How to Write a Letter?

Master the art of letter writing like a professional in 9 steps


Since writing was invented, letters have been one of our preferred ways of communication. As professionals, we are writing letters for various reasons and no reason at all. The purpose of a letter varies from something urgent and straightforward to a general need for connection. The letter writing style also varies, allowing us to express feelings, convey practical messages, or underline social status and hierarchy.

The truth is a letter often says much more than the words it carries. Therefore, it’s imperative to know how to write a letter regardless of whether we are using traditional paper letters and the post service, emails, or content management platforms.

Why Is it Important to Learn Letter Writing?

Letter writing allows you to convey a message in a concise and easy-to-understand manner. Regardless of the letter’s purpose (e.g., personal, work-related, business, commercial, etc.), knowing how to communicate your intentions, requirements, and emotions is essential. Letter-writing skills make the difference between receiving an answer and being ignored.

For example, suppose you write a letter to a company’s support team complaining about a product or service. In that case, it’s important to give all relevant details, such as the order number, invoice number, product name, date of purchase, and the issue you are complaining about. Just writing, “I bought a washing machine, and it doesn’t work.” won’t get you too far toward a resolution. At the same time, if you write a letter to your manager requesting a sick day because your kindergarten child has the flu, it doesn’t help to write two pages describing how your child got the virus, the symptoms, and your flustered parent’s emotions. It will just annoy your manager and take up their time.

So, letter writing is something you use in various situations and for different purposes. And while you adapt the writing style and content to your recipient, the principles of letter writing remain the same.


How to Write a Letter?

Writing a letter is straightforward when you have the letter-writing format in mind. All you need to do is make decisions about content and writing style. Follow the next steps and give equal attention to each of them. You’ll see that letters with a well-defined greeting and ending have more chances to deliver the message than those only focusing on the content. Furthermore, letters with missing information will get lost along the way, resulting in frustration and stress.

Here are some quick steps for how to write a letter:

1 Decide the medium and type of your letter

2 Write your contact data

3 Write the recipient's contact data

4 Start with a greeting

5 Focus on the body of the letter

6 Find an appropriate way to end your letter

7 Sign your letter

8 Review, proofread, and spellcheck

9 Print and address the envelope

In the next sections we will expand with details per each step.


Step 1: Decide the medium and type of your letter

Writing on paper differs from writing an email or filling out a form. Also, decide how long your letter will be, the writing style, and the overall tone. It should be clear from the beginning if you catch up with a friend, ask for time off, request a refund, or interrogate the bank about your account.

When to write a formal letter?

When writing to someone you know in professional capacity, or a specific business or department where the recipient is unknown, it is appropriate to use a formal letter.

To create letters, you must type them first and then print them. You can use various text editing software such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, OpenOffice, or Apple Pages to accomplish this task.

In case the letter is time-sensitive or the recipient prefers email, you can opt for sending an email instead. When communicating with the current manager or a coworker, email is appropriate, and the formal address is unnecessary.

Examples of formal letter

There are four common formats for formal letters: indented, full block, modified block, and semi-block. Formal letters can include:

  • Invitation for an event
  • Job application
  • Resignation letter
  • Recommendation letters.

When to write an informal letter?

Depending on your relationship with the recipient, write an informal letter. When you're writing to someone who is far away or someone you're not very close with, it's best to write a semi-formal letter. If the person has previously sent you emails, you can also email them. However, if you have never received an email from them, it's better to opt for a handwritten letter as a safer option.

If you are writing to a friend or close family member, an email or a handwritten letter is appropriate. Moreover, you might transmit the same information within their favorite messaging platform, such as Whatsapp, Messenger, or Linkedin.

Examples of informal letters

Informal letters can be written in various formats and styles.

  • Congratulations letter
  • Welcome letters
  • Thank you letter
  • Appreciation letter.

