Formal Letter Writing

Letter-writing is undoubtedly an art. It is one of the forms of written communication. We should be able to write good letters which are readable and which communicate clearly the necessary information to the recipient of the letter.

What is a letter?

A Letter is a written message, request for assistance or employment or admission to a school. Letters have played and are still playing an important role in communication throughout the world. Paper letters were once the most and at times the only reliable means of communication between two people at different locations. Its format and importance have changed with the evolution of technology, especially with the advent of email.

The composition of letters is most intimate and personal. It genuinely and freely reveals a writer’s feelings and moods. You may be called at any time to share your sorrow at your loved one ‘s passing, to congratulate one on his success, to apply for a job or to inquire for something. Therefore each educated person must acquire the ability to write impressive letters.

Letters are of various kinds, depending on what we are communicating and to whom we are sending the communication and yet they all have certain common features of form. These features give the letter a good look and produce a favourable impression in the minds of the reader.

Letters are classified into two types:

  1. Personal Letters
  2. Formal or Business letters & Official letters
  1. Personal Letters are those that deal with personal matters. Letters to relatives, friends or acquaintances are all personal (informal) letters.
  • They are very intimate.
  • They express private thoughts and feelings between people who are intimate.
  • The subject matter may be a request, an apology, congratulations, an inquiry, and expression of sympathy, a thank-you or something like giving information in reply to a letter.
  • It may be also be formal such as invitations to important social functions, weddings etc.
  1. Business Letters are those that deal with the matters of an impersonal, official nature.
  • Letters to the Government or semi-govt. institutions.
  • Letters between two Government Offices (in the official capacity)
  • Letters between an individual and a government office and vice versa.
  • Letters written to firms, shops and companies. The above letters fall under business letters.

A letter, whether concerned with a personal or business matter, is a kind of essay and is subject to the ordinary rules of composition but as a form of writing, it has certain characteristics that must be observed.

In this article , we will learn how to write formal letters.

Application or a Formal Letter is a letter written for a variety of purposes in day to day activities which can be domestic or professional. It is also a written request when written for assistance, admission, employment, favour, information, permission, service etc. A letter of application is also an accompanying document as and when required. When it does so it is known as Cover Letter. An application letter is largely a formal type of letter as it follows a predefined format which applies to most type of application letters.

There are many occasions when we have to write letters to officials for a different purpose. We may write directly to them, but if we want general help for our cause, we should write to the editor of the newspaper. A letter to the editor of a newspaper is read not only by the editor but by both the newspaper readers and the authorities concerned. In this way, the complaint is brought to the attention of a large number of people and the civil authorities are obliged to take action. The formal letters always follow the standard conventions of letter writing.

Essentials of a Formal Letter:

There are seven main parts of a formal letter. These are:

1. Address. It contains :

  • Sender’s Address
  • Receiver’s Address

Sender’s Address – It is the address of the person who sends or writes the letter.The complete address and contact details of the sender are written here. Email and phone number should be included if required or if mentioned in the question. It also gives the reader the address to which reply may be sent.

Receiver’s Address – The address of the person receiving the correspondence includes formal name, street name, city/village, state and postal code.

  1. Dateline: It is a very important piece of information because it tells us when the letter was written.The date is supposed to be written in full with day, month and year. Example – 31st May 2012 or May 31st, 2012
  2. Greeting or Salutation: It is the courteous way of beginning a letter. The most common salutation is Dear Sir/Madam.

  3. Purpose of Letter : It states the purpose of the letter, that is, it introduces the subject of the sentence.

  4. Body of the Letter: It contains the subject matter or message of the letter. It explains in detail all aspects of what is to be communicated.It is divided into 3 paragraphs as follows –

Paragraph 1: Introduce oneself and the purpose of writing the letter, briefly.
Paragraph 2: Give detail of the matter.
Paragraph 3: Conclude by mentioning what one expects from the editor. (For example, you may want him to highlight the issue in his newspaper/magazine).

