How to Make a Formal Letter
Whether you're applying for a job or writing a referral letter for a former employee, you'll want to use the correct format to give it the most professional appearance possible. In addition to format, you should also consider the tone and verbiage you use. Finally, before you print your letter, read it over one more time to ensure there are no typos, misspellings or missing words. It doesn't matter how the letter is formatted if it has a glaring error.
Type your address in the top right-hand corner. This should include your complete address, but does not need to include your name, as that will be both typed and signed at the end of the letter. If you plan to print your letter on company letterhead that includes your address, you can omit this step.
Type the date beneath your address in the top right-hand corner. This should be the date the letter was written, not the date it is being sent. If you are printing on letterhead and omitting your address, the date should be on the left-hand side of the letter, at the top.
Type the recipient's address a little lower than your own address, if included, and on the left-hand side of the letter. If you're not using your address because you are printing on letterhead, the recipient's address should go two lines beneath the letter's date. For the recipient's address, include the person's full name, title, company name and address.
Type a formal salutation two lines beneath the recipient's address. This should be left-aligned on the paper and should be punctuated with a colon, not with a comma. Even though this is a formal letter, it is still preferable to use the greeting "Dear", however you should also refer to the person by title, such as "Mr.," "Mrs." or "Miss."
Begin typing the body of the letter. While typing, be concise and direct in your points, but also diplomatic and respectful of the recipient. Remember that this is a formal letter, so you should use a formal tone in your writing. If you're writing a cover letter for a job application, use the job description as a template for the points you touch on. Write about how your skills and abilities match to those needed by the company. Use active, rather than passive verbs. Keep this section of the letter as short as possible, but if you're applying for a job, don't short change yourself. The format should be full-justified block text with no indentation.
Type an ending for your letter. This can be anything from "Yours faithfully" -- generally used if you're writing to a person you don't know -- to "Yours sincerely" for someone you do know. Other examples might be "Regards" or simply "Sincerely." This should be left-aligned and two lines below the last paragraph of your letter. Leave four lines beneath the closing and type your name and title. Sign your name in between the closing and your typewritten name.
Note anything the reader may need to know that isn't related to the content of the letter beneath your typewritten name. This may include "Enc." to signify that there are other documents enclosed or "CC" to signify that others received carbon copies of the letter.
Use spell check while writing your letter, but don't rely on it. Read your letter over before you send it.
Print a draft of your letter and read a hard copy; it is easy to miss a mistake when you're reading from the computer screen.
- Use spell check while writing your letter, but don't rely on it. Read your letter over before you send it.
- Print a draft of your letter and read a hard copy; it is easy to miss a mistake when you're reading from the computer screen.
Suzanne Schuetter has been writing for a weekly business news publication for more than five years. She earned a bachelor's degree in communication and journalism from Columbia Union College and has completed coursework toward a master's degree in journalism from Ohio University.