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Formal Letter Format — How to Write a Perfect Formal Letter

Formal Letter Format — How to Write a Perfect Formal Letter

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Writing a letter is easy. Writing an e-mail or text message? Piece of cake! Writing a formal letter… that’s where things get complicated.

You need to think about tone, word choice, formatting- the list goes on!

Businesses, workplaces, and educational institutions are common places to which formal letter writing continues to be common.

The rules for formal letter writing can be a bit complex, so let’s have a refresher on the best practices for doing so!

We will also introduce examples of some of the most common types of formal letters, so that you can easily follow along and create your own. 

But basically speaking, this 


Formal Letter Format

Formal letters must include the sender’s and recipient’s names and addresses, the date, and an opening salutation. The letter should have an introduction which states the letter’s purpose, a body which gives specific information, and a closing. Lastly, include a closing salutation and a signature.


Because of strict traditions, formal letter writing does not leave much room for style and variance. So, for instance, when writing an advocacy letter, you will need to make sure to follow a strict set of rules. 

Formal letters follow a set formula in terms of content, placement, and format which shouldn’t be strayed from. 

By following the most traditional layout for formal letters (which we will explain in further detail below) you can be sure that your letter will be professional and clear. 

In order, let’s go over the different parts of a formal letter in-depth to get a better understanding of the rules. 


1. Sender’s name and address (your name and address) on a formal letter

Every formal letter should include the sender’s address towards the top of the letter. This is to let the recipient know who you are and how to contact you at a glance.

The name and address are either written at the top-right hand side of the letter, or at the top-left. We will first go over the top-right hand side method.

Begin with your first and last name in a single line.

The address is written in the next line. It should include the street, the building number, and the apartment number (if applicable).

City/town name is written in the next line, followed by the state, and finally the zip code.

When formatted together, this information should look similar to the following:


John Smith

45 Smalls St. Apt.37

Boston, MA 43407


When writing out this information at the top-left, the steps are the same, though it looks like this:


John Smith

45 Smalls St. Apt.37

Boston, MA 43407


If you are writing on behalf of your business, include your business name in a new line below your first and last name. This looks like the following:

John Smith

Healthy Snacks Inc.

67 Greenery Rd.

Hampston, GE 88201


Now that we know the “who”, we need to include the “when”!


2. The date on a formal letter

Unlike electronic forms of communication like e-mails or text messages, physical letters do not have immediately obvious timestamps.

Including the date of writing is a very important part of formal letter writing, as we live in a fast-paced world where new information is presented to us minute-by-minute. 

The recipient should know the exact date when the letter was written in order to best understand the context of the letter, and to ensure their timely reply. 

The line below from the sender’s address (regardless of whether it is on the left or right hand side of the letter) is where the date is typically written. 

The date should be written as month (fully written out as a word), day (written as a number), and year (written as a number).

Due to differences in date writing internationally, it is always best to write out the month fully to avoid confusion. 

You may use “th” or “rd” (as in 5th or 3rd ), or you may leave the number as is (as in 5 or 3). 

Do not shorten month names (February is correct, Feb is incorrect).

The date should be written with a comma separating the day and year, with a single space following the comma.

This should look like the following:

March 5, 2023


February 14th, 2023


This is the only information that should be formatted along the right-hand side of the letter.

Congratulations! You have finished the first part of the letter, and can move on to writing out the recipient’s information.


3. Recipient’s name and address on a formal letter

The recipient’s information (the person you are sending the letter to) should always be formatted along the left-hand side of the letter.

It should be two lines below the sender’s information regardless of whichever side that information is on.

Assuming you know the recipient’s full name, this information follows the same format as the sender’s information.

Begin with the recipient’s first and last name in a single line.

If there is a business/school name, write it in the second line.

The address is written in the next line. It should include the street, the building number, and the apartment number (if applicable).

City/town name is written in the next line, followed by the state, and finally the zip code.

When put together, this looks like the following (when there is a business/school name to include):


Mary Sue

Saline Solutions LLC.

47 Wordsworth Dr.

Lincoln, NE 67450


And should look like this for general:


Mary Sue

47 Wordsworth Dr.

Lincoln, NE 67450


If the name of the recipient is not known, you can instead list the department or position you are trying to reach (such as “Sales Department” or “Hiring Manager”) in the first line instead.