  1. Subscription: This is the complimentary closing. It should always correspond to the Salutation. Examples are Yours Faithfully, Sincerely, Respectfully Yours, Very Truly Yours, or Cordially Yours.
  2. Signature: Sender’s name, signature and designation (if any)

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Steps For Writing Application

Outline – Before one begins to write, an outline of the application should be prepared. The agenda should be specified as to what one, which documents need to be attached etc. A list of documents, if required to be attached, needs to be prepared for ready reference.

Drafting – Drafting is a rough copy of the original one. The outline of the letter comes to be useful here. Errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure etc should be meticulously avoided. If one is not sure of any particular format, multiple formats can be created to see which is the best. One can also consult the seniors in this regard.

Opening Salutations Rules – It is unprofessional to use only the First Name of the person unless you have an informal relationship with the addressee, e.g. ‘Dear Rajat’
o Salutation requires a Comma at its end – Dear Mr Rakesh Bakshi, Dear Sir,
o If there are multiple recipients you have to use ‘Dear Sirs/Madams’
o If there are only two recipients of different Gender, you have to use ‘Dear Mr Sen and Ms Sen.’
o If the multiple recipients consist of both gender, use ‘Dear Sir(s), Gentlemen and Madam(s)’, using the ‘s’ per se.
o If case the name of the recipient is not available, simply write, ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
o If the last name or the title of the recipient is known, write the same, e.g. – ‘Dear Dr Kaur’ or ‘Dear Media Manager.’
o If you do not know the recipient’s name or gender, use ‘To whom it may concern,’ ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’
o Use Ms for women unless asked to use Mrs or Miss. ‘Miss’ is meant for an ‘Unmarried Woman’, ‘Mrs.’ is meant for a ‘Married Woman’ and ‘Ms.’ is meant for a woman whose marital status is not known to you

Brevity: Come to the point or agenda at hand as the receiver may not have much time to spare. This will also initiate a quick response as the information will be brief and specific. Mention the purpose of the letter in the first paragraph itself. Avoid your comments in the first paragraph. Give information in a serial order.

Courtesy – Courtesy does not mean only writing the salutations, it also means that you consider the recipient worthy of importance. Be reasonable, cordial and use a formal language to address the letter. Do not use any slang or double meaning words.
Formal Closing Salutations – Closing business salutations should match the tone of the letter. A formal salutation is polite, courteous and respectful to the recipient. Common formal salutations are:
o Sincerely or yours sincerely
o Respectfully Yours
o Faithfully Yours
o Yours Truly

Proofreading – Proofreading a letter means to read the letter to trace any errors. If one misses out any mistake one can rectify it by reading aloud to oneself. Spell check the letter, edit the errors. Some words seem very similar and one can mistakenly write ‘oppression” in place of “operation.” Editing can be of great use in such cases. Sometimes the American spellings are preferred to the British ones, so ‘meter’ is considered correct whereas ‘metre’ is termed wrong.

Format and Important points for writing formal letters

• Formal letters are written in bloc format (see sample letters below). In bloc style, the address, the dateline, the body and the subscription and signature are all aligned to the left of the page. This style is now widely used in most parts of the world. Other styles like the conventional style or indented style are now considered as obsolete.

• The sender’s address can be written at the top left-hand corner. The sender’s address is not written when not needed.

• The dateline is written right below the address. Notice how to write the date. It is useful to write the name of the month in full. Here are a few common ways of writing the date:

15th April 2020
April 25, 2020
15. 04. 2020

• The receiver’s address is written at the top left corner.

• The letter begins with the salutation Dear Sir or Sir. The use of expressions such as ‘Respected Sir’ is considered out of fashion and hence it is better to avoid them.

