a hard copy of the letter, be sure to sign it in ink. If you attach any document to your letter, write "Enclosure" after signing off and state the name of the documents.

Tip: Find 10 additional ways to end a letter.

Step 6: Proofread the letter

Before sending the letter, be sure to proofread it for grammar and spelling errors. You may also want to have someone else read it to ensure that your message is clear and concise.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your formal letter is professional, effective, and well-received by the recipient.


Tips for Official Letter Writing

Before sending your first formal letter, check out the following tips:

  • Make a checklist to ensure everything is in order before sending the letter.
  • Proofread and spellcheck the letter.
  • Check key information, such as names, addresses, or key points you want to convey.
  • Use the right digital tools that help you  personalize the document (e.g., file type, file size, format, enclosed documents, size, etc.).
  • Use adequate tone. The professional tone is a standard for a formal letter. Avoid any slang, jargon, or academic vocabulary.
  • Avoid using abbreviations.
  • Keep it clear and simple. Don’t overcomplicate things or write a novel. Make it straight to the point, edit the draft accordingly, and eliminate irrelevant details.
  • Keep a copy of the letter for future reference.


Formal Letter Templates

Check out the following examples to get started. They are general formal letter templates that you can easily customize and tailor for any situation. And to make things even easier for you, you can download the templates and forget about formatting.

General Formal Letter Template


Senders address

Sender Name and Title

Sender Address

Sender Phone Number/Email Address


Date


Recipient Contact Information

Recipient Name and Title

Recipient Address

Recipient Phone Number/Email Address


Salutation

Dear Sir/Madam/ Recipient Name and Title / To the Director of Company/ all whom it may concern,


Body

My name is [Sender Name], and I am [Sender Role in the letter] identified by [information]. I'm writing regarding [Purpose of the letter].

[Details about the purpose of the letter]

Thank you in advance for your [support/response/effort]. I hope I have provided all the information you need to [call to action] by [due date]. I am available for further discussion if required.


Closing

I look forward to hearing from you,

Sincerely,

[Sender Name and Signature]

Download the Formal Letter Template in Word


General Formal Email Template

Subject line

Information inquiry/invitation to [event]/call to action for [event]/payment issues

Greeting

Dear Sir/Madam/ Recipient Name and Title / To the Director of Company/ all whom it may concern,

Body

My name is [Sender Name], and I am [Sender Role in the letter] identified by [information]. I'm writing regarding [Purpose of the email].

[Details about the purpose of the letter]

I've attached all the documents regarding the topic discussed. I hope I have provided all the information you need to [call to action] by [due date]. Please let me know if you need anything else.

Thank you in advance for your [support/response/effort]. 

Closing

I look forward to hearing from you,

Sincerely,

Editor suggestion
Review the suggested alternatives of how to end an email professionally.

Signature and Contact Information

[Sender Name and Signature]

Tip: In our article on how to write formal emails we exapand on the importance of formal emails, and the context of when they are sent, expand on the format of an email, and provide key tips to ensure that your emails are clear, concise, polite, and effective.


Formal letter examples:



FAQ

What is the difference between a formal and an informal letter?

An informal letter is written in a common language and without restrictions. On the other hand, a formal letter is written using formal language and a specific format, sometimes stipulated by the receiver or your company. Although both informal and formal letters need to have a respectful tone and straightforward content, a formal letter is seen as an official document and requires extra care.

Formal letter

Informal letter

Context

Used in professional/business context


Used in communication with coworkers and friends

Greeting

Dear Sir or Madam

I’m writing in response to your advertisement.

I’m writing to inform you…


Hello Robert

Thanks for your letter. It was nice hearing from your side.

I just wanted to let you know…

Closing

Yours sincerely

Yours faithfully


Cheers

Yours truly


Can I use abbreviations in a formal letter?

Yes, you can use any common abbreviation included in formal language. For example, CC (carbon copy) is a frequent abbreviation used in formal emails. You can also use abbreviations for Sir and Madame, titles (e.g., Ph.D.), addresses (e.g., No), and organization names (e.g., NHS).


How do I end a formal letter?

The way you end a formal letter is your last chance to make a good impression. And it depends on the nature of your relationship with the recipient and the type of letter you are sending. For example, the ending formula in an official letter may be very formal and neutral, such as "Yours respectfully" or "Sincerely." But if you send the letter for HR or business-related purposes, you may use a less formal "Best regards." For work-related purposes or when it's not the first time you send a letter to the recipient, you may use an even more relaxed tone and end the letter with "All the best," "Best wishes," or "Warm regards."


Conclusion

Use formal letters to start a conversation with someone officially or professionally. It shows respect and opens doors otherwise closed. Choose the right words and proper format, and you can be sure your letter will be read and considered. In a follow-up letter, you can adjust the writing accordingly and be more relaxed.

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