Formal Letter Writing: Format, Tips, Example, Types & More!

By Amrit Gouda|Updated : May 20th, 2022

Formal Letter Writing

Letter writing is an important part of the secondary school curriculum as it focuses on teaching students relevant writing abilities that they can apply in a variety of professional situations such as writing a letter to a superior, to the HR manager, to an employee, to the Principal of the college/ school, to a teacher, etc. In today's era, social media has surely revolutionized the way we used to communicate in the past through letters. These letters have now evolved into emails that follow a similar style. 

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In this article, we will discuss the formal letter format, types, and examples in this blog. 

Table of Content

What is a Formal Letter?

A formal letter is written in a formal and ceremonial tone and follows a specific format. Official letters to officials, dignitaries, colleagues, seniors, and others are examples of formal letter writing. Certain particular norms and practices are applicable while writing a formal letter. Along with this, the letter should be written in a professional manner. 

It is important to learn the skills of formal letter writing so that the structure of the letter will be able to convey information in a formal manner. Writing a resignation letter to the company's manager and mentioning the cause for resignation is an example of a formal letter. It is important to note that we do not write formal letters to our family, relatives, or friends for personal reasons.

Types of Formal Letters

Before we talk about the elements of formal letter format, let's discuss the varied forms of formal letters that exist for different purposes.

  • A letter of inquiry is used with an intention of obtaining information or specifications about a particular program, product, or service from a certain business, educational institution, or organization.
  • A letter of instruction is written when a customer wishes to make an order from a vendor for specific things that they sell or offer.
  • A letter of complaint is a formal letter generally sent by a customer to the seller regarding a certain product or service. It usually includes information like the lack of quality or quantity, unfavorable experience, etc.
  • As a response to the above point, a Reply to a Complaint Letter is written by the vendor to the buyer's letter of complaint, usually providing a clarification, explanation, or apology for the buyer's concerns.
  • A Promotion Letter is used to promote or advertise particular items and services to target customers.
  • Sales Letters are primarily designed for sales promotions and consist of a document issued by a company to its customers in order to introduce them to its products and services.
  • A Recovery Letter is written by a company to collect funds from clients who have availed the goods or services but have not paid for them yet.  

Structure of the Formal Letter 

While writing a formal letter, students must use a respectful, polite, and sincere tone in their language. The general format of a formal letter is briefly discussed below:-

  • Address of the Sender
  • Date
  • Name / Designation of Addressee
  • Address of the Addressee
  • Salutation
  • Subject
  • Body (Including Introduction, Body, and Conclusion)
  • Complimentary Closing Line
  • Signature / Name of the Sender
  • Designation of the Sender

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Formal Letter Writing Format

A formal letter's tone must be professional and many statements are sophisticated, providing clear meaning to the message, and are intended for the reader's understanding. Since the format of the formal letter is conventional and applies to everybody, the primary goal is to communicate official information to its target audience. Students must follow all the elements of the formal letter carefully. The detailed Formal Letter Format is discussed below:-

Addresses

The very first element of a formal letter's format is the sender and receiver's addresses.

  • Sender's Address:- It must be written in the left-hand corner including the house number, street address, city, state, pin code, along with phone number. 
  • Receiver's Address:- It should always be stated in the right-hand corner, followed by the date.
  • Salutation and Date

The date and salutation are the second most significant elements of a formal letter's format. The date must always be put with a line gap directly below the sender's address. The salutation should generally involve "Dear Sir/Ma'am''. However, if you are familiar with the concerned person or know his/her name, you can address them with formal "Dr.", "Mr./Ms./Mrs.", or "Rev." followed by their full name. 

Subject and Body Text

The Subject and Body of the Letter are the next elements of the formal letter format:

  • Subject:- The agenda, also called the main purpose, of writing the letter is written in one line as the letter's subject. Make sure to keep it as succinct as possible. 
  • Body Text- Candidates are advised to break up the content of the body into three paragraphs. Make sure that you use sophisticated terminology, proper spelling, and correct punctuation. The purpose of dividing the text into paragraphs is to keep the reader-friendly and to distinguish one point of communication from another. A good formal letter always offers the reader as much clarity as possible.
    • The first paragraph, commonly known as the introduction, should be brief and to the point. Mention the letter's purpose in the first paragraph so that the reader has the opportunity to understand your reasons for writing. 
    • The middle paragraph, usually known as the main body of the letter, should include some important information about the topic mentioned in the first paragraph.
    • The final paragraph, also called the conclusion, should discuss the action you expect and request the letter's recipient to take. Maintain as much of a humbling tone as possible in the final paragraph as you should not come off as demanding.

