Communication is the soul of every kind of relationship whether personal or professional. In a work environment, sending and receiving memos and emails are unavoidable.
Whether the letter or message you are sending is intra-organisational or inter-organisational, as long as it is formal in nature, the tone and presentation must align with certain rules (language and format).
Formal letters are usually written with a formal and courteous language, and must follow a particular order. Explained below are the proper steps to follow when writing a formal letter.
5 steps for writing a formal letter
- Address and date: When writing a formal letter, the sender’s address is often written on the top right-hand corner of the page. This is then followed by the date in which the letter is written. The date is very important because formal letters are usually kept on record for future references. Next comes the receiver’s address which begins with the name/position/official title of the receiver before including details of their location as provided to you. Be sure to cross-check to ensure that the address is correct especially in cases where the letter has to be sent by post.
- Greeting/salutation: This is the part where you salute or greet the person whom the letter is addressed to. Remember that since this is a formal letter, the greeting has to be respectful and formal. The common salutations used in formal letters are “Sir”, “Madam” or “Ma’am”. Never address the receiver by their first name as this is considered rude. You can either address them by their full name or last name, and in that case, you may begin with “Ms. XYZ” or “Mrs. ABC” or “Mr. EFG”.
- Subject: The subject of the letter comes immediately after the greeting/salutation. In the middle of the line, write “Subject” and then add a colon in front before writing the purpose of the letter. This is usually a one-liner that allows the receiver to know what to expect in the body of the letter at a glance.
- Body of the letter: The body of the letter is the full breakdown or details of the message you’re trying to pass across to the recipient, usually containing two or three paragraphs depending on the length of the letter. Your main reason for writing the letter should be apparent in the first paragraph, while the rest of the paragraphs are simply to buttress your point. Remember to keep your tone respectful and polite regardless of your purpose of writing, and also make sure that your letter is straight to the point and concise.
- Closing and signature: Your formal letter should always end with a complimentary closing. Words like “Yours Sincerely”, “Kind Regards” or “Yours Faithfully” are to be written at the bottom right corner of the letter. After the closing comes your name which is otherwise known as the signature. The signature is written just below the complimentary closing and it is very important because this what lets the recipient know who the letter is from. Writing your name in capital letters is also allowed.