In this case, capitalize all words within the title, with the exception of connecting words such as “of”, “and”, or “the”. 

At last, all of the letter’s “set-up” is complete, and you can move on to finally saying “hello” with a kind and professional salutation!


4. Opening salutation of a formal letter

The opening salutation is a greeting, and is the first personal bit of information a recipient will read.

While you might say “hey!” or “hello!” in an electronic message, a formal letter requires a more formal expression.

The opening salutation is always formatted to the left-hand side of the letter, and begins with a capital letter. 

The most common formal salutation is “Dear [name]”. Including their suffix, such as Ms., Mrs., Mr., or Dr. is recommended. 

If you are unsure of their gender (in the case of names such as Robin or Alex) or are unsure of the recipient’s marital status, it is best to write out their full name. 

If the recipient’s name is unknown, then their title should be used instead.

Titles such as “Hiring Manager”, “Sales Manager”, “Principal of ABC School”, or “Human Resources Manager” can be written instead of a name.

When using a title, make sure that the first letter of each word is capitalized except in smaller connecting words such as “and”, “or”, “the”, “in”, and “of”. 

When put together, the salutation should look like the following examples:


Dear Mr. Smith:


Dear Alex Jones:


Dear Hiring Manager:

Salutations should be short and to the point, but there are a number of things to avoid when choosing one! Here are a few points that must be remembered.

Using a comma after a salutation is informal, and should be reserved for close friends or colleagues. 

Salutations such as “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, “Hello”, or “Hi [name]” are informal, and should be avoided on formal letters.

The age-old phrase “To whom it may concern” is outdated and vague, and is not commonly used in formal letters these days.

Knowing the name or department of the intended recipient is important when writing formal letters, so this salutation can come off as lazy or ignorant. 

When writing the recipient’s name, never use only the first name (such as “Dear Sarah”). This is very informal, and can come across as stepping over boundaries unless you are close with the recipient. 

Now that all of the groundwork has been laid for our formal letter, it is time to actually write the letter! We begin with the most important part: the purpose


5. The first paragraph of a formal letter – Purpose

The first paragraph of a formal letter should be short, typically only 1-2 sentences long.

It is used to inform the recipient of the point of your letter- what is it you hope to achieve by sending it?

Typically, the purpose can be boiled down to one of a few things: to give information, to give a suggestion, to give a complaint, to request something be done, or to request information. 

Once you have decided your purpose, you must remember to keep a formal tone throughout the letter.

You must not let emotions such as anger, desperation, hopelessness, etc. show through on a formal letter.

The opening line typically begins with “I am writing this letter to” or “I am writing to” because we are stating a purpose. 

Here are some examples of opening paragraphs on a formal letter:


I am writing this letter to inform you of my intent to resign on June 13th, 2023.


I am writing to inquire about the job application I submitted for the Chief Editor job last Wednesday, April 9th.


I am writing in regards to the recent break-ins within the apartment complex in the hopes that additional security may be posted on Saturday and Sunday nights.

These examples show the intent of the letter quickly and precisely, which is the main point of the first paragraph.

Any additional information should be saved for the second paragraph onward, which is where you will explain the situation in greater detail.


6. The body paragraphs of a formal letter – Information and details

The body paragraphs of a formal letter explain further details about the purpose.

Why is the purpose important, why should the recipient care, what led you to this purpose, and what do you hope will happen as a result of the letter?

Remember to keep a clear and professional tone while writing the body paragraphs of the formal letter.

Give specific information about the topic, and avoid use of any overly friendly quips such as “haha” or “if you know what I mean”. 

Body paragraphs vary greatly depending on the subject matter, but here is an example of the type of tone and information you may want to include:


I have greatly enjoyed working for ABC company for the last 20 years, and I appreciate the opportunities which were given to me during the time of my employment. 

I plan to retire alongside my wife Alison and relocate to a house in Orlando to be closer to family. 

I recommend John Smith to be promoted to Branch Manager in my stead, as he has constantly shown diligence, innovation, and leadership during his time working at ABC company.

