What Is A Formal Letter And When Should You Write One?

A formal letter is used for business and social correspondence when you don’t know the recipient or only know them slightly. Formal letters are also written to people who you want to impress, like your boss, an editor of a publication, or someone with whom you want to do business.

When writing a formal letter, it’s important to remember that it’s not a casual email. The tone should be respectful and professional even if the content is lighthearted or humorous in nature. Formal letters have standard formats that must be followed; there are no exceptions!

How to write a Formal letter or Business letter
Formal letters are written communications used in professional and official settings.
The format of a formal letter typically includes a header, salutation, body, and closing.
The language used in a formal letter should be professional and appropriate for the situation.
Proofreading for errors and clarity is essential to ensure a formal letter is effective.
Common types of formal letters include business letters, recommendation letters, and cover letters.

How Do You Write A Formal Letter To An Unknown Person?

First, you should start with a formal greeting. It’s always good to say “Dear,” followed by the person’s name.

The next thing you want to do is close your letter with a formal closing. If it’s appropriate, consider writing “Sincerely” or “Best.”

Finally, your salutation should be formal as well you can use either Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss in this case.

Now that we’ve established those basics of what makes something formal, let’s take a look at how they apply when writing an official letter (or email). Formal language is key here—you can’t just write like normal people speak! To sound professional at all times, make sure that everything sounds smart and confident (but not overbearing).

Understanding the difference between a cover letter and an application letter is crucial when applying for a job. Check out our article on are cover letter and application letter the same to ensure you’re sending the right type of letter to potential employers.

How Do You Address A Cover Letter To An Unknown Person?

To Whom It May Concern. This is the standard greeting for sending a letter to someone who is unknown to you.

Dear Sir or Madam. This is another common way of addressing letters to people with whom you don’t have contact information, but who are likely male and either older or from another generation than yours (e.g., “Dear Sir” if your recipient is male).

Dear Hiring Manager/Recruiter/Human Resources Office/Name and Title of Person Receiving This Letter. If you’re applying for a job, it’s good practice to include the name of the person who will be hiring for that position in your salutation (“Dear Hiring Manager”). 

However, this isn’t necessary if the job posting doesn’t specify who will be reviewing applications in that case, just use “Dear Recruiter” or whatever else appears on their website as their title (e.g., VP HR).

Should I Put To Whom It May Concern On My Resume?

Yes, you can put To Whom It May Concern on your resume.

To Whom It May Concern is a formal way of addressing letters to people who are not known to the sender. The phrase comes from formal letter-writing etiquette but is also used in other contexts where a person does not know the recipient of their writing (e.g., in emails). 

However, when you don’t know who will read your resume, it’s best to stick with “Dear Sir or Madam” or “Hello Recruiter!”

Is It Ok To Start A Cover Letter With Dear Human Resources?

Dear Human Resources is not a standard greeting for a cover letter. This is especially true if the HR department isn’t involved in the hiring process.

It’s also perfectly fine to start your cover letter with Dear Hiring Manager, To Whom It May Concern or even Dear Sir or Madam!

When addressing a formal letter, it’s important to know when to use ‘To Whom It May Concern.’ Check out our article on can you use To Whom It May Concern in a cover letter to learn about the appropriate use of this salutation.

What Do You Write In A Formal Email To Someone You Don’t Know?

To Whom It May Concern is a salutation that’s used when you don’t know the name of the person you’re sending an email to. It’s also commonly seen in cover letters, where it replaces “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Human Resources.”

This phrase is formal and respectful, but it isn’t as formal as Dear Sir or Madam. If you feel like your email needs to be even more polite, consider using:

To whom it may concern,

To the attention of [name], or

Formally yours, [your name].

What Do You Say In An Introduction Email?

There are a few ways to introduce yourself and your resume. The best way is to be brief and to the point. 

You can say something like “I’m a recent graduate of [college] and I’m interested in [job]. Would you be able to review my resume?” or “I am contacting you today because I saw on your website that you were hiring for the position of [position]. I am interested in this role and would love to hear more about it.”

Your introduction email should also contain your contact information, including name, phone number, email address, etc.

Can I Leave Off “Dear” In An Email?

Dear is a formal greeting and is not used in personal emails or social media. You can leave off “dear” in an email to a stranger, but you should always use it when addressing someone who has authority over you or your work, such as a boss or professor. 

In business correspondence, Dear is the appropriate greeting unless you are writing directly to someone’s first name (such as if you’re writing to your friend John). In that case, simply use his name (John).

Using personal pronouns in a cover letter can be tricky. Check out our article on can you use personal pronouns in a cover letter to learn how to effectively incorporate them into your writing.

What Should I Say When Introducing Myself Over Email?

When introducing yourself to a potential employer, it’s important to be polite and brief. Don’t focus on past accomplishments because the hiring manager already knows about them. Instead, focus on what you can do for their company in the future.