Step 2: Write your contact data

If you use a predefined format (e.g., email, form, etc.), fill in the appropriate fields with your name, address, email, phone number, account number, or whatever information they need. If you write on paper, use the top-left or top-right corner to create a contact data block for your information. Ensure you add a small title letting the recipient know those are the sender’s contact data.

For example the contact information or senders info should include:

  • Sender Name and Title
  • Company or organization details
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address.

Step 3: Write the recipient’s contact data

Following the same indications as the sender’s contact data. Fill in the given fields or write the recipient contact data on the opposite top corner of the sender’s contact data, adding a small title (e.g., Recipient Contact Data).

For example the recipients senders info should include:

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

Step 4: Start with a greeting

The greeting should suit your recipient’s status and communication style. If you don’t know the recipient’s name, use the salutation “To Whom It May Concern.”

Greetings examples for formal letters:

  1. Dear Mr. Smith
  2. Dear Ms. Johnson
  3. Dear Dr. Brown
  4. Dear Professor Green
  5. To whom it may concern

Step 5: Focus on the body of the letter

The body should structure your information in paragraphs and mention all relevant details. If this is a formal or official letter, keep it short. Long letters are allowed only between friends and close family members. If you have a communication, keep the content concise and on point. You can include references to additional documents that support your letter, such as your leave balance for a leave request letter, a contract for a business letter, the map of the wedding venue when you’re inviting people to join you on your special day, and others.

Example of Key elements for the body of the letter:

When writing the body of a formal letter, here are the essential elements the writer should consider:

  • Introduction: Begin with a clear and concise opening that introduces the letter's purpose. State why you are writing and establish a context for the recipient.
  • Main Content: This is the heart of the letter and should include the details or message you want to convey. Use clear and organized paragraphs to present your information logically.
  • Action Steps: Clearly state what you expect from the recipient or what steps must be taken next.
  • Closing Remarks: Summarize the key points and reiterate the letter's purpose in the closing section.

Key tips when writing the letter's body:

The body of any formal letter is the most important part, so here are the essential tips the writer should consider:

  • Professional Tone: Maintain a formal and professional tone throughout the letter. Avoid casual language or slang.
  • Relevance: Keep the content relevant to the purpose of the letter. Stay on topic and avoid unnecessary information.
  • Clarity and Conciseness: Ensure that the content is well-structured and to the point. It's important to use language that is easy to understand and avoid using technical terms or jargon that might confuse the person you're communicating with. Also, make sure to check for any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Supporting Information: If necessary, include data, evidence, or references to support your message.
  • Politeness and Respect: Use polite language and show respect towards the recipient, even if you are addressing a complaint or issue.
  • Contact Information: Include your contact information or any details the recipient may need to reach you.

Step 6: Find an appropriate way to end your letter

If you need a fast reaction from the recipient, include a call to action. Nevertheless, a complimentary close will be to your advantage. Again, leave one or two empty lines between the body of the letter and the closing.

Here are 3 examples of ways to close a letter professionally:

  • Sincerely,
  • Yours faithfully,
  • Kind regards,

Step 7: Sign your letter

These sign-offs maintain a professional and respectful tone, and they can be adapted to the specific context and formality of the letter.You can use any type of signature, from electronic to friendly nicknames. The signature is your last chance to make the recipient remember your message.

Examples of ways to sign a letter in a business context include:

  • [Your Full Name]
    [Your Title]
    [Your Company]

  • [Your First Name] [Your Last Name]
    [Your Title]
    [Your Company]

  • [Your Full Name]

Step 8: Review, proofread, and spellcheck

After writing your letter, to ensure that your letter is effective, it's important to keep it brief and error-free. After completing your letter, ask someone to review it and provide feedback, as they may identify mistakes you missed. Additionally, make sure that any attachments are included and that hard copies are signed.