Should you have any questions, I can be reached on my home phone at (888) 888-8888, or by e-mail at [email protected]

Remember to include information of the past (in this case, the fact that the employee was happy at the company), present (employee wants to retire), and future (employee wants John Smith to be promoted). 

The content of formal letters will always differ based on the situation, but you should remember those three parts in order to make the most effective letter. Past, present, and future!


7. The closing line of a formal letter

After the body paragraphs of a formal letter, there is often a single sentence which closes off the letter.

This line should re-iterate the point of the letter in a clear and concise manner.

Not every letter has a closing line, as some letters can wrap things up neatly at the end of a paragraph. Either way is alright on a formal letter.

Many times, the closing line iterates a wish for a reply from the recipient.

Those checking in on job applications or requesting information certainly hope for a reply back, thus the final line is typically “I hope to hear from you soon” or “I look forward to your response”. 

If the letter is urging for something to be done, then the closing line might be “I sincerely hope that this matter may be taken into consideration”.

Formal letters of many types may also use the closing line to thank the recipient for reading in addition to stating their wishes.

This sort of closing line can be “I appreciate your time reading this letter, and hope for your consideration” or “Thank you for your discretion in this matter”.

It is not necessary to be overly specific when re-stating your purpose in the closing line, as the recipient now has a full understanding of the subject at hand.

Try to avoid over-explaining things, and keep the closing line to a single sentence


8. Closing salutations of a formal letter

Thankfully, closing salutations on formal letters are more forgiving than opening salutations.

There are more options to choose from when signing off, and fewer that are inappropriate- which makes this part easier!

Typical closing salutations include “Regards”, “Kind regards”, “Thank you for your time”, “Thank you”, “Many thanks”, or “Sincerely”. 

Salutations including an iteration of “thank you” are most often used when requesting something, such as a response to a job or school application. 

“Sincerely” is common to all types of formal letters, thus is a favorite for many people.

“Regards” and “kind regards” come off as kind and friendly, and are just between the lines of formal and informal writing.

These are often used when the writer knows the recipient personally, but it is a pure business relationship. 

With no exception, the closing salutation is always followed by a comma. Never leave a salutation without punctuation, and never use any type of punctuation other than a comma with a closing salutation. 

This should look exactly as follows:



Kind regards,


Thank you for your time,





9. The sender’s name on a formal letter – The signature

The sender’s (your) signature should be two lines down from the closing line, formatted to the left side of the page.

This does not have to be a legible, neat signature, but should be your regular signature of first and last name. 

Signatures are written in cursive, do not simply print your name in the signature line.

The only exception is when writing e-mails, some people opt not to include a signature. In this case, simply delete the signature line and skip directly to the printed name.

Below the signature, the sender’s full name should be written. When writing the sender’s name, both first and last name should be included.

Titles like “Ms.” and “Mr.” are typically avoided, though “Dr.” is often included. 

If you are writing from the position of a business, then your business title should be placed in the line below your name with each word beginning with a capital letter (except smaller conjoining words such as “and”, “of”, “in”, etc.) followed by the business name.

All together, the name should look like this:


[Your Signature]
John Smith


[Your Signature]

Mary Sue

Head of Business Relations, ABC Company


Some people choose to separate the business title and the business name, putting the business name below like this:

[Your Signature]

Mary Sue

Head of Business Relations

ABC Company


Both types are acceptable on formal letters, so either format can be used.


General formal letter tips


Short letters are okay as far as formal letters go

Unlike when a resume is too short, having a short formal letter is not a problem. Often times, formal letters will only take up half a page. This leaves a lot of blank space on the paper, and that’s perfectly acceptable!

The recipient will likely be glad that there is less to read and that the writer got straight to the point. 


Don’t use too many exclamation points in formal letters

Although it’s tempting when you’re upset or excited, don’t go crazy with the exclamation points.  Exclamation points are a rarity on formal letters due to the emotional restraint that formal letters call for. Stick to expressing your emotions through carefully selected words.


Contractions are a no-go in formal letter writing

Avoid using too many contractions such as “I’m”, “won’t”, “can’t”, etc. When writing a formal letter, try to write out each word as it comes off far more professionally. 


