A formal letter will encompass many things and is related to the business letter. To put this into perspective, all business letters are formal letters but not all formal letters are business letters. The term formal letter can be used to entail any written letter for a formal purpose, whether that be a recommendation letter, an invitation letter, a complaint letter and so on.
Any communication that is considered to be official enough to be explicitly written or typed in a letter can be called a formal letter. However, in everyday use of the phrase we tend to be referring to something along the lines of what is a business letter. they will share many of the same characteristics, if not all.
Formal Letter Format
The layout for a formal letter resembles the business letter format with any differences solely occurring in the content of the letter. All formal letters will include the following aspects, not in this order as they may be arranged in individual preference:
- Contact details: addresses at the top, email and phone number at the start or end of the letter (optional)
- Date: when the letter was written, most formal letters will be archived and if there are several exchanges then it is important to keep order by dating each letter.
- Salutations: both at the beginning and the end, need to be appropriate, see business letter salutations
- Main body: this is all upto the writer of the letter, how much detail you want to include, what details you want to include, what point you are putting across, if you want to include a suggestion or solution etc
- Printing: hand signature for printed letters, sometimes placed in envelopes if going in the post, more commonly now they are sent as emails but still may be printed by the recipient to be kept on file depending on the purpose.