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Formal letter

There are more fixed rules regarding formal letters.


  • full postal address followed by date in top right of letter
  • the name of person or Department and address you are writing to goes in the left hand side above greeting but lower down than your address
  • the greeting is normally 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Madam' or full title if you are supposed to have met the person or spoken on the phone, or written before. For example, 'Dear Mr Brown' or 'Dear Dr Jones'
  • ending is always 'Yours faithfully' if you have opened with 'Sir' or 'Madam' or 'Yours sincerely' if you have used a name
  • you can print your initials and name after your signature


Formal letters must be organised in a proper way to make communication easier.

  • the letter should begin with an introductory paragraph explaining the general topic of the letter
  • the main body of the letter needs to be in a logical sequence and give enough detail to make the reader 'get the message'
  • the last paragraph should be a conclusion summarising the main purpose of the letter in such a way to get the reaction you want, to get something done
  • the tone of the letter must match purpose outlined in the task - it can be neutral giving straightforward factual details or emotive using language to persuade reader about some issue
  • formal letters must stick to the conventions of formal writing, no slang, no shortened word forms, etc.
  • always match letter to purpose of writing
  • even in personal letters stick to the accepted layout
  • you can use block style where address is in straight rows and signing off at margin, or indent where address style slopes and signing off is in middle of page but it is a good idea not to mix them

If you think you might tackle a Letter Task in the exam, practise layout style and punctuation so you can concentrate on the content.

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