In this post, well focus on how to write formal letters and emails. If you missed our last discussion on basic etiquette in writing emails & letters, check out #EngTips: Basic etiquette in writing letters and emails
Letter writing is an important life skill. It is even more important for your study, career or business. The kind of formal letters you might write could range from cover letters for job applications, inquiry to college or scholarship institutions, complaint to your bank or insurance company, to cover letter for proposals to be sent to clients.
A lot of people tend to feel intimidated and overwhelmed whenever there’s a need to write formal letters. Worry not. It really is not that hard. Just follow these #EngTips on how to write formal letters:
1. Write in the correct format.
The basic format includes:
- clear and concise body, and
- complementary close.
Read more about the basic etiquette here ~> #EngTips: Basic Etiquette in Writing Letters & Emails
2. Keep the letter short and to the point.
Get straight to the point, stick to it and don’t include any unnecessary information.
There’s a good chance that the person you’re writing to has tons of letters to read, and yours is merely one of them. Your letter should take seconds to read rather than minutes, otherwise it is more likely to end up in the bin.
In the case of cover letters for job application, don’t use any flowery language or long words just to show off, and don’t repeat too much information which may already be included in a CV.
3. Start by alerting recipient’s attention to the subject and purpose of the letter.
State the purpose of your formal letter in the first paragraph and don’t veer from the subject. Try to avoid flowery language or long words. Keep the letter short and to the point.
4. Introduce your main point as early as possible in a clear, concise way.
Once you have done this, you may want to give more details, perhaps adding further background or relevant facts.
- If you’re replying an inquiry, you can start by saying: “In reply to your question concerning…”
- Or if you’re writing to follow up a previous email, you can start by saying: “I recently wrote to you about…”
5. Provide a brief summary of your expectations.
Before the end of a business letter, it’s usual to provide a brief summary of your expectations.
- “I look forward to hearing from you” or
- “I hope we can discuss the issue…”, etc.
6. Vigorous writing is concise.
A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences. Writer need not make all sentences short, avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but make sure that every word tells.
7. Check your letter and make sure it’s free of any grammatical or spelling mistake.
Mistakes will create a bad impression, lessen the effect of what you’re saying and if you’re applying for a job, they could be the cause it’s sent to the bin. Use the spell-checker if you’re using a computer or a smart phone. Check your grammar & punctuation.
8. Be polite, even if you’re complaining.
One way of doing this in English, which is common in formal letter writing, is to use ‘modal verbs’ such as would, could and should.
9. Be formal, but not overly so.
‘Formal’ doesn’t mean pompous or obscure.
10. Use words with which you are familiar and which you can reasonably expect the letter’s recipient to understand.
- Avoid technical phrases or jargon, particularly abbreviations, unless you are certain that the person you are writing to will understand them.
- Avoid everyday, colloquial language; slang or jargon.
- Avoid contractions (I’m, it’s, etc).
- #EngTips: Miss, Ms, Mrs, Mr
- #BusEng: DOs and DON’Ts on writing CV
- #EngTips: Faults to avoid in writing business letters
- #EngTips: Faults to avoid in writing business letters (2)
- #BusEng: How to write a formal email for job application