Ending

Like all other elements, the ending of the Formal Letter Format is also crucial as it specifies how the formal letter should be concluded: A formal letter's conclusion can include a suitable concluding remark along with your signature and your full name. The most common salutations to use are 'Yours Faithfully, Your Sincerely, and so on. Finishing the letter with an acceptable statement shows that you hold high respect for the letter’s recipient.

Signature Line

The signature at the end of the formal letter completes the formal letter. A professional letter's signature line must include relevant information like the sender's name, signature, and designation, if necessary. It allows the receiver to acknowledge the information sent by the sender.

Formal Letter Writing Topics

During examinations, students can be asked to write a formal letter for any situation. Therefore, we have provided a list of commonly-asked topics for formal letter writing in English:-

  • Write a formal letter to the school's principal requesting necessary improvements in the workings of the school library.
  • Write an application to the principal requesting a transfer certificate and leaving the school.
  • Send a letter to your city's mayor on behalf of your school's principal, requesting that he preside over a seminar on "School Education" in your city.
  • Write an application letter for the position of Computer Teacher.
  • Write a note to the manager thanking him for his company's services.
  • You are the block Panchayat President. Send a letter to the Municipal Commissioner requesting that a dispensary be established in your community.
  • Write a letter to the Sales Manager expressing your dissatisfaction with a malfunctioning washing machine and requesting that it be replaced.
  • To a newspaper in your town, protesting about the poor quality and insufficient availability of municipal water.
  • Write a letter to your landlord requesting that specific repairs be made to the property where you are staying as a tenant.

Sample Formal Letter of Resignation

A letter of resignation is a formal letter in which an employee writes to his/ her boss regarding their decision to leave their employment for a particular reason. Here is a sample format of a resignation letter:-

D- 1801, Neptune Society,

DS Marg, Lower Parel,

Mumbai 400 008.

16th May 2022

To,

The Editor-in-Chief,

Hindustan Times,

Main Street,

Mumbai 400 001.

Subject: Resignation from the job position of Editorial Assistant

Sir,

This is to inform you that, as of May 25, 2022, I am resigning from the job position of Editorial Assistant at the Hindustan Times. 

Thank you for your valuable encouragement and opportunities over the last two years. I have thoroughly enjoyed my working experience with the Hindustan Times and I highly appreciate all the support you provided me in achieving my professional and personal goals.

Kindly let me know if I can be of any help throughout this transition to ensure a smooth transfer of my responsibilities to my successor. I would be more than happy to assist in any possible way I can.

With sincere regards,

Kriti Mittal

Editorial Assistant,

Hindustan Times, Mumbai

Important Tips for Formal Letter Writing

Kindly go through the below pointers to know some of the expert tips to ace the Formal Letter Writing in Bank exams 2022.

  • Properly address/ greet the person-in-question with Greetings, Sir/Madame
  • Always state the reason (subject) for writing the letter.
  • Keep the content of the letter short and precise. The first paragraph should always state why you're writing the letter. Do not overstretch this paragraph.
  • The letter should carry a kind and polite yet formal tone.
  • Write the letter in a proper structure and pay attention to its presentation.
  • Make sure to correctly state the address and date.
  • The recipient's name and designation should be mentioned clearly without any errors. 
  • The letter should end on a note of gratitude. "Thank you". In the end, mention "Yours sincerely or with sincere regards' along with your name and signature.

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FAQs

  • In simple terms, a formal letter is one that is written in an orderly manner using conventional language and follows a specific stipulated format. Such types of letters are usually used to communicate official purposes only, like writing to the manager, to the HR manager, to an employee, to the school/college's principal, to a teacher, etc.

  • Generally, the formal letter consists of six elements that must be included, Sender's/Receiver's addresses, Date, Salutation, Subject, Body Text & Ending.

  • There are multiple types of formal letters written for varied purposes. Some of the most common ones are a letter of instruction, a letter of inquiry, a letter of complaint, a promotion letter, a recovery letter, and a sales letter.

  • In the case of formal letters, it is best to end with a suitable closing statement followed by the sender’s signature and full name, along with the relevant salutations like Yours Faithfully, Yours Sincerely, etc.

  • It is strongly advised to start a formal letter with the sender’s address followed by the date and receiver’s address. The sender’s address should be written in the left-hand corner whereas the receiver’s address should be stated in the right-hand corner just below the date.

  • Though it is not at all mandatory, students are still encouraged to segregate the content of the body into three sections to provide maximum clarity to the reader.

  • In today’s era, formal letters are usually sent via email if the sender has the correct email address. If not, you can also send it by post.

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