The 8 characteristics of a formal letter (explained)

Normally, a formal letter will be addressed to someone with authority or some degree of hierarchy, with the ability to influence some relevant aspect of our lives. This is why it is important to know how to write correctly.

In this article we will see the most relevant characteristics of the formal letter that it must present this type of writing, indicating the different parts that compose it, and finally we will cite some examples of types of formal letters and when to use them.

    What is a formal letter?

    Formal letter is the type of written communication we write with the intention of being sent to an authority whether they are known or unknown, but always with the need to keep an attitude of formality. For the formal letter to be well written, it must respect and conform to a minimum of quality, structure and language.

    Usually these types of cards they are the ones who are used to communicate in the professional and academic field, presenting as a requirement that the ideas expressed therein be clear and understandable.

    In general the goal or the finality of the formal letter will be informative, that is to say, to convey the information that we want to present as objective. Therefore, it will be essential that the information we present is clear and concise, facilitating communication. Let’s see how to achieve this.

      Main characteristics that the formal letter must respect

      The characteristics that we will cite and explain below are not exclusive to formal letters, they can appear in another writing class as long as their main purpose is to convey a clear and concise message.

      1. This is for informational purposes

      Most of the time, the main purpose of formal letters is to inform, i.e. to give new textual information on an aspect known or unknown to the person receiving it.

      As we pointed out above, these letters are mainly used in professional and educational fields. Therefore, the aim will be to convey information in a formal way and not with the intention of establishing personal contact with the other person, nor with the intention of generating specific emotions.

        2. Use of formal and respectful language

        Formal letters, as we have already mentioned above, are usually addressed to a person of authority. This is why it will be essential that we use formal and respectful language, following a set of culturally established rules.

        Whatever the purpose of the letter, it should be written in a polite manner, using good manners, courtesy, and diplomacy, as this is more likely to achieve the intended purpose by writing and sending it. .

        In the same way too the use of the third person is recommended to refer to the recipient and thus obtain a more formal formulation. Instead of using “I recommend it”, it would be better to use the phrase “I recommend it”. However, if the first person is not abused, it can also be used on some occasions, its use in formal letters is not totally prohibited.

        As we said before, the formal letter can be addressed to someone we know, for example our boss, or vice versa to someone we do not know, like the person selecting the workers from the company. company where we want to be hired. . But no matter if the recipient is known or not or how much we trust them, the formal letter should be written using formal terms.

          3. The message must be explained precisely

          To make the message clear it is essential to convey a main idea, to select a unique objective which is intended to be achieved by sending the letter. In this way and compared to the previous point, we will avoid unnecessary sentences or content, stuffing and distracting from the main idea.

          In the event that it is necessary to convey complex or more extensive information, it will be better to condense and summarize the content, so that the message is necessary and fulfills the relevant purpose.

            4. Formal letters are short, short

            Keeping in mind that the purpose of formal letters is to convey a message in a clear and concise manner, both the letter and the paragraphs and sentences used should be short and as short as possible..

            Thus, letters with few paragraphs and short letters are recommended, in order to prevent the recipient from getting bored, losing attention or interest and thus achieving the goal we are looking for.

            5. The information transmitted must be clear

            If we want the recipient to understand the message written in the letter it will be important that the words, terms, sentences and ideas expressed are not sloppy or unnecessarily ambiguous, thus hampering the understanding and purpose of the letter. In this way, our aim will be to write a clear text where a single idea or a single message can be interpreted, without giving rise to multiple interpretations.

            Two types of clarity are needed. On the one hand, visible clarity is presented which refers to a presentation of a clean handwriting, in good handwriting if one writes by hand and respecting the good writing structure.

            On the other hand, semantic clarity must be respected: use sentences and ideas that make sense, avoiding those that may generate several possible interpretations or those that are ambiguous.

            6. Adequate correction

            Another very important aspect to keep in mind when writing formal letters, keeping in mind that they are addressed to a person of authority and what is the purpose of the message we are sending, is correctness. grammatical and lexical.

            Grammatical correction is linked to not presenting grammatical errors, understood as all the rules of the language which regulate its use, nor to making spelling errors; we will need to be especially careful and review before sending the letter.

            On the other hand, good use of vocabulary will also be required, making appropriate use of relevant words and vocabulary. without it being rude or too familiar.

            Likewise, it is important that the lexicon matches both the type of message and the recipient, and that it is consistent and appropriate within the same letter (for example, making sure that the verb tenses match).

            Punctuation marks should also be used in a relevant way, so that on the one hand reading is easier and more pleasant, and on the other hand, the message is clearly understood.

              7. Simple expressions

              Not speaking vulgarly does not mean using only cultivated or overly technical words if it is not necessary. because in this way the purpose of presenting a clear and understandable message can be lost.

              We can therefore use words and terms in common use, but without losing sight of who the letter is addressed to.

              8. Structure and parts of the formal letter

              The formal letter should consist of the following parts: the header, located on the left side and refers to the contact details of the person sending the letter; the recipient refers to the contact details of the person to whom we are sending the letter; the place and date of writing will appear at the top right, first citing the city followed by the date; title, we will address the recipient in a respectful manner, using formal and courteous terms such as “dear sr. and full name “always followed by a colon.

              After the header will be the introduction where the purpose of the letter will be mentioned in a concise manner; the body, where the main message of the letter will be developed, is the most extensive part; farewell or closing, using cordial and courteous terms such as “kindly” or “a cordial greeting” and finally the signature where the name and function will normally appear of the person sending the letter.

              Typically, the structure of the formal letter presents elements of protocol.. By protocol elements we mean, for example, present, referring to the professional position held by or for both the sender and the recipient.

              Types of formal letters

              In this section, we will be referring to some types of formal letters depending on the goal or objectives we want to achieve with:

              • Formal letter of resignation: when we want to leave the workplace where we are.
              • Formal letter of complaint, in order to communicate any complaint or disagreement.
              • Official letter of thanks for expressing gratitude.
              • Formal letter of request, with the aim of asking for something.
              • Formal invitation letter, as an invitation to an event.
              • Formal cover letter, usually presented with the study program where the skills, education and experience are expressed, as well as because we are interested in the job.

              Bibliographical references

              • Baeza, C., Sales, A. Galicia, MªI. and Contreras, P. (2014) Formal letter. Autonomous University of Nuevo León.
              • Blake, Gary; Bly, Robert W. (1993). The elements of technical writing. New York: Macmillan Publishing.
              • Official letter.

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