Have proper penmanship if hand-writing the formal letter

I know, most of us are not hand-writing many things these days. Still, a formal letter with sloppy handwriting will not be taken very seriously. Take your time and write neatly to guarantee maximum effectiveness of your letters.


Proofread your letter, then proofread it again

A single spelling or punctuation error can make the reader dismiss the entire letter, so you must be sure that it’s written properly. Read it to yourself, read it out loud, have a friend look it over; just don’t leave any typos that will detract from your message. 

At this point, you’ve learned everything you should need to know in order to write a formal letter. Let’s put all of those steps together, and take a look at some full examples of formal letters in order to help all of that sink in.

While every situation is different, these should give you a good understanding of how a formal letter is formatted when fully written out.


You can use the formal letter format as outlined above to write all types of formal letters, be it an exemption letter, a letter of recommendation or even something like an apology letter for being too late at work.


Formal Letter Full Examples & Samples

Formal letter for a job application [Example]

John Smith

47 Newbie St.

Phoenix, AZ 97247

March 14th, 2023 


Hiring Manager            

ABC Sports Company  

13 Circle Dr.

Phoenix, AZ 97248


Dear Hiring Manager:


My name is John Smith, and I am writing in response to the recent job ad for a social media manager which was posted on Indeed.com on April 2nd

I graduated from Arizona Tech in 2016 with a Master’s in Social Media Engineering, and have over 6 years of experience with social media management.

My previous job saw an increase of over 6000% in social media activity following my employment, and the page I manage now has over 44,000 followers. 

I am interested in ABC Sports Company’s open position, as I have been playing and following sports since I was a child, and I believe that this job would be a good fit for my lifestyle.

I have attached my resume for your review. If you have any questions, I would be happy to connect by phone at (888)-888-8888 or by e-mail at [email protected]

I look forward to hearing from you.


Kind Regards,


[Your Signature]
John Smith

Formal letter to a principal [Example]

Jane Doe

11 High St.

Churchill, OH 63822

March 3rd, 2023

Principal Jonah Lloyd 

ABC Middle School

22 Mark Lane

Cleveland, OH 63829


Dear Principal Lloyd:


My name is Jane Doe, mother to Felicia Doe, and I am writing in regards to an incident which occurred at Felicia’s school yesterday, March 2nd

Felicia had come home from school quite distraught, and told me that her social studies teacher, Mr. Hughes, has given her a failing grade claiming that she had never handed in her local government project.

She had come to me for help on that assignment a few days before, and she had also shown me the project after she had completed it for final checks. Felicia insists that she had turned in the assignment directly to Mr. Hughes on March 1st .

I do not wish to assume, of course, but perhaps Mr. Hughes may have misplaced the assignment in question? I saw the finished product, so I am sure that Felicia has completed the assignment.

If possible, I would appreciate your help in speaking to Mr. Hughes about this matter, as I have been unable to reach him by e-mail. 

You can reach me by home phone at (222) 222-2222 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Thank you for your assistance,


[Your Signature]

Jane Doe


Formal letter for a school application [Example]

Mary Sue64 Hopeful Ln.

Brunswick, ME 04762

February 18th, 2023


Admissions Department

ABC University

76 Appleday Dr.

Boston, MA 12748


Dear Admissions Department: 
My name is Mary Sue, and I am a senior at Yardsdale High School in Maine. I have sent in an application to ABC University in the hopes of being admitted to the Environmental Studies program in the fall of next year.

As stated in my application, I founded a group called the Green Clean Initiative which is dedicated to cleaning up the city and removing trash and debris from nearby rivers and ponds.

I have been informed this week that the project has received a state grant, allowing us to expand our efforts into neighboring cities. Other organizations have reached out wanting to be a part of the project, which will help our efforts greatly.

At risk of sounding vain, I am hoping that the success of Green Clean Initiative may speak to my dedication and passion for environmentalism. 

I fully plan to continue my dedication to the group should I be admitted to ABC University, and hope to start a new branch of the initiative there. 

Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]


Thank you for your time,


[Your Signature]

Mary Sue


Formal letter to a bank [Example]

Samantha Goodall

55 Sparkling Dr.

Floral, CA 75581

July 15th, 2023


Bank Director

Secure Banking Inc.

