Formal letter – It can shape other person’s perceptions of you, or inform the reader of a concerned issue, or get you a job.
There are two types of business or formal letter styles: block style and Administrative Management Style (AMS). Let’s take on both the styles one-by-one.
Block style is the most commonly used formal letter format. It has a salutation and closing paragraph. It is good for letters to businesses or offices for which you are applying or someone you have met before. AMS style is more straight forward and better for internal memos where a very direct communication is required.
- Writing a Traditional Block Style Formal Letter
- Writing an AMS Style Formal Letter
- Sending Formal Letter
Writing a Traditional Block Style Formal Letter
Write the sender’s address and telephone number on the top left hand side of the page.
Representing a company write the company’s address. If you are a sender, write address with street address, city, state, and zip code. Include telephone under the address. You may put logo and address right in the middle of the page. Ensure to put it in the center to look uniform.
Place the date below the sender’s address. It should be one line beneath the sender’s address (two hard returns on a keyboard). Tab over to the center of the page and place the date in the center. Place a comma between the month and the year.
Place the recipient’s name one line beneath the date. Include the titles viz., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr. etc. Follow the recipient’s name with his/her job title. Do background research or call the company to find out the addressee. Always use a woman’s preference among Mrs. Ms., Miss or Dr, or go with the use of Ms.
Give the person a salutation. Formally use Sir, Madam, “Rev.”, “Dr.”, “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, or “Ms.”, and include full name if known. Place a colon after the salutation and add a line between the salutation and the body of the letter.
Write the body of the letter. The body of the letter need not be more than three paragraphs. If you can’t say it in three paragraphs or less then you’re probably not being concise enough. Single space and left justify each paragraph within the body. Cut straight to the chase. Try to underline the point, if possible. Briefly summarize purpose in writing.
Sign off letter with the appropriate salutation. Leave space between salutation and printed name for a signature. “Yours sincerely,” “Sincerely,” and “Best,” are all appropriate. Leave a space under printed name for the signature.
Add the word ‘Enclosure’ below signature block or job title. Enclose material, like a resume or schedule, along with the letter. If there is more than one extra item, it would be great to list the names of the enclosed items.
Proofread the letter. Double check the spelling of names, addresses etc. Ensure writing is clear and concise. Fix all the grammar errors.
Writing an AMS Style Formal Letter
Write the sender’s address in the top left corner. While using a letterhead no need to put the sender’s address. Better to begin the letter with the date in the top left corner.
Place the date directly below the sender’s address. Do not have a blank line between the sender’s address and date.
Write the recipient’s address a line below the date. A line is two hard returns on a keyboard.
Write the subject of the letter in all caps one full line. This lets the recipient know what the letter will be about.
Write the body paragraphs. This is the place to discuss the subject. Be concise but thorough in your discussion of the subject.
Write your name below the body of the letter. Do not make closing remarks such as ‘sincerely’. Below the name, leave room for the signature. Below the signature, write the job title.
Add any enclosures. Enclosures are extra materials sent along with the letter. Write the word ‘Enclosure’ to enlist the names of the enclosed materials.
Proofread letter for errors of spelling or grammar. Ensure all names and addresses are spelled correctly.
Sending Your Formal Letter
Pick out an envelope. It should be plain and either square or rectangular. It should not have designs on it. However, it can be stylized–you could have custom envelopes made that are thicker and more durable than normal envelopes.
Place the letter into the envelope. Seal the envelope by licking along the seal line or peeling off the strips covering the sticky part of the seal (depending on what kind of envelope you have bought.)
Fold letter to fit into the envelope. Ensure to fold letter in one try as a letter with many creases and re-creases looks unprofessional. For a rectangular standard envelope, fold the letter into horizontal thirds. For a square envelope, fold the letter in half horizontally and then in half vertically to fit into the square envelope.
Flip the envelope over. Write name in the top left corner. Write street address, town, state, and zip code on the line below the street address.
Address the envelope. In the lower right third of the envelope, write the name of the person for sending the letter to. Write the company name on the line below, street address, town, state, and zip code on the line below that.
Place a stamp (or stamps) in the top right hand corner. Ensure the stamp is worth the weight of the formal letter.