How to write a formal request letter

Updated March 23, 2017

Considering the fact that most people are used to conversing in informal English, writing a formal letter can appear a challenging task. Following a few conventions can make it easy to compose a request letter. Most request letters are written to ask for information or to request specific action. The key to writing such letters is finding out accurate information about the person receiving your letter and keeping content brief and clear. Using a respectful and confident approach will serve to fetch your letter the consideration it deserves.

Use a block or semi-block style for writing a formal request letter. Make sure you have the exact name, title and address of the person to whom you are writing. Determine the exact request you wish to make and the purpose of your letter.

Place your address at the top right-hand side of the letter. Give precise address details, especially if you expect a reply to your letter. Below this, on the left-hand side of the letter, write the receiver's address. Include the date on either the right or left side of the letter on the line following the receiver's address. Write the date in its full form, such as 8th January 2010.

Use salutations in keeping with the information you have about the person you are addressing. If you know the person's name, use the name along with the respective title such as "Dear Mr. Smith" or "Dear Dr. Jones". If you have no clear information about the name, use the greeting "Dear Sirs" or "Dear Sir or Madam."

Divide the rest of the content into short paragraphs. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself, if necessary, and state the purpose of your letter. Keep this part brief and clear, such as a request for information, an interview, a raise, a complaint or a sponsorship. For instance, begin by stating, "I am writing to ask ...", or "This letter is to request you...." or "This letter is to notify you ..." Use the middle paragraph to provide further information such as the background or the relevance of your request. Make sure you use short sentences that convey your meaning in a logical and understandable manner. In the concluding paragraph, state the action you are looking for. Depending on the nature of your request, ask for information, an appointment or action to correct an error.

Thank the person you are addressing and end your letter by using the right concluding format. If the recipient is an unknown person, end with "Yours faithfully." If you are familiar with the person, write "Yours sincerely." Affix your signature under this and then print your name below the signature. If your name does not provide a clue to your gender, put your title next to your name in brackets.


Keep the tone of your letter confident and polite -- don't forget that you are presenting a request, not a demand. When writing to women, use Mrs. as the title for a married woman and Miss for an unmarried woman. If you are not sure about the person's marital status, use Ms. Make sure you use correct spelling and grammar; mistakes can detract from the impression your letter conveys.

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About the Author

Hailing out of Pittsburgh, Pa., David Stewart has been writing articles since 2004, specializing in consumer-oriented pieces. He holds an associate degree in specialized technology from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute.