Despite the emergence of simpler and less formal forms of communication, formal letters still have a place in the business world. Formal cover letters are still required for serious consideration in the higher paying job market. Inquiry letters, claim letters, adjustment letters, letters of recommendation, and letters of resignation have perhaps even become even more important and impressive as a means of positively representing your company and yourself.
Formal letters are different from all other forms of communication in two ways:
- They originated in a time when manners and protocol were of upmost importance.
- They represent a pseudo-legal interaction between companies and individuals. There are times when an email or a text message just seems inappropriate and disrespectful. However, most people have no idea how to write a formal letter.
A business letter’s formal format includes the following items:
1. The Heading
The heading provides the company letterhead logo, name, address, and then the date. Modern letters now include an email address here, as well.
2. The Inside Address
The inside address is simply the address of the person or company to whom you are writing the letter.
3. The Attention Line
The attention line, which is optional, provides the title of the person to whom you are addressing the letter, particularly if you do not know the name of the person.
4. The Subject Line
The subject line, which is optional, provides a short (two to eight words) phrase that defines the subject.
5. The Salutation
The salutation is the greeting, (“Dear Mrs. Jones”), which provides the name of the addressee.
6. The Body
The body of the letter contain at least three paragraphs (introduction, middle, and conclusion).
7. The Complimentary Close
In a formal business letter the complimentary close should always be formal. Closing with “Sincerely” or “Regards” is acceptable.
8. The Signature
The signature line will contain your full name signed with a blue- or black-ink pen. This will be followed by your typed name and title.
9. The Enclosure Line
The enclosure line, which is optional, lists documents you are enclosing along with the letter.
10. The Copy Line
The copy line (“cc” for “carbon copy”) lists all additional recipients of the letter.
The body paragraphs of the letter should each be single-spaced, but you should double-space between each of the items listed above. The alignment should be in block or modified block format. In the block format, all paragraphs and items are aligned on the left. In the modified block format, some items at the top and bottom of the letter are lined up toward the right side of the page.
You can find a number of excellent templates for these formal letters on the Microsoft website. To access these templates, simply open the new document window and click on the Letters option.