How to Write a Formal or Business Letter

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What is a formal letter?

A formal letter is one that is written in a formal and ceremonious language and adheres to a specific format. Such letters are sent to authorities, dignitaries, colleagues, seniors, and so on, rather than to personal contacts, friends, or family.

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They can influence how others perceive you, inform the reader about a serious issue, or help you get a job.

There are two types of formal letter styles: formal and informal.

1. Administrative Management Style

2. Block Style (AMS).

Block style is the most commonly used formal letter format; it includes a salutation and a closing and is appropriate for letters to businesses or people you have previously met.

1. On the top left-hand side of the page, write the sender's address and phone number.

If you are representing a company, include the address. Write your address if you are the sender. On the second line, write your street address. Fill in the blanks with your city, state, and zip code. Include your phone number alongside your address.

If you are representing a company, you can place your logo and address right in the middle of the page. Make sure to center it so it looks even.

2. Put the date directly beneath the sender's address.

It should appear one line below the sender's address (two hard returns on a keyboard).

The date is important for two reasons: if you're trying to get the person or organization to complete a task in a timely manner (send a paycheck, fix an order, etc.), it will give them a time frame to work with; and if you need to save a copy of the letter for legal reasons or posterity.

Except for the date and closing, everything in a Modified Block style is formatted to the left. When writing the date, move the cursor to the center of the page and center the date.

Insert a comma between the month and year.

3. Write the recipient's name one line below the date (two hard returns on a keyboard).

Include his or her name and title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr., etc.).

The recipient's name should be followed by his or her job title. Write the company name beneath the name. Write the recipient's street address one line below that. Fill in the recipient's city, state, and zip code on the next line.

If you don't know what the recipient's title is, do some background research or call the company. Use a woman's preference whenever possible (Mrs. Ms., Miss or Dr.) If you don't know what a woman prefers, use Ms.

4. Salute the person to whom you are writing.

"Dear Sir/Madam," or if you know the person's name, address them directly; however, make sure to address them formally using "Rev.", "Dr.", "Mr.", "Mrs.", or "Ms.", and include their full name if known. After the salutation, add a colon and a line (two hard returns) between the salutation and the body of the letter.

If you know the recipient and usually address him or her by first name, it is acceptable to use only the first name. (For example, Dear Cody)

5. Compose the letter's body.

The body of the letter should not exceed three paragraphs. If you can't express yourself in three paragraphs or less, you're probably not being concise enough. Each paragraph in the body should be justified with a single space and to the left.

Write a friendly opening paragraph, followed by the reason or goal of the letter. Let's get right to the point.

If possible, use examples to emphasize or underline your point in the second paragraph. Concrete, real-world examples are always preferable to hypothetical examples.

In the final paragraph, briefly summarize your writing's purpose and suggest how you might proceed further.

6. End your letter with the proper salutation.

If possible, leave a space between your salutation and your printed name for a signature. "Yours Sincerely," "Sincerely," and "Best" are all appropriate phrases. Make a space for your signature under your printed name. If applicable, finish with your title beneath your signature.

Except for the date and the closing, everything in Modified Block style is left-justified (as in Block Style). Tab to the page's center, then write your closing.

7. Type 'Enclosure' beneath your signature block or job title.

Only do this if you're including other materials with the letter, such as a resume or schedule. If there is more than one extra item, the names of the enclosed items should be listed.

8. Check your letter for errors.

Check the spelling of names, addresses, and so on. Make certain that your writing is clear and concise. Correct any grammatical errors.

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