Are you unsure when writing a formal letter, such as an official letter of appointment or for an application? We have a simple 9-step guide, all the key information about the letter form and give you four additional tips that will help you to write and send a perfect letter.
Our letter culture
Letters have been around for as long as there are people. We have always wanted to leave messages and want to record and communicate important things. Since then, letters have served as written communications among people and have become more and more important over time. They are still used today for public expression (for example, letters to the editor), as stylistic devices in world literature (for example, Goethe’s epistolary novel “The Sorrows of the Young Werther”), for official purposes (for example, complaints) and also for private purposes (for example, love letters).
But the letter culture, as we know it today, did not start until the 17th century. The letters were delivered across the country on foot, on horseback or with a stagecoach. The recipient paid for the received letter. Due to the long Brieftradition he became a collector’s item and stamps for collecting and valuables.
Write letter: formally vs. informal
Letters are written on many occasions. These include both informal occasions, such as Christmas greetings, birthday greetings or weddings, as well as formal occasions, such as a statement of condolence, a notice of dismissal or a letter of application. In formal situations, a particular letter form is required. It is one of the official forms of courtesy and causes your letter to be taken seriously. If you do not keep the letter structure, you might make a bad impression and not reach your goal of writing the letter. Sooner or later everyone has to write a formal letter in his life. That’s why we’ve put together all the important information you need to build a formal letter for you.
Situations where you have to write a formal letter
The following list shows that you will probably have to write a formal letter sooner or later in your life. The list also helps you estimate when it is appropriate to write a formal letter. We have created an overview of the most common situations.
Correspondence between tenant and landlord
Write to the police and legal letters
Correspondence with insurance companies and authorities
Write to church offices
Complaint letters or cancellation letter
Letter to the employer
Termination notice of any kind
Write to radio and television
Application for a job
Letter to the state and city administration
Apology letter for the kid at school
Instructions: Write letter in 9 steps
If you want to write a formal letter, it is important to know about its structure and structure. For this reason, we have sequentially explained the components of the official letter form for you and provided you with examples and small tips. With this guide, writing letters will be easier for you in the future.
The letterhead first catches the recipient’s eye. Your contact details should be there on the top right: first and last name, address, postal code, city, telephone number, e-mail address. Left offset, with a blank line spacing, are the contact details of the recipient. Here it is not always necessary to include all data, because the receiver knows his own data. If you are unsure about the level of formality, you can add all the data to the letterhead for security. But sometimes the first and last names as well as the complete address suffice. If there is a company name, it should always be mentioned first.
Place and date
The place and date should always match the day you wrote the letter. This information can be found with a blank space on the right side of your letter according to the contact details of the recipient. An example of a formal statement of place and date is: Cologne, 08.06.2018.
If you want to write a formal letter, you should not forget the subject line. In particular, when larger companies or offices need to receive and sort 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. He briefly explains what your letter is about and makes it more graphic.
The correct salutation
The salutation is the alpha and omega of a letter. She speaks directly to the recipient and encourages him to read. For formal letters, a formal salutation should always be used, for example “Dear Mrs. Muster, …”. The more personal address “Dear Mrs. Muster, …” is rather inappropriate for very formal letters. A salutation with the first name you should avoid in any case.
Even the salutation within the letter is important. Even if you have had letter contact with the person before, it is common courtesy to confess in official letters (you, yours, yours, yours). The Duzen is reserved for family or friends.
The request for an answer
If you would like to receive an answer to your letter, it is customary to ask for it within the letter text. If you forget the request for an answer, your letter may go unanswered. As a rule, you should include the request at the end of your letter. Either as a separate sentence “I ask for the fastest possible answer.” Or in combination with the greeting “Sincerely and the request to answer …”. If you want to emphasize the urgency of an answer, you can place it in a separate paragraph to highlight it.
End of the letter: The salutation
The salutation is like a goodbye and should be polite in a formal letter. Avoid greeting words like “Greetings …” or just “LG”. Common, formal phrases are “Kind regards …” or something more personal “Sincerely …”.
Writing a letter has a golden rule: never miss the signature. This applies to both personal and formal letters. In particular, for matters such as contracts or terminations, it is essential to sign by hand in order for the letter to be valid.
If you have an illegible handwriting, you should first prescribe the letter with the computer and also print out your full name. You should leave some space above your printed name so that you can still handwrite it at the vacancy. The printed name is only for convenience and can be put in parentheses.
If you add important attachments to your letter, such as a certificate of enrollment, you’ll need to mark that in the area below your signature. This allows the recipient to check whether all the equipment is actually in the envelope. If there are multiple attachments, you can easily list them. That could look like this:
- certificate of registration
- Certificate of membership of the health insurance
- Copy of identity card
- Write a letter and send: 4 tips
In addition to the letter form and the formal structure, there are a few other points that you should consider. If you write a letter, you certainly want to send it. Follow our tips to get it right.
Label the envelope correctly
You should always just label the front of the envelope (without a letter clasp) so that it can be well recorded by the machines in the letter centers and shipped faster. The sender belongs in the top left corner, the receiver bottom right. The sender is important in case the letter could not be delivered.
Stamp and postage
Do not forget the stamp, so that your letter does not end up back in your mailbox. When it comes to official concerns and you have received an envelope to use, the postage has probably already been paid by the company (for example, insurance companies). If so, this information is in a small box on the envelope, where you would otherwise have stuck your stamp.
In addition, note that you have enough postage on your letter. Sending letters abroad is much more expensive. The weight and size of the letter also play a role. If there are any deviations from the norm, inform yourself online or at the nearest post office in your area.
Spelling and Grammar
A formal letter loses all its formality when it is full of spelling mistakes. A correct grammar and spelling are required. Therefore you should necessarily proofread your letter or have it proofread. Maybe you have relatives or friends who can look over your letter. If you are not generally gifted in language, you can learn to improve your rhetoric here. It can also help you in writing letters as you train and improve your writing skills.
The final exam
Finally, check again that all the data and information is correct, so that the letter really reaches the recipient and, above all, so that he does not lose his respectability. For example, if you apply to a company for an internship but write it incorrectly, you will probably be taken out of the field immediately.