15 Wellsburg St.

Floral, CA 75582


Dear Bank Director:


I have been a customer at Secure Banking Inc. for over 25 years, and it has always been a good bank to do business with. However, an incident occurred this week on July 14th that I think you should be aware of.

I was standing in line waiting to deposit money into my account, and I noticed a young new employee with blonde hair at the counter being trained by Mr. Darcy. I did not catch her name.

There was some sort of misunderstanding between a customer and this new employee, and I noticed that Mr. Darcy raised his voice at the new girl and said some words that I hesitate to repeat in this letter.

It was a very off-putting scene, and I felt quite uneasy being there in that moment. I believe that Secure Banking Inc. is a good bank that believes in supporting its employees, so I thought I should make you aware of this event.

The new employee was very sweet to me, and a smile remained on her face despite the cruelty she had faced. I hope that you can re-assess the employee trainers you have employed at the bank, and perhaps give the trainers some training in kindness. 




[Your Signature]

Samantha Goodall


Formal letter to a friend/acquaintance [Example]

John Smith

60 Maple Rd.

Archings, NC 28840

May 15th, 2023


Cindy Darwin

12 Fortune St.

Whittier, NC 28849


Dear Ms. Darwin:


Thank you for agreeing to watch our son Bobby during a time of panic for my family and I last week when my wife Susan needed to be hospitalized.

Susan is doing much better now, and the doctors say that she will be able to be able to be discharged as soon as next week!

I know it must have come as quite a shock to you, not knowing our family very well, when I suddenly asked you to watch our son. In this day and age, I understand that it can be dangerous to trust others.

I cannot express how thankful our family is to you. I was quite a wreck when I came to you for help, and you extended so much kindness to my family and I. I can only hope that we can return that kindness to you someday.

If there is anything at all that we can help you with, by all means, please do not hesitate to let us know. You have our phone number and address; you can come to us anytime.


Kindest regards,


[Your Signature]

John Smith


Formal letter of complaint to a business [Example]

Jane Doe

Quirky Cakes LLC.

73 Makers Rd.

Wilshire, TN 86990

March 10th, 2023

Quality Control Department

Bakers Best Inc.

59 Wattson Rd.

Bolston, NH 27589


Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing this letter in regards to a batch of flour which my company ordered on the 8th of March, 2023. 

In one of the bags of flour, my employee was shocked to have found, quite unfortunately, a nest of live insects. I have had similar findings in other bags of this same batch, leading me to believe that the entire batch had been contaminated.

I am attaching photos of the bags, the product numbers, and the insects which we found inside. 

Bakers Best has always provided the utmost quality in terms of baking flour, though this makes me question the level of quality control in place.

I am requesting, at the very least, a refund of this order which is entirely unusable. I am unsure at this time if I would like a replacement order.

I can be reached at my office phone (777) 777-7777 or by mail at the address stated above.




[Your Signature]

Jane Doe

Director, Quirky Cakes LLC.


Formal letter of proposal to a business [Example]

James O’Reilly

Big Shark Gaming Inc.

799 Heathrow St.

Irving, TX 86628

August 30th, 2023

Lead Project Manager

Gamerz Gaming Towerz

59 Wattson Rd.

Bolston, NH 27589


Dear Project Manager,


My name is James O’Reilly, and I am the founder of the gaming promotion and management company Big Shark Gaming. I have a proposal for a collaboration between our companies which would be beneficial to us both.

I manage many e-content creators who are interested in sponsorship, who have average viewer counts between 2000 and 5000 at any given time. Our contract with our current provider of PC towers is set to expire a few months from now, so I am searching for a new partnership.

Our content creators are brand ambassadors, and we have had hundreds of sales from viewers of our clients. Our clients’ sales are commission-based, and I would be happy to discuss rates should this be of interest to you.

This is a great opportunity for advertisement, as well as a huge increase in sales. 

I can be reached at my office at (555) 555-5555, or you can write to me at [email protected]

I look forward to hearing from you.




[Your Signature]

James O’Reilly

President, Big Shark Gaming Inc.