You’re unsure about writing a formal letter – like an official letter or for a job application? We have a simple guide, tips and everything you need to know about official letters to write and send a perfect letter.
A formal letter is different from a private letter and is used whenever official business is involved. Knowing the formalities is assumed here. Adhering to them also determines whether you seem serious or not.
The development of letter culture
The development of letter culture
Letters have been around as long as we humans have been around. We have always wanted to leave messages for each other and to record and communicate important things.
Letters have served as written communication between people ever since and gained more and more importance over time. They are still used today for public expression (z.B. Letters to the editor), are found as stylistic devices in world literature (z.B. Goethe’s epistolary novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther"), serve official purposes (z.B. complaints) and also about private matters (e.g.B. Love letter).
However, letter culture, similar to what we know today, did not begin until the 17th century. Century. Letters were delivered across the country on foot, horseback, or by stagecoach. The recipient paid for the letter received. Due to the long letter tradition, it became a collector’s item and stamps became a collectible and valuable item.
Writing a letter: formal vs. informal
Letters are written for many occasions. It includes informal occasions, such as Christmas greetings, congratulations on a birthday or a wedding, as well as formal occasions, such as an expression of sympathy, a letter of resignation or a letter of application.
In formal situations, a specific letter form is required. It is one of the official forms of politeness and ensures that your letter is taken seriously. If you do not follow the letter structure, you may leave a bad impression and not achieve your goal of writing the letter.
Sooner or later, everyone has to write a formal letter in their life. For this reason, we have compiled all the important information about the structure of a formal letter for you.
Situations for an official letter
Situations in which you must write a formal letter
From the following list, you can see that you will probably have to write a formal letter sooner or later in your life. With it, you can also assess when it is appropriate to write a formal letter. We have created an overview of the most common situations.
- Correspondence between tenant and landlord
- Letters to the police and legal letters
- Correspondence with insurance companies and authorities
- Political letters
- Letters to church offices
- Complaint letters or cancellation letters
- Letters to the employer of any kind
- Letters to radio and television
- Applying for a job
- Writing to state and city government
- Excuse letter for the child at school
Instructions: Writing a letter in 9 steps
Instructions: Writing a letter in 9 steps
If you want to write a formal letter, it is important to know how it is structured and written.
For this reason, we have explained the building blocks of the official letter form for you one after the other and provided them with examples and small tips. With this guide, letter writing will be easier for you in the future.
Start with the letterhead
The letterhead is the first thing that catches the recipient’s eye. This is where your contact information should be at the top right:
First and last name, address, zip code, city, phone number, e-mail address.
Offset to the left, with a blank line between them, is where the recipient’s contact details belong. Here it is not always necessary to include all the data, because the recipient knows his own data.
If you are unsure about the level of formality, you can include all the complete data in the letterhead to be on the safe side. But sometimes it is enough to include the first and last name and the complete address. If there is a company name, it should always be mentioned first.
Writing a letter: Always include the place and date
The place and date should always correspond to the day you wrote the letter. This information can be found with a blank line spacing on the right side of your letter after the recipient’s contact information. An example of a formal letter is the place and date:
Design the subject
If you want to write formal letters, you should not forget the subject in any case. Especially if larger companies or offices receive and have to sort through numerous letters a day, it is appropriate to include a subject line.
The subject usually follows the letterhead and has the function of a headline. It briefly informs what your letter is about and makes it more descriptive.
Use the correct salutation
The correct form of address
The salutation is the be-all and end-all of a letter. It addresses the recipient directly and encourages the person to read it. A formal salutation should always be used for formal letters, for example:
"Dear Ms. Muster, …"
The more personal form of address "Dear Mrs. Muster, …" is rather inappropriate for very formal letters. You should avoid addressing with the first name in any case.
The salutation within the letter is also important. Even if you have had correspondence with the person before, it is common courtesy to use "Sie", "Ihr", "Ihr" in formal letters. The form of address is reserved for family or friends.
After the salutation with a comma, continue writing in small letters. The salutation is always visually separated from the rest of the text with a blank line.
