How To Start a Professional Letter

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 20 May 2021

Knowing how to start a professional letter can make the entire process much easier. Employees use professional letters frequently in the business world, and having a strong start to a professional letter can set the tone for the entire letter. In this article, we describe how to start a professional letter, provide examples of specific professional letters and give general tips on how to set your professional letter apart.

What is a professional letter?

A professional letter is any letter used to communicate formally within a working environment. Formal letters can be for a variety of reasons, from inquiring about a job to addressing a complaint in the office. It's important to know how to plan and start your letter, so the reader has a clear idea of what to expect from the rest of your letter. Properly written letters are a great way to demonstrate your professionalism within the office.

How to start a professional letter

Follow these steps to start your next professional letter:

1. Provide contact information

When writing a professional letter, include your full address in the top left or right corner. Depending on the type of letter you are writing, this may be your personal address or the address of your place of work. Include your name before your address and your email and phone number after the address.

2. Include the date

After writing your postal address and other pertinent contact information, include the date the letter was written. Skip a line after your contact information and insert the date here. You should use the full date, e.g. the day, month and year. As this is an official letter, Human Resources may file it so a clear date will help with the filing process.

3. Add the recipient's contact information

You should then include the recipient's full name and title along with their full address. Put this information on the left side of the letter and start a new line for each new piece of contact information.

For example, you would write:

John Well
Web Producer
32 King Street
Leeds
LS1 2HL

4. Choose an appropriate greeting

In most, if not all cases, begin the letter with "Dear" as the greeting. Sometimes, you may wish to begin your letter with "Greetings," "Hello," or something similar. If using a greeting seems inappropriate for the situation, you can begin the letter with simply the recipient's title and name.

When deciding what name to use for the recipient of a professional letter, you will typically want to use the most formal form of the recipient's name. This should include their title and surname. Sometimes, you can include both the first and last name of the recipient. For example, you would write "Dr. Julie Jones" or simply "Dr. Jones."

Related: Key Attributes of Professionalism in the Workplace

5. Begin with an agreeable tone

Regardless of why you are writing the letter, try to begin it with an agreeable statement. This will help the recipient begin reading your letter on a positive note and improve the chances that they are open to what you have to say. An example of how to begin with an agreeable tone is to start the letter with something like, "I hope this letter finds you well."

6. State the purpose for writing the letter

After an agreeable first sentence, then get to the point of why you are writing so that you avoid wasting your recipient's time. Think of this as the thesis statement of your letter. Let your recipient know what the purpose of the letter is with direct and professional language. For example, you could say, "I am writing to invite you to speak at my company's annual convention this May."

Reasons for professional letters with examples

There are many reasons you might have to write a professional letter. Here are some common reasons along with how you may start this type of letter:

Thank you

Sometimes after a work situation, it is appropriate to write your coworker or supervisor a thank-you letter. If you are writing to a coworker, this letter can be brief and informal. You might not need to include a return address or date. It's polite and professional to write a thank-you note after an interview. In this situation, you must make your letter formal.

For example:

Dear Ms. Smith,

I hope this email finds you well. I'm writing to thank you for your time during your interview this past Wednesday.

Resignation

It's important to write a formal resignation letter when you leave a company. Even if you speak to your manager in person about your resignation, the company will still want an official resignation letter to keep on file. A well-written and polite resignation letter can ensure you leave the company on good terms. Be clear from the beginning of your letter you are leaving the company and include your final working day.

For example:

Dear Management Staff,

I hope all is well. This letter serves as my formal resignation as I will leave the company on August 12, 2021.

Related: How to Write a Resignation Letter

Providing a reference

A former coworker, manager or even a friend may ask you to provide a reference as part of their job search. A well-written reference letter can help your colleague get their dream job. A good reference letter explains why the reader should select this person as the best candidate for the job. The beginning of the reference letter must be clear about who you are recommending and your relationship.

For example:

Dear Dr. Alice Mappo,

I am writing on behalf of Scott Ward as he applies for the position of head nurse at St. Michael's Hospital in Bristol.

Networking

Professional letters can be a great way to network. You may write a networking letter to introduce yourself to a person you met in passing, ask for career advice from a distant colleague or request a meeting. In a networking letter, talk about yourself and why you want to get in contact with the reader.

For example:

Dear Ms. Redding,

I'm writing because I saw you speak at a recent conference on motivational tactics in the workplace and I would like to introduce myself. I loved your speech and would really like to set up a meeting to talk with you further about your techniques.

Cover Letter

A cover letter is an important professional letter to master. It is necessary to include a cover letter when applying for a job. A cover letter is a one-page letter that explains to a potential employer why you are the perfect candidate for the job. You should start your cover letter by explaining who you are, what you stand for and why this makes you the perfect candidate.

For example:

Dear Hiring Manager,

I am honoured and excited to be applying for the position of Data Analyst for [Company Name]. I know my sound foundation of statistical knowledge and my curious mind will make me the perfect addition to this company.

Related: How to Write a Cover Letter

Business memo

You send a business memo around the office when you need to update colleagues about important information. A business memo needs to be formal but not too cold as you are writing to your colleagues. You should clearly state the purpose of the business memo at the start of the letter.

For example:

To: All staff working on the Peterson project

I'm writing to inform all of you that the final deadline for the Peterson project is now June 21, 2021. The client has given us a two-week extension to work on some bugs they found in the original project.

Inquiring about a job

In a job inquiry letter, you can ask general questions about the company and mention any specific positions you are interested in. Be sure to respect your reader by keeping your letter brief and not directly asking for a job. A good way to start this letter is by mentioning how you may know or have a connection to the reader.

For example:

Dear Mr. Thomas

[A mutual contact] said I should get in touch with you about working at [reader's company.] My name is [your name] and I'm eager to learn more about [reader's company], specifically the marketing department.

Related: How to End a Letter

General tips for writing a professional letter

Here are some general rules and guidelines to help you craft the perfect professional letter:

  • Use the first name in the greeting if you have known the recipient on a personal level for many years. If you have not known the person for a while, use their title and last name only.

  • When you are in doubt, use the most formal address.

  • Always ensure the spelling of the recipient's name is correct before sending the letter.

  • If you are unsure of the gender of the recipient, don't use an honorific such as Mr. or Mrs.

  • Avoid outdated titles such as "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Madam or Sir."

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