Writing an Excellent Formal Letter in WAEC/NECO [Ultimate Guide]

Formal letter writing is always an essay option in WAEC/NECO English language exams. And the rules of writing a formal letter are more rigid than informal letter writing.

In this tutorial, you will learn the art of writing an excellent formal letter with the features in their correct format.

  1. Writer’s address
  2. Date
  3. Receiver’s address
  4. Salutation
  5. Title
  6. Opening paragraph
  7. Body
  8. Closing paragraph
  9. Complimentary close
  10. Signature
  11. Writer’s