How To Write A Professional Formal Letter

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 June 2021

Communication in the office is not limited to meetings and emails. Often, you will be required to write a formal letter. If you need to write a formal letter, it's important to properly format it and consider who you are addressing the letter to. It's also important to understand when you can use the different types of formal letters since it can shape the recipient's perception of you and eventually affect your working relationship. In this article, we will discuss what a formal letter is, when you can use a formal letter and how you can create your own formal letter.

What is a formal letter?

Formal letter writing is a style of writing which involves writing in a conventional language. Formal letters are usually addressed for people or organisations whom you are unacquainted with, such as the alumni of a university or residents of a neighbourhood. They may also be written to people with higher positions, such as lecturers, employers or high-level clients. Thus, the content of a formal letter has to be professional and adhere to a high standard. This means accurate grammar and spelling is important.

When to use a formal letter format?

When you are sending a letter for business purposes, it's best to draft a formal letter. This is to ensure professionalism and lay down a solid professional relationship with your business partner. When you are applying for a job, you also need to write a formal letter that perfectly showcases your skills in an appropriate language. It's important that you write to impress, as hiring managers' first impression of you will be based on your written communication skills before you land the opportunity for an interview. Or else, you can also use a formal letter format when you are communicating with government agencies or other professional contacts.

If you're still unsure whether a formal letter is appropriate, consider your recipient and how you'd interact with them in person. This can help you determine if you should be using a formal letter format or something more casual. There are various types of formal letters depending on their purpose. Here are some examples:

  • Business letter: A formal business letter is a written communication medium between two parties in the same company, two companies, a company with its customers or a company with external bodies. Any business letter should be polite, formal and professional. At the same time, it should be easy to understand.

  • Sales letter: Sales letters are formal letters that aim to promote a company's product or service. It typically details why the products or services should be purchased. The main objective is to persuade customers to make purchases, and hence it usually contains a call to action to push the recipient to make a purchase.

  • Inquiry letter: An inquiry letter is used when you want more information about a product or service. Such letters usually cover the sender's questions and how the recipient can respond to the inquiries. A similar letter to this would be a reply to an inquiry letter.

  • Claim letter: If you're unsatisfied with a product or service, you can send a claim letter to the product or service's company or manufacturer. You can mention your dissatisfaction and what you want the company or manufacturer to do to reimburse you. A claim letter is usually replied to by an adjustment letter in order to address and fix any misunderstanding and resolve dissatisfaction raised in the claim letter.

  • Cover letter: A cover letter is often sent to hiring managers by prospective job candidates with their resumes. It details your qualifications for a particular job and expands on certain examples mentioned in your resume. It's also good to include why you are applying for the role.

  • Others: Formal letters can be used when accepting an honour, rejecting a job offer, making an apology, resigning from your job and writing a letter of recommendation.

Related: How To Write A Letter Of Intent

How to write a formal letter

We know that a formal letter is commonly used in the workplace or business setting, and is used to deliver an important message. Thus, it's essential that you know how to craft a formal letter well. To write an appropriate formal letter, there is a specific structure and some elements that you need to pay attention to. Here are the steps to guide you in writing your first formal letter:

1. Write your name and contact information

In the upper left-hand corner of the letter, include your name or your company's name. Follow it with your address in the lines below. If you use your company letterhead, you don't need to include the company address.

2. Include the date

Next, make sure to include the date of the letter in the upper left-hand corner. Include a space or line between the date and your contact information. The date of the letter should be the date you're writing it. The date is very important to include to ensure your recipient replies to your letter in a timely manner. Remember to write the date in full rather than an abbreviation, such as 1 March 2021 or March 1, 2021.

3. Include the recipient's name and contact information

After the date, you should also include the recipient's name with their official title, such as Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms. After this, include their job title, name of their company and their full address. If you don't have their contact information, refer to their company website to assist you.

4. Write a salutation

You should greet the person you're addressing your formal letter to and make sure you're not too conversational or casual. It's best if you address them by name, including their official title, such as Dr., Mr. or Mrs. followed by their full name. Otherwise, you can consider using 'Dear Sir/Madam' or 'To Whom It May Concern'. Use a colon after this and add two hard returns before the next step.

Also read: How To Use The Phrase "To Whom It May Concern"

5. Write the body of the letter

Next, write the body of your letter. This section is typically two or three paragraphs in length. Introduce yourself and state the purpose of your letter in the first paragraph. It's important to quickly engage them and be direct with your language. Your second paragraph should be used to underline the message you're sending. Use your last paragraph to summarise the purpose of your letter and how you want to proceed. This can include a call to action, such as "I look forward to hearing from you". Make sure to be specific, formal and to the point throughout your formal letter. Consider the language you're using and avoid any slang or jargon.

6. Include a sign-off

At the end of the letter, include a closing like "Yours Sincerely," "Yours respectfully," or "Best Regards," Leave a space and then include your signature and printed name. Next, include your title, phone number and email address.

7. Proofread your letter

Lastly, it's important to proofread your letter. Make sure it is free from spelling and grammatical errors and that it will ultimately make sense to your recipient. Read it over a few times and look for inconsistencies and improper formatting.

Formal letter sample

Here's an example of a formal cover letter:

Roy Cheong 555 Victoria Road
Singapore 123456

April 23, 2021

Ms. Carol Tam
Arrow Corporation
888 Cherry Lane
Singapore 654321

Dear Ms. Carol Tam:

I am writing to express my interest in the Research and Development Laboratory Manager position at Arrow Corporation. I was excited to see the job posting for this role in your company, and I believe I'd be a great fit for the role. I would love to hear about the role in greater detail.

While I was a student at the National University of Singapore, I majored in Biological Studies with a Minor in Chemistry. On top of my Bachelor's degree, I have gained more than 6 years of experience as Lab Technician and Quality Assurance Analyst in Mei Pharmaceutical and Access Laboratory Services. I believe my experience combined with my skills and knowledge would be a great benefit to your company.

I have enclosed my resume, which details my prior experience and accomplishments. I am confident that my skills and passion for this industry would be a great fit for your company. I would love to arrange an opportunity for us to discuss the role further. I look forward to hearing from you and learning more about this exciting opportunity.

Roy Cheong

[your signature on the hard copy letter)