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How to write a formal letter

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Formal letters are also known as ‘business letters’, although this can be a misleading term, because formal letters are not necessarily only used in business. Formal letters are official letters. They are written:

1. Objectively, i.e. with a particular, well-defined objective or set of objectives (For example enquiring about job openings) in mind and not for the sake of arbitrary correspondence.

2. Concisely, i.e. to the point and not conversational. One must write clearly and logically, avoiding unnecessary wording.

3. Between parties that have a limited sphere of interest in one another, i.e. their interest is limited to the objectives of the letter and do not extend to other issues.

4. According to a set of formatting rules that most clearly differentiate it from informal letters.

When writing formal letters, it is important that this format be followed, because it is an accepted professional protocol. The rules are as follows:

1. Begin with your name and address. Phone number and email address are optional.

2. Leave a line, and enter the date.

3. Leave a line, and enter the recipient’s name and address.

4. Leave a line, and enter the salutation.

5. Immediately below the salutation, enter your subject (the objective of the letter) in as few words as possible, but not to the extent that it is incomprehensible.

6. Leave a line, and begin with the content of your letter.

7. Leave a line, and enter the valediction.

8. Everything must be left-aligned.

Let us look at the rules in a little more detail, with examples:

1. Own name and address:

Name

Number and Colony

City-Pin Code

[Phone number]

[Email address]

Ravindra Kumar

E-200, Rajpurohit Colony,

New Delhi-110065

2. Date:

The month must be written as a word, followed by the date and year.

November 20, 2012

3. Recipient’s name and address:

Name and/or Designation

Company/Organisation/Institution

Address

The Warden

XYZ College Hostel

XYZ College, Delhi University

New Delhi-110065

4. Salutation:

Dear [name of recipient] or ‘Sir/Madam’,

Dear Sir or Madam

5. Subject:

SUB: [subject]

SUB: Details of hostel facilities and fees

6. Content:

The content, as has already been mentioned, must be clear, concise, logical, and related to your objective. For example, since the subject offered above is ‘details of hostel facilities and fees’, you must simply mention that you wish to obtain mentioned information because you are considering taking up residence at the hostel as a student of the college.

7. Valediction:

Yours faithfully/sincerely/respectfully,

[Full name]

Yours sincerely,

Ravindra Kumar

8. Left alignment:

The letter will look like this:

Ravindra Kumar

E-200, Rajpurohit Colony,

New Delhi-110065

November 20, 2012

The Warden

XYZ College Hostel

XYZ College, Delhi University

New Delhi-110065

Dear Sir or Madam,

SUB: Details of hostel facilities and fees

I have recently been enrolled as a student of XYZ College. It is my intention to take up residence at the college hostel, and I would be grateful if you could provide me with the necessary details, regarding the different rooms offered, the fee rates for different rooms, and the facilities that are offered.

Yours sincerely,

Ravindra Kumar