It would be best if you proofread it and carefully check for any spelling or grammatical errors on the screen. Once you have done that, please print it out and read it aloud at least once more, checking for any typos or mistakes. It is easier to spot errors on a hard copy, so this step is crucial to ensure that your letter is error-free and professional.

Remember that you will not become an expert in business writing quickly. Writing effectively takes a lot of work and practice to master. However, once you're familiar with it, you'll have a very valuable job skill.


Step 9. Print and address the envelope (Optional)

If you are sending by postal mail, print the letter and fold it in thirds to fit into the envelope.

To ensure proper delivery of your letter, it is important to include the delivery address, your return address and the postal stamp on the envelope.

The recipient details should be placed at the center of the envelope (lengthwise and widthwise) to ensure that it is easily visible and adequately processed by the postal service.

Your return address on the envelope is important because if the US Postal Service is unable to deliver your letter for any reason, it will be sent back to the return address at no extra cost. Your return address should be written in the same format as the recipient's address (listed above). Double-check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation before mailing the letter.

The postal stamp. For shipping your letter you will need to pay a stamp. By adding it on the right corner of the envelope it means that the postal costs are paid.

If you don't need to send the letter by postal email, you can save it as a PDF, and attach it to an email, or print, sign-it and scan it, then attach it to an email, or bring it in person, if you have to bring to a colleague, or an HR manager.


Tip: We do provide several examples of business letters you can use in your daily communications at work.


Letter Writing Format

Generally, the letter-writing format doesn’t change from one letter to another. Thus, it’s a good guideline to have in mind when writing your letters. Make a habit of going through the following format:

1. Sender contact data:

Start your letter by writing your contact data in the left or right top corner. Include full name and title, address, email, and telephone number, depending on the letter’s purpose.

Example

Samantha Lee
123 Main St.
Hartford, CT 06103
(555) 177-3344
samantha.lee@email.com


2. Date:

Especially in the case of formal and business letters, it’s important to write the date of your writing. But even for personal letters, date is a good indicator.

Example

September 15, 2024


3. Recipient contact data:

For example, sender contact data, and recipient contact data include full name and title, address, email, and/or telephone number. If you are filling a form, like those used for requesting leave, you probably have designated fields for each of these.

Example

Justin Mangrove
Manager
The Big Company
456 Elm St.
Hartford, CT 06103


4. Greetings:

Don’t start your letter bluntly. Use a professional salutation and opening line. Take the time to include a greeting that shows the recipient you are polite, open to dialog, and thoughtful. Leave a line or two between contact data and other information and the salutation. Also, adapt the greeting to the receiver’s status and your relationship with them.

Example

Dear Mr Mangrove,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to submit a proposal for [describe the project or service].


5. Content:

Write the content of the letter one or two empty lines below the greeting. Divide it into easy-to-read paragraphs and structure the information wisely. Create a narrative line: beginning, middle, and end if possible. Give the reader the chance to follow your thoughts, find relevant information, and understand your point of view. If necessary, include a call to action near the end.

Example

We are delighted to provide you with the following details on how we plan to deliver [the outcome or results]. Our team of experienced [professionals/consultants/etc.] will work on it, with the following approach:

[STEP 1]: [Description of key step, timing, deliverables]
[STEP 2]: [Description of key step]
[STEP 3]: [Description of key step]

We'll complete the work within [X] weeks/months of approval. The total cost is [AMOUNT] inclusive of fees, meetings, research, and admin. For cost details, see the attached schedule.


6. Ending:

Like the greeting, an ending shows you are thoughtful, respectful, and engaged in dialog. Use a predefined ending message, such as “Sincerely,” “Best regards,” “All the best,” and others.

Example

Our goal is client satisfaction and excellent work. Thank you for considering our proposition.

Regards,


7. Signature:

Signature depends on the letter’s style and your relationship with the receiver. In informal letters, the signature includes your title and full name. But in personal letters, you can use only your first name or even a pseudonym.

