Writing a formal (non business) letter in English

Although letter writing as an art form has declined quite rapidly due to the increased use of electronic mail, there are still occasions when a formal letter may be required.  Formal letters are usually used if you are writing a letter of complaint, a letter to notify someone of your intent, or simply letters you may need to write to notify people of a change of address or name, etc.

When writing such a letter it is important to make the letter seem formal.  It should be written in a style that does not use first names and which does not use pleasantries.  For example, it is appropriate to say ‘How are you?’ In a letter to a friend or someone in your family, but it is not appropriate to include this question in a formal letter.

Formal letters should also make reference at the earliest opportunity as to its purpose.  So if you are writing to notify someone that you have moved house, the letter would start:

Dear Sir/Madam,
Notification of Change of Address for Mr A…….

It would then continue with the details of your previous address and notification of the new address.

The letter should then be signed off as ‘Yours Faithfully’ and then your name and signature.

When communicating by a formal letter it is of critical importance that the spelling is all correct as well as the grammar, so make sure that grammar is thoroughly checked.

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