Formal letters are required in some business situations and are written for a range of purposes. To give some examples, you often write formal cover and motivation letters in English to attach to a CV for a vacancy or educational course, when you need to invite someone to an official event, or when you need to establish communication with a company.
As you know, formal and informal language can differ greatly and, on top of choosing the most appropriate register, you’ll need to pay careful attention to how you choose to address your letter, as well as its conclusion and final greetings. There are a certain number of stock phrases that can make for a flawless formal letter if used correctly.
How to write a formal letter correctly (in any language)
Formal letters have to possess some key features, regardless of the language in which they are written. They must be as short as possible and must also perfectly explain their context and purpose. We recommend splitting your letter into no more than three or four short paragraphs.
The subject of the letter must be written in such a way as to indicate its content, without providing unnecessary detail. The introduction and final greeting must be appropriate for the relationship between the sender and recipient.
Translating formal letters is much easier when they are properly formatted.
Translating formal letters into English: mistakes to avoid
English is one of the most popular languages for formal and official communications in the Western world, and people often find themselves translating formal letters into English.
As previously mentioned, openings are essential and it’s important to know how to properly translate introductions to formal letters. It would be a big mistake to use the right opening formula in the source language and get it completely wrong in the translation.
Dear Sir/Madam (when you don’t know the person’s surname)
Dear Mr/Ms Smith (when you do know the person’s surname)
To Whom It May Concern
After your introductory greeting, you should explain your reason for writing the letter to the recipient:
With reference to your letter…
I am writing to you regarding /in connection with…
Of course, the conclusion and final greeting must be consistent with the tone of the rest of the letter and leave the person receiving the letter with a good impression.
I would be most grateful if you could look into this matter as soon as possible
Thank you for your help in this matter
I look forward to discussing this with you at your earliest convenience
The most popular final greetings include:
(Yours) sincerely (more commonly used in the US)