Example

Samantha Lee
Team Manager
Dot HR Center


Enclosures (optional)

If you are including additional documents, such as a resume or proposal, list them under "Enclosures".

Example

Enclosures:
Action plan – HR Transformation for The Big Company




How does a formal letter looks like?

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


Guidelines for Proper Letter Formatting

When formatting professional letters, simplicity, brevity, and adherence to business standards are paramount. Follow these key guidelines for a polished and effective presentation:

1. Length of the Letter:

Most formal letters should be concise, typically fitting on a single typed page. Be succinct and focused on the main message.

2. Font Style and Size:

Opt for a clear and legible font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. The font size should be 10 to 12 points, ensuring readability and a professional appearance.

3. Margins:

Maintain one-inch margins around the entire page. This standard margin provides a balanced and neat look to your letter.

4. Spacing:

Single-space your letter throughout—separate paragraphs with a blank line to enhance readability and clarity. Be sure to align text to the left for a clean and organized presentation. In a printed letter, put an extra space after the salutation, before the closing, and before and after your handwritten signature. This spacing enhances the overall aesthetics of your communication.

5. Printing the Letter:

Use plain white paper for printing business letters. This choice conveys professionalism and ensures that your content is easily legible.

By adhering to these formatting tips, you'll present your professional correspondence in a manner that is both visually appealing and conducive to effective communication.



Expert guide: Learn more about the formal letter format.


Letter Writing Tips

Similar to the letter writing format, having a checklist makes writing easier and less prone to error. So before starting to write your letter, consider answering the following questions:

  • Who are you writing to?
    Having the recipient in mind helps you choose the correct language, tone, and letter type.
  • What type of letter are you writing?
    With a clear image of the recipient, you can decide on a letter type and means of communication. You should know whether you are writing on paper, via an email service, or using a digital content platform.
  • What is the purpose of your letter?
    Knowing why you write the letter helps you structure information and summarize important points. It also enables you to create a narrative.
  • What language do you use?
    Choose between formal and informal language based on your relationship with the recipient and the letter’s purpose.
  • How long should your letter be?
    Again, considering all the above, find the best length for your letter before starting to write. Then, ensure you respect the initial length choice. This will help you stay on point and be concise.


Formal vs. Informal Letters

The first thing you need to do when starting to write a letter is to decide whether it will be a formal or informal letter. The difference is crucial. Sending an informal letter to someone expecting a formal letter may seem rude. Sending a formal letter to someone expecting an informal one may seem cold. So check out the following differences between formal and informal letters, and don’t ever make this mistake:

 

Formal letter

Informal letter

Purpose

Official (e.g., business, commercial, or work-related)

Personal

Relationship with the recipient

Inexistent, based on respect, hierarchy, or admiration

Close, friendly, warm

Structure

Short, concise, on point, focused on conveying a message

Without length restriction, allowing metaphors and personal references

Language

Formal, neutral

Informal, conversational, flowery


Example of Formal and Informal Letters

Nothing is more intuitive than an example. So here are several examples of formal and informal letters to get you started.


Formal Letters – Sample A

Recipient’s Contact Data

Recipient’s Contact Data

Date: September 15th, 202X

Dear Mrs. Johns,

I hope my letter finds you well. I am writing to request access to my employee file. Due to the current events and relocation process, I need copies of my work contract and additional payroll files, leave balance, and work reviews. As you know, we can now work remotely, and my home is in a different county. The requested documents will serve me during the tax registration procedure in my county.

Thank you for your time and effort. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Sender’s full name and title


Formal Letters – Sample B

Recipient’s Contact Data

Recipient’s Contact Data

Date: September 15th, 202X

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is [Sender’s Full Name], and I am a customer registered with [username/account ID]. On [date], I purchased the product [product ID/name] from your online shop. Although the website states a three working days delivery period, I still haven’t received the product. As you can see from the attached file, the bank transfer is complete, and the payment was approved.

