With the advent of email, it is becoming less and less common to write letters, but the few letters that you will write will probably be very important ones, such as covering letters for job applications, covering letters for questionnaires or surveys which are part of your research, or letters of complaint to your bank manager.
In this lesson, we will learn how to write a formal letter.
In English there are a number of conventions that should be used when writing a formal or business letter. Furthermore, you try to write as simply and as clearly as possible, and not to make the letter longer than necessary. Remember not to use informal language like contractions.
The heading consists of your address and the date.
- Your Address
(The return address should be written in the top right-hand corner of the letter.)
- The Address of the person you are writing to
(The inside address should be written on the left, starting below your address.)
Different people put the date on different sides of the page. You can write this on the right or the left on the line after the address you are writing to. Write the month as a word.
Salutation or greeting:
- Dear Sir or Madam,
(If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, use this. It is always advisable to try to find out a name.)
- Dear Mr ...,
(If you know the name, use the title (Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, Dr, ...) and the surname only. If you are writing to a woman and do not know if she uses Mrs or Miss, you can use Ms, which is for married and single women.)
Skip one line after the salutation and begin typing the body of the formal letter. This is the main part of the letter. Keep in mind the rules outlined above regarding brevity and coherence. It is best to use short, clear, logical paragraphs to state your business.
Ending a letter:
- Yours Faithfully
(If you do not know the name of the person, end the letter this way.)
- Yours Sincerely
(If you know the name of the person, end the letter this way.)
- Your signature
(Sign your name, then print it underneath the signature. If you think the person you are writing to might not know whether you are male of female, put you title in brackets after your name.)