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How to write a formal letter: Format, types, and more

How to write a formal letter: Format, types, and more 1

Although it’s not an accurate quote, The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated, will always be associated with the prolific writer, Mark Twain. The Formal Letter can beat its chest too and proudly say it is alive. Indeed, technology disrupted the space of letter writing. However, it didn’t kill it. It only enhanced its timeliness and delivery. 

Now that we have agreed that formal letter writing is not dead, the art of writing it must be kept alive.

What is a formal letter? 

A formal letter is one written in an orderly and conventional language that follows a specific stipulated format and is written for official purposes only. Letters that fall under this category are a job application letter, letter to the HR manager, to an employee, to the principal of a school, to a teacher, etc. Informal letters are for personal use such as writing them to a family member, relatives, or friends.

How to structure a formal letter

The main structure of a formal letter includes:

  • Sender’s address
  • Date
  • Name/Designation of the addressee
  • Address of the addressee
  • Salutation
  • Subject
  • Body (Introduction, Content, Conclusion)
  • Complimentary closing line
  • Signature/Name/Designation of the sender
  • Designation of the Sender

Here are the key elements of the formal letter and what to include in each section:

Sender’s address

To avoid any confusion, you must mention the sender’s address in a formal letter.


For a better understanding of the actual time and period, mentioning the accurate date is of the essence.

Name and designation of the addressee

Omitting this part can lead to what can be termed ‘back to sender’. Thus, it’s necessary to include the proper name as well as the designation of the receiver.

Address of the addressee

Mentioning this will ensure that it gets to the proper destination.


Not addressing the receiver with her proper title could be seen as a sign of disrespect. The recipient might want to distance herself from you and your letter. 


Being the reason for writing the letter, a strong subject line that conveys the meaning of the entire formal letter is important.

Body (Introduction, Content, Conclusion)

This part of the formal letter must be written with precision and in a concise manner.

Complimentary closing line

Words like Yours faithfully, Yours truly, With regards, Best wishes, etc., should be at the end of the body.

Signature/Name/Designation of the sender

Always remember to include your name, designation, and signature at the end of the letter as it will clear ambiguity in the message.

Types of formal letter 

There are several types of formal letters. But we shall stick to a few.

Letter of Enquiry

This type of letter is written to ask for information or details regarding a course/product/service, etc., from a certain institution/business/organisation. The objective of such a letter is to request the recipient. In order words, it’s written to get a response from the recipient with the action that satisfies the inquiry.

Order letter

It’s written by a buyer who is interested in certain products she needs from the seller. It generally contains details such as product specifications, their quantities, a price both parties have agreed on, the date of delivery, what to do in case there occurs a late delivery, etc.

Letter of complaint

As a formal letter of a complaint regarding a certain product/service/action or inaction, a complaint letter is addressed to the seller/service provider. It includes the details regarding the lack of quality/quantity/service and the like.

Application letter 

A job application letter is a formal document that is sent to a prospective employer to express yourself in a position. A good application letter details your qualification, highlights key professional achievements, and demonstrates your knowledge of the company and the job you are applying for. 

Appointment letter

A letter that officially tells someone she has secured a job with a company in exchange for a salary. The letter acts as a legally binding document between the employee and the company.  

Sales letter

A sales letter is sent by a business to its customers to familiarise them with their products and services. The purpose of the letter is to persuade a specific reader to purchase a service or product. Being a persuasive letter, it must both enhance the author’s credibility while also talking about the benefits of the product or service.

Resignation letter

It is a formal letter which an employee writes to his line manager or HR manager if she wants to quit her job for any particular reason. It should include a statement of intent that you will be leaving your job, the name of your office staff position, and the date of your last day on the job.

Promotion letter

It is a formal document provided by a company to an employee acknowledging their promotion to a new, higher position. This formal letter serves as a piece of communication between the two parties and it clearly outlines and explains the new roles and responsibilities of the employee.

Abbreviations commonly used in formal letters 

ASAP: As soon as possible

CC: Carbon Copy

Enc: Enclose

PFA: Please Find Attached

PP: Per procurationem: It means someone else is receiving and signing the letter on behalf of the receiver

PS: Postscript

PTO: Please Turn Over

RSVP: Répondez s’il vous plaît (Please Reply)

Formal letter sample and example for students

In the following example, a recent graduate of the University of Ibadan is writing to a local eatery in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria for a possible job opportunity. 

Kelechi Iheanacho

15b Iyalla Street, 

Alausa, Ikeja,


[email protected] +23480123456 78


January 14, 2022


Austin Eguavoen

HR Manager 

Doris Day Fast Food

111A Obafemi Awolowo Road

Ikeja, Lagos


Application for the post of a Chef 


Dear Mr. Eguavoen,

I would like to apply for the post of a Chef which was advertised in The Guardian newspaper on January 10, 2022. I have a great interest in this position and would appreciate your consideration as a candidate for the role because I believe I meet all the requirements listed in the job advertisement.

As a graduate of food science and technology, I have deep knowledge regarding culinary products and businesses. I understand all the aspects of kitchen operation in the areas of recipe development, menu planning, kitchen safety, purchasing, food cost analysis, and quality control. I can cook various dishes including local and continental ones. I can make pastries, as well. 

I have a passion for food and working with a team to bring delicious concepts from the mind of a chef to a plate in a restaurant is my forte. The ability to work as a team is necessary for an efficient kitchen. My professional experience has taught me how to manage a variety of orders, communicate about the needs of customers, and be an effective member of a team all while executing the skills necessary to complete mouthwatering dishes. 

I appreciate your time in reviewing this letter and hope to hear from you concerning the next steps in the hiring process. 



Kelechi Iheanancho 

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