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Formal Letter Format | Official Letter Format

Different Types of Letters - Personal letters and Formal letters. Of these, there are two types of formal letters - Official Letters and Business Letters.
Formal Letter Format | Official Letter Format | Business Letter Format
Official letters are written to officials. These may be letter of suggestions or complaints, applications for appointment to a post and the like. Letters to a newspaper also come within this sphere. Official letters should be written in a formal style. They should be precise and to-the-point.

Business letters include letters to business firms or shopkeepers, ordering goods, lettérs from shopkeepers to customers, letters to banks, etc. The style of these letters should be formal. The letters should be brief, clear and to-the-point, with no excess of any kind-words or ideas.

Formal Letter Format | Official Letter Format | Business Letter Format

(a) Heading : The heading is mostly printed. The name and address of the firm are generally printed at the top centre. Sometimes, the name of the firm is printed at the top centre while the address is on the top right hand corner. The telephone number, telex number, fax number are generally given one by one on the top of the left hand corner. Space is also provided for 'Reference No.' and 'Date' of the letter. A typical letter-heading is given below :
The Kolkata Trading Corporation Pvt. Ltd.
Personal Department
Telephone No : 778265
Gram : Trading
Fax : 007767-0996
Ref No : C/26/02
Post Box No 566
9B Dalhousie Square
Kolkata - 1

In a letter of application, however, the personal address of the applicant can be written in hand. In a letter to an editor of a newspaper, too, the heading is nothing so pompous as it is in a business letter. If, however, the letter is written by an office-bearer or holder of an important position, for an official purpose, the letter-head is printed and written in detail.

(b) The complimentary address or salutation : In a formal letter, the salutation differs considerably from that of a personal letter. In an official letter it is best to address the addressee as Dear Sir / Madam, Respected Sir / Madam or just Sir / Madam. This applies, too in the case of a letter of application in response to newspaper advertisements. In a letter to the editor of a newspaper, however, you should prefer to address him as 'Sir' alone.

(c) Inside address : The inside address of a formal letter is written on the left-hand top margin of the letter - just above the salutation or greeting. just as it is done in a personal or business letter. A letter to the newspaper editor demands excellent writing skills. This, however, does not mean that you should use flowery, bombastic language. It should be quite the contrary, rather. The expression should be brisk smart precise yet, firmly, saying a lot. A letter to the editor is normally longer than a letter in response to an advertisement. In a letter of application you should highlight your efficiencies and the qualities, in addition to your educational qualifications. The covering letter for a job-application is very important, unless the advertisement species that a form must be filled up. In the covering letter you have to make an overall statement about the job and emphasize your suitability to it.

Many correspondents state the subject of a formal letter in a heading, on the line immediately following the salutation. This practice helps the recipient to identify the reason for the letter, and accordingly to direct it to the specific person who will handle the matter, or to deal it in accordance with its purpose.

Example 1 (for Job Applications)Example 2 (for Letters to the Editor)
Subject: Application for part-time lectureship in History.
Reference: Application for computer operator-cum-liaison officer.
Subject: The issue of price rise.
or,
The immorality of today's politicians.

While writing the letter remember to organize the points according to their priorities. Mention each distinct point in a separate paragraph. Although paragraphs can be very short, it is normally agreed that the correspondent must avoid creating paragraphs containing just one sentence.

Also, avoid the use of cliches and set phrases. For instance, expressions like 'I have the honour to call your kind attention to ...', 'I beg to state ...' or 'I beg to apply ...' should be replaced by 'I wish to state ...', ' I wish to apply ...' or 'I would like to ...'.

The opening paragraph demands special attention as it conveys the writer's purpose of writing, the letter. It also communicates the writer's main thoughts on the matter.

Like the opening paragraph, the concluding paragraph is very important. Since it leaves the final impression, the writer must word it carefully. It must always be remembered that the conclusion provides the finishing touch.

(d) Subscription : "Yours truly', 'Yours faithfully' or 'Yours sincerely' is the standard closure for formal letters. Letters to newspapers can end either with 'Yours truly' or more smartly with 'Yours etc.'.

If a formal letter is typed, it is necessary to type out the full name of the correspondent at the end and sign above it, below the closure. In case of a hand-written letter, if a signature is difficult to read, the correspondent must write his or her name in block letters below the signature.

If enclosures are attached, the word 'Enclosures' or its abbreviation 'Enc.' must be inserted below the correspondent's name at the left hand margin, followed by a precise indication of the kind of enclosure. If the body of the letter already mentions what is enclosed, then this line may simply read as 'Enc.' as above.

On no account should you write anything as a post-script in a formal correspondence, because it will carry an unfavourable impression, for instance, that of a forgetful nature.