Formal Letter Structure

Writing a Letter
Writing a Letter. Sasha Bell / Getty Images

Formal English letters are quickly being replaced by email. However, the formal letter structure you learn can still be applied to business emails and other formal emails. Follow these structure tips to write effective formal business letters and emails.

A Purpose for Each Paragraph

First Paragraph

The first paragraph of formal letters should include an introduction to the purpose of the letter. It's common to first thank someone or to introduce yourself.

Dear Mr. Anders,

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me last week. I'd like to follow up on our conversation and have a few questions for you.

Body Paragraphs

The second and following paragraphs should provide the main information of the letter, and build on the main purpose in the introductory first paragraph.

Our project is moving forward as scheduled. We'd like to develop a training program for staff at the new locations. To this end, we have decided to rent out space in the local business exhibition center. New staff will be trained by our experts in personnel for three days. In this way, we'll be able to meet demand from the first day.

Final Paragraph

The final paragraph should shortly summarize the intent of the formal letter and end with some call to action.

Thank you for your consideration of my suggestions. I look forward to an opportunity to discuss this matter further.

Formal Letter Details 

The Start

Dear Mr, Ms (Mrs, Miss) - if you know the name of the person you are writing to. Use Dear Sir / Madam if you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, or To Whom it May Concern

Always use Ms for women unless you are specifically requested to use Mrs or Miss.

Beginning Your Letter

1. Start with 'Thank You'

Formal letters are often begun by thanking someone. This is especially true when writing in response to an inquiry of some kind. Here are some useful phrases:

Thank you for your letter of (date) inquiring about ...
We would like to thank you for your letter of (date) asking for / requesting information about ...
In response to your letter of (date), we would like to thank you for your interest in ...

I would like to thank you for your letter of January 22nd requesting information about our new line of lawn mowers.
In response to your letter of October 23, 1997, we would like to thank you for your interest in our new line of products.

Provide a Reason for Writing

If you are beginning correspondence with someone about something, or asking for information, begin by providing a reason for writing:

I am writing to inform you about ...
I am writing to ask / inquire about ...

I am writing to ask about information for small businesses.
I am writing to inform you that we have not yet received payment for ...

Asking for Help

Use the following phrases to ask for help:

I would be grateful if you could + verb
Would you mind + verb + ing
Would it be to much to ask that ...

I would be grateful if you could send me a brochure.
Would you mind telephoning me during the next week.
Would it be to much to ask that our payment be postponed for two weeks.

Offering Help

The following phrases are used to offer help:

I would be happy to + verb
We would be pleased to + verb

I would be happy to answer any questions you have.
We would be pleased to assist you in finding a new location.

Enclosing Documents

In some formal letters you will need to include documents or other information. Use the following phrases to draw attention to any enclosed documents you might have included.

Enclosed please find + non
Enclosed you will find ... + noun
We enclose ... + noun

Enclosed you will find a copy of our brochure.
Enclosed please find a copy of our brochure.
We enclose a brochure.

Note: if you are writing a formal email, use the phase: Attached please find / Attached you will find.

Closing Remarks

Always finish a formal letter with some call to action, or reference to a future outcome you desire.

Some of the options include:

A referral to a future meeting:

I look forward to meeting / seeing you

I look forward to meeting you next week.

An offer of further help

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding this matter.
If you need any further assistance please contact me.

Finishing

Sign the letter with:

Yours faithfully,
Yours sincerely,

for formal letters OR

Best wishes.
Best regards.

Make sure to sign your letter by hand followed by your typed name.

Block Format

Formal letters written in block format place everything on the left hand side of the page. Place the your address or your company's address at the top of the letter on the left (or use your company's letterhead) followed by the address of the person and / or company you are writing to placed on the left side of the page. Hit the key return a number of times and use the date.

Standard Format

In formal letters written in standard format place your address or your company's address at the top of the letter on the right. Place the address of the person and / or company you are writing on the left side of the page. Place the date on the right hand side of the page in alignment with your address.

Format
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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Formal Letter Structure." ThoughtCo, Jun. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/formal-letter-structure-1210161. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, June 30). Formal Letter Structure. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/formal-letter-structure-1210161 Beare, Kenneth. "Formal Letter Structure." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/formal-letter-structure-1210161 (accessed November 21, 2017).