Be specific about how you can help out think about your unique strengths that you brought up earlier in your resume and highlight those. Make sure everything is relevant to the job posting or ad itself so that it doesn’t come across as fluff or filler material (which is something employers hate).

Don’t lie or exaggerate anything in your cover letter! You want this person to hire you because they like who they see when they look at your cover letter; not because they were tricked into thinking that person was someone else! Like I said before: honesty goes a long way here! 

It may seem like common sense but I’ve seen plenty of people get caught lying and then fired after only one day on the job when their true identify was uncovered by coworkers who had been suspicious all along due to some discrepancies between what was written in their resume versus 

What actually happened during interviews/job shadowing sessions etcetera so take my advice: always be honest (but also confident) while writing any kind of communication including emails 

Where there isn’t enough space available for elaborate explanations without sounding like an asshole (unless there are good reasons why such explanations would make sense at least 95%+ times).

Does To Whom It May Concern Need Comma?

A simple yes would be the answer. The comma is used to separate the salutation from the body of your letter and it is necessary for your letter to make sense. Some people like using a dash instead of a comma, but that’s not really recommended as this can confuse readers about where your message starts and ends.

Can I Use Dear Hiring Manager If Gender Is Unknown?

It’s a good idea to keep it simple, so if you don’t know the person’s gender and can’t figure it out from their job title, use “to whom it may concern.” You might also see this approach in professional settings where everyone knows each other well.

In situations where gender is known but not disclosed (like the workplace), Dear Hiring Manager works just fine. In fact, many employers prefer this form of salutation because it avoids any possibility of accidentally making assumptions about an applicant’s name or identity.

If gender is unknown and known for example, if you’re applying for an internship with no prior personal connection to the company you should still opt for Dear Hiring Manager over Mr. 

Ms., or Mrs., as these titles are often misused to make assumptions about an applicant’s identity when they could just as easily be used by someone who doesn’t identify with one of these labels at all!

Subheadings can help organize your thoughts and make your cover letter easier to read. Check out our article on can you use subheadings in a cover letter to learn more about incorporating them into your writing.

Which Is Correct To Whom It May Concern Or To Whom It May Concern?

You may be wondering whether To Whom It May Concern or To whom it may concern is the correct way to start a cover letter. The answer is both are correct.

To Whom It May Concern is more formal and would most often be used in a professional setting, but neither phrase is incorrect to use. If you’re writing a formal letter, it’s best to keep things simple and go with To Whom It May Concern, but if you’re writing a more casual letter then you can get away with using either phrase without any problems.

Should I Use Mr Or Ms If Gender Is Unknown?

If you don’t know the gender of your contact, use Mr or Ms. If you do know their preferred honorific, use that instead. For example, if we assume “Ms Jessica Smith” is a woman and “Mr Daniel Jones” is a man:

To Whom It May Concern (TWCIMC)- To WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:”

Dear Sir or Madam… (DSMAM)- Dear SIR OR MADAM:

Dear Sir/Madam… (DSFAM)-Dear SIR/MADAM:

Should Email Be Capitalized In A Sentence?

If you are writing an email, the first word should be capitalized.

In general, words that are used as proper nouns (i.e., specific people and places) should be capitalized: Peter, John’s home, Washington D.C., Mount Everest.

Transitioning to a new field can be a challenging experience. Check out our article on changing fields cover letter to learn how to write a compelling cover letter that showcases your transferable skills and experience.

Do You Capitalize Email Addresses In Writing?

Email addresses can be written in all-lowercase, or with the first letter capitalized.

The general rule is: if you’re writing a formal email, capitalize the first letter of the email address. This applies to both business and personal correspondence. If you’re writing an informal email (like one to your family or best friend), don’t capitalize the first letter of their full name.

Further Reading

Toppr: Formal Letters: A comprehensive guide to writing formal letters, covering topics such as format, content, and language usage.

Indeed: How to Write a Formal Letter: Tips on writing a professional and effective formal letter, with examples and a step-by-step guide.

Bit: Formal Letter: A guide to writing a formal letter for various occasions, with examples and templates to help you get started.


What is a formal letter?

A formal letter is a type of written communication used in professional and official settings. It follows a specific format and uses formal language to convey a message or request.

What are some common types of formal letters?

Some common types of formal letters include business letters, recommendation letters, complaint letters, and cover letters.

What is the format of a formal letter?

The format of a formal letter typically includes a header with the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, a salutation, the body of the letter, and a closing.

What should be included in the body of a formal letter?

The body of a formal letter should clearly and concisely convey the message or request. It may include supporting details, but should not be overly long or rambling.

How can I make sure my formal letter is professional and effective?

To ensure your formal letter is professional and effective, follow the proper format, use appropriate language, and proofread carefully for errors and clarity. It may also be helpful to have someone else review your letter before sending it.