A printed letter is usually reserved for important professional communications, such as recommendation letters, cover letters, resignation letters, business and legal correspondence, and company communications. Since a letter is a formal mode of communication, you'll want to know how to write one that is professional.
Correct formatting is especially important if you're sending a hard copy to the recipient rather than an email, because the letter needs to fit the page, be clear and concise, be easy to read, and look professional.
Review information on what you need toinclude whenwriting a professional letter, examples, and advice on the appropriate font, salutation, spacing, closing, and signature for business correspondence.
- A formal letter should include details about why you’re writing, an expression of your appreciation to the recipient for considering your request, and your contact information.
- Correspondence can be sent as a written letter or in an email. When sending anemail message, list the reason you are writing in the subject line of the message.
- When writing a professional letter, carefully proofread and spellcheck before you print or send it.
What To Include in a Formal Letter
Formal correspondence should include the details of why you’re writing, your contact information so the recipient can follow up, a greeting and closing, and your signature.
Contact Information(WrittenLetter):A written letter should include your and the recipient’s contact information (name, title, company name, address, phone number, email), followed by the date.
Contact Information(Email):When sending an email, you don’t need to include the recipient’s contact information. List your contact information at the end of the letter, after your signature.
Greeting:Address the letter using a professional greeting and formal title ("Dear Mr./Ms./Dr.").
Body of Letter
- Thefirst paragraph of your lettershould provide an introduction as to why you are writing, so that your reason for contacting the person is obvious.
- Then, in thefollowing paragraphs, provide specific details about your request or the information you are providing.
- Thelast paragraphof your letter should reiterate the reason you are writing and thank the reader for reviewing your request. If appropriate, it should also politely ask for a written response or for the opportunity to arrange a meeting to further discuss your request.
Closing:Use a formal sign-off, such as "Sincerely" or "Best regards."
Signature(WrittenLetter):End the letter with your handwritten signature followed by your typed name.
Signature(Email):Include your typed name followed by your contact information.
It’s important to include enough detail so that the recipient understands why you’re writing and the response you expect to the letter.
Writtten Letter Format
Here’s atemplatefor each section of a formal letter:
Your Contact Information
City, State Zip Code
Recipient Contact Information
City, State Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
Use aformal salutation, not a first name, unless you know the person well. If you do not know the person's gender, you can write out their full name. For instance,write, "Dear Pat Crody" instead of "Dear Mr. Crody" or "Dear Ms. Crody." If you do not know the recipient’s name, it’s still common and acceptable to use the old-fashioned “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Paragraph 1: State the reason you are writing, for example, you are asking for something or sharing a piece of information.
- Paragraph 2:Provide details aboutyour request or the information you’re sharing.
- Paragraph 3:If necessary, include additional information on the purpose of your letter.
- Paragraph 4:Thank the reader for considering your request, and ask for a response to your letter.
Handwritten signature (use black or blue ink to sign a written letter)
Your typed name
Email Letter Format
Here’s atemplatefor each section of a professional email:
Subject: Your Name — Reason for Writing
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name,
Body of Message
Your message should be two or three paragraphs at most and should explain why you’re writing and what you’re requesting.
When sending email correspondence, include the reason you are writing in the subject line of the message. List your contact information under your typed signature at the end of the message.
Letter Template to Download
Here is a letter template that you candownload(compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or review the text version below.
Download the Word Template
Professional Written Letter Example
35 Chestnut Street
Dell Village, Wisconsin 54101
September 5, 2022
53 Oak Avenue, Ste 5
Dell Village, Wisconsin 54101
Dear Mr. Andrews,
I’m writing to resign from my position as customer service representative, effective September 16, 2022.
I’ve recently decided to go back to school, and my program starts in late September. I’m tendering my resignation now so that I can be as helpful as possible to you during the transition.
I’ve truly enjoyed my time working with you and everyone else on our team at LMK. It’s rare to find a customer service role that offers as much opportunity to grow and learn, and perhaps more rare to find such a positive, inspiring team of people to grow and learn with.
I’m particularly grateful for your guidance while I was considering furthering my education. Your support has meant so much to me.
Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you find and train my replacement.
Thanks and best wishes,
Signature (hard copy letter)
Professional Email Example
Subject: Annual Meeting
Thank you so much for your assistance in planning our annual meeting. Your expertise in handling the meeting arrangements, booking the conference facilities and hotel, coordinating travel, scheduling events, and organizing the meeting is greatly appreciated.
I appreciate your help and advice, and I am hoping we can plan on having your assistance with next year’s event. It’s tentatively scheduled for January 16–20, 2023, in Tampa, Florida. If you can confirm your availability, I’ll be in touch when we’re ready to start planning.
I look forward to working with you in the future, and thank you again.
Tips for Formatting Your Letter
Professional letters should be simple, short, and written in business format using a traditional font.
- Length of the Letter: Most formal letters are no more than one typed page.
- Font Style and Size: Use a plain font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Your font size should be between 10 and 12 points.
- Margins:Use one-inch margins and left justify your text.
- Spacing: Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph. Use one-inch margins and align your text to the left. Leave an extra space after the salutation, before the closing, and before and after your handwritten signature in a printed letter.
- Printing the Letter:Business lettersshould be printed on plain white paper.
Proofread, Spellcheck, and Print
Once you have written your letter, proofread it and carefully spellcheck iton the screen. Then print it out and read it through aloud at least one more time, checking for any errors or typos. This is important as it's often easier to spot errors on a hard copy.
Reading your letter out loud is a good way to catch a mistake.
Check for formatting errors, such as two paragraphs that don’t have a space between themor lines that are indented incorrectly. Then, before putting your letter in an envelope, sign above your typed name using black or blue ink.
If you’re emailing your letter, send a copy to yourself to be sure it’s perfect. Then send the final version to the recipient.
Print a copy of your written letter so you have it for your records. Your email will be saved in your “sent” email folder.
How To Address the Envelope
When your letter is ready to mail, foldit in thirds so it fits into a business-size envelope. You can use your word processing program to print the addresses on the envelope or handwrite them.
Print your name on the top left corner of the front of envelope. Print the recipient’s address in the center of the envelope, parallel with the long side. Add a stamp to the top right of the envelope.