Pro-tip: In official letters, the Salutation is Sir, and in Public letters, it is Sir or Dear Sir. The expression “Respected Sir, ” “Honoured Sir, ” “Beloved Sir” are out of fashion. But such stronger forms may be used now and then if the occasion should demand it. For instance, students or officers when they are asked to present a farewell address to a retired officer, they may use the expressions like Respected Sir, Honoured Sir for showing their respect and affection.

• The letter is divided into three paragraphs. These three paras are :

  1. The first Para states the purpose of writing the letter. Here are a few ways to introduce the topic or state the purpose of writing the letter;

I am writing this to inform your noble self that ………..
The purpose of this letter is to request your good self that ………
I am writing to enquire about ….. ( To make an enquiry)

  1. The second paragraph explains the reason for asking something or making a request. It gives a factual description of the details.

•3 The third paragraph makes the request or seeks permission.

The following are some standard expressions used in this concern:

•Could I request you to grant me …………

• I would be grateful if you could allow me to ……………
• I would be grateful if you could…….
• I would appreciate it if you could … ………

• Could you please………..
• Kindly I may be…..

Formal Letter Writing

Format of Formal Letter

Hints To Write The Body of the Formal Letter

The body of the formal letter should be brief and to the point. The formal letter should be more courteous and should include the main subject at the outset. No unnecessary details should be given in such letters. The subject-matter of the applications should be formulated in a courteous manner, in order to give a good impression to the mind of the authority to which they are addressed. Such applications should contain all the necessary information, but should not, in any case, contain personal details like your poverty or flowery language.

The body of the letters written to the editors of the newspapers for publication must have an interest in general trade and must make a public case. The style of a letter like this should be well worded and logically arranged. When the body of the letter is finished, you should use the expressions like “With kind regards,” “With best wishes,” “With reverence,” “With love,” etc.

• Then comes the closing subscription. When the salutation is Dear Sir or Dear Madam, the closing subscription will be :

Yours faithfully
Faithfully yours
Yours Sincerely
Sincerely Yours

Unlike the informal letter, the formal letter does not use contractions or incomplete sentences. All sentences are complete and are written using formal words and phrases.

Read Also: Informal Letter Writing

Some Samples of Formal Letters

➡ Write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper requesting him to highlight the fact that your colony is facing the severe problem of supply of inadequate and poor quality of tap water.

Hamdania Colony
Bemina, Srinagar

The Editor
The Srinagar Times

15th April, 20….

Dear Sir,

The purpose of this letter is to request you to highlight the inadequate and bad quality of the water supply in our locality.

Through the columns of your esteemed newspaper, I would like to draw the attention of the civic authorities to the bad quality and inadequate supply of tap water in our locality.

It is unfortunate that the local civic authorities do not take care to provide the citizens with even the basic amenities such as proper and adequate water supply. In our locality, water is supplied only for three hours in the morning. For the rest of the day, the taps remain dry. Also, the quality of the supplied water is poor. It is unhygienic and contaminated. There have been cases of water-borne diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery. It is highly expected that these diseases may break out in the form of an epidemic if the problem is not properly addressed.

It is expected that instead of ignoring the issue, the authorities concerned will take immediate steps to ensure the supply of adequate and good quality of water in our locality so that we citizens are able to live a disease-free and stress-free life.

Yours faithfully,
Shabir Ahmad

➡Write an application to the Principal of your institution for the remission of fine for your absence from the school.

The Principal
Govt. Boys High School
Batapora, Kanihama

15th May, 20…

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter for the remission of fine.

I want to bring to your kind notice that last Sunday I went to see my uncle with the intention to return only the next day. On reaching my destination I came to know that my uncle had been ill for the last few days. He had no one to look after except my physically handicapped aunt. I, therefore, felt obliged to stay there longer to fetch and carry. It took him five days to recover and I had to stay through all these days.

On rejoining the school yesterday, I learnt that I have been fined for my five day’s continuous absence.