Letter text: The contents of the letter
The content of the letter
The content of the letter depends on who you want to tell what to. For certain letters, there are certain phrases you can use. For example, when terminating an employment contract, you could write:
Dear Mr. Sample,
I hereby terminate my existing employment contract (effective 04.08.2012) properly and in due time to the next possible date.
Please confirm in writing the receipt of my notice of termination including the date when the employment contract officially ends.
I ask you to issue me with a qualified employer’s reference. I would like to express my sincere thanks for the cooperation so far.
As you can easily see from this example, the letter text is also divided into sections separated by spaces. In principle, you should always make these paragraphs, as they make it easier to read and loosen up the overall form of the letter. You can decide for yourself when you think a paragraph makes sense.
As a rule, a new paragraph is appropriate whenever a new topic or information follows. In our example, the following section structure can be found: Notice – Request for confirmation – Request for job reference.
If you don’t know what to include in your letter, put yourself in the reader’s position and think about what might be interesting for him or her and what information should not be missing. Otherwise you have to make the effort to write another letter.
Request for reply
If you want to receive a reply to your letter, it is common to ask for it within the letter text. If you forget the request for a reply, your letter may remain unanswered.
As a rule, you should include the request at the end of your letter text: Either as a separate sentence "I ask for an answer as soon as possible." or in combination with the greeting "Yours sincerely and the request for a reply…".
If you want to emphasize the urgency of a reply, you can also place it in a separate paragraph to make it stand out.
Integrate a greeting
The greeting is a kind of farewell and should be distant and polite in a formal letter. Avoid greetings such as "Best regards …" or simply "LG". Common, formal phrases are "Sincerely yours …" or a bit more personal "Sincerely yours …".
Remember the signature
When writing letters, there is one golden rule: the signature must never be missing. This applies to both personal and formal letters. Especially for matters such as contract signings or terminations, it is essential to sign by hand in order for the letter to be valid.
If you have illegible handwriting, you should first prewrite the letter with the computer and print out your full name as well.
You should leave some space above your printed name so that you can sign your name by hand in the empty space. The printed name is only for clarity and can also be put in parentheses.
way to plants
If you add important attachments to your letter, for example a certificate of study, you must indicate this in the area below your signature.
This way, the recipient can check if all the enclosures are really in the envelope. If there are several attachments, you can list them easily. It might look like this:
- Enrollment Certificate
- Certificate of membership of the health insurance company
- Copy of the identity card
Writing and sending a letter: 4 tips
Writing and sending a letter: 4 tips
In addition to the letter form and the formal structure, there are a few other points that you should keep in mind. If you write a letter, you will certainly want to send it. Follow our tips to make sure you do everything right.
Label envelope correctly
You should always write only on the front of the envelope (without the seal), so that it can be easily read by the machines in the mail centers and is sent faster.
The sender belongs in the upper left corner, the recipient in the lower right corner. The sender is important in the event that the letter cannot be delivered.
After writing the letter: Remember the stamp and postage
Do not forget the stamp, so that your letter does not end up back in your mailbox. If it’s official business and you’ve been sent an envelope to use, the postage has probably already been paid for by the company (e.g., the sender’s address).B. of insurances).
If this is the case, this information is written in a small box on the envelope, in the place where you would otherwise have stuck your stamp.
In addition, make sure that you have enough postage on your letter. Sending letters abroad is much more expensive. The weight and size of the letter also matter. In case of deviations from the norm, please inform yourself online or at your nearest post office.
Check spelling and grammar
An official letter loses all its formality if it is full of spelling mistakes. Correct grammar, spelling and comma placement are required. That’s why you should proofread your letter or have it proofread by someone else.
Perhaps you have relatives or friends who can look over your letter once. If you are generally not so gifted in language, you can learn to improve your rhetoric here. In addition, it can help you in the formulation of letters, if you train and improve your writing skills.
Check the letter at the end
Finally, check that all the data and details are correct, so that the letter really reaches the recipient and, above all, so that it does not lose its seriousness.
For example, if you apply to a company for an internship, but you write it wrong, you will probably be rejected immediately.
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