When can I expect my parcel?

All the best,

Sender’s full name


Informal Letters – Sample A

Recipient’s Contact Data

Recipient’s Contact Data

Date: September 15th, 202X

My dearest [Recipient’s Name],

I’m so glad I have the chance to write you. It’s been too long since our last encounter, and I miss you so much! How are you? I hope everything is fine and you are as joyful as I know you.

Starting next week, I’ll be in your hometown. I will be free in the evenings, and I look forward to spending some time with you. So, what would you like us to do? Let me know what you have in plan and if we can arrange something. I can’t wait to see you!

All my love,

Your best friend [Name]


Informal Letters – Sample B

Recipient’s Contact Data

Recipient’s Contact Data

Date: September 15th, 202X

Dear Prof. [Recipient’s Name],

I hope my letter finds you in good health. I am writing to express my gratitude for your help. You’ve been amazing these last few months, and I can’t thank you enough. My book will be launched in April. Thanks to you, I’ll be a published author. I value your guidance greatly, and I will always be appreciative of your knowledge, kindness, and support.

Best wishes,

Your student, [Sender’s Name]


Letter Types

A few letter types stand out as the most popular ones. If you don’t know exactly what kind of letter you need to write, the following list will help you figure it out. Letters are categorized based on purpose; each letter type usually has an appropriate language and approach.

Letter Type

Purpose

Language

Personal Letter

Personal Correspondence

Informal

Business Letter

Business Correspondence: Invitation letters, Recommendation letters, Return to Work letters, Annual leave letters

Formal

Official Letter

Communication with Authorities, Organizations, Companies

Formal

Office Letter

Work-related Messages: Two weeks notice letter, Resignation letter, Letter of intent.

Formal/Informal

Circular Letter

Communication with multiple people at the same time

Formal

Request Letter

Requesting leave, a refund, a document, etc.

Formal

Employee Letter

Thank you message, Promotion letter, Application letter, Welcome message, etc.

Informal/Formal



FAQs

What abbreviations are used in letters?

Both formal and informal letters allow abbreviations. The most common abbreviations used in letters are:

  • Mr./Ms./Mrs., Prof./PhD/CEO - Title abbreviations,
  • RSVP - Répondez S'il Vous Plait – when your letter requests an answer, 
  • AKA - Also Known As, 
  • Attn - In Attention Of, 
  • ETA - Wstimated Time of Arrival, 
  • ASAP - As Soon As Possible
  • FYI - For Your Information
  • RE - Regarding
  • EOD - End of Day
  • PS - Post Script, 
  • TBD  - To Be Determined.


What types of formal letter styles exists?

There are four standard formal letter format options, and while they share common features, they each have distinct characteristics:

  • Full Block Style: In this format, all lines align to the left, and there are no paragraph indentations.
  • Block Style: Here, you align the date, sign-off, and signature to the right, without any paragraph indentations.
  • Semi-Block Style: Similar to the block style, but it includes an indentation of the first line in each body paragraph.
  • AMS Style (Administrative Management Society): In this format, all content is left-aligned, there is no line skip before the date, an all-caps subject line is used, and the complimentary sign-off is omitted.

The full block style letter format is the most commonly used, making it unnecessary to concern yourself with paragraph indentations in most cases.




Key Takeaways:

  • A formal letter should include an introduction stating the purpose of the letter, a clear message, and contact information at the end.
  • Choose the appropriate letter format (AMS or Block Style) based on your preference and the industry's conventions.
  • Use a clear and professional tone in your letter, with proper grammar and spelling.
  • Address the envelope correctly, with a return address and recipient's address, and use the right postage.
  • Familiarize yourself with common letter-writing acronyms to enhance clarity and efficiency in your correspondence.
  • Proofread your letter for accuracy and clarity before sending it.

Remember, the quality and professionalism of your letter reflect your communication skills, so take the time to craft it thoughtfully and correctly.

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