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It’s now earnestly requested that the situation, I had got held into, may be considered and the fine imposed on me be remitted.
Thanking you Sir

Obediently yours,
Student class X
Roll No – 50

➡Write an application to the Principal/ Headmaster of your school asking him to remit your fee.

The Principal
Govt. Boys High School
Batapora, Kanihama

15th May, 20 …


I am writing this letter for the remission of fine.

Respectfully, I want to state that I, owing to the facts that follow, am badly in need of the remission of my tuition fee. I belong to a poor family. My father is a low-paid worker. He hardly manages to keep the wolf from the door. The state of penury has led us to a hand-to-mouth existence. Under such circumstances, my tuition fee seems an unbearable onus to my father. I am afraid, to escape the brunt of this burden, he might ask me to discontinue my studies. You know, sir! I have a keen and deep-rooted interest to continue my studies. I am in the good books of all the teachers. Besides a brilliant academic career, I have successfully represented my school at many State and National level Seminars, debates and competitions and am resolved to show a better performance in future.

Keeping the above conditions in view, I would request you to consider my problem and give me concession in my fee so that I carry on my studies and be able to translate my cherished dreams into reality.

Yours faithfully
Reyaz Ahmad.

➡Write an application to the principal of your school requesting him to take the students on an excursion.

The Principal
Govt. Boys High School
Batapora, Kanihama

15th May, 20….

Dear Sir,

The purpose of this letter is to seek your permission for a summer excursion.

It is not hidden from the eyes that the weather condition nowadays is very pleasant. The tourist spots of our Kashmir are busy (glorifying) beautifying themselves with nature‘s priceless colour and costumes, as it is the month of May. The idyllic scenes are attracting thousands of tourists both local and foreign, to the valley. The famous tourist centres are thronged with summer visitors.

Our school has a long tradition of taking the students to different health resorts during the summer. However, no such arrangement has been made up until now.

And realising that excursion not only refreshes our mind and soul but sharpen our observation. It adds in long-lasting knowledge by providing the first-hand experience. It also develops us socially as it allows us to interact with many people from different parts of the country and world.

It is, therefore, requested that an excursion be arranged within the next week as it will perhaps be the most appropriate time for it. It is further requested that either Pahalgam or Kukernag be chosen as the spot for the excursion as It is the demand of the majority of the students.

Thanking you, Sir.

Faithfully yours,

Students of the school

➡ Write an application to the principal of your school requesting him to send you a testimonial.

The Principal
Govt. High School
X. Y. Z Srinagar

15th May, 20…..

Dear Sir,

I am writing this to request your good self to send me a testimonial.

I am Shahid Khursheed. I was a student of your school from 2016 to 2019. I want a certificate of character and ability as I have to produce it while applying for the post of clerk. Please note the following particulars about me.

I passed the Matriculation Examination in 2019 in the first division securing 450 marks out of 500. All the teachers had a high opinion about me. I evinced keen interest in games and other co-curricular activities. I was also a member of NCC.
Please send the testimonial at your earliest convenience.

Yours Obediently,
Shahid Khursheed

A letter to the editor about the content of the newspaper.

The Editor
Times of India

15th May, 202….

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter to request you to revert back to the earlier format of writing.

I am an ardent and regular reader of your newspaper and have been reading it for nearly the past twelve years. Initially, I was very happy with the nature of articles you were publishing and your selection of stories. However, of late, I believe the newspaper has changed its objectives, style and preferences. I urge you on behalf of several other readers, to revert back to the earlier format.

Nowadays, the supplements of your newspaper carry a large number of advertisements for high-end brands and meaningless peddling of luxury goods. You have also started highlighting the page three kind of scoops instead of delivering the pragmatic and hard-hitting stories you were once known for.

We as readers of your newspaper beseech you to revert to your earlier style of journalism based on hard facts and not to cater to whims and fancies.

Thanking you,
16/3 R, Railway Colony

If you want to read some more samples of formal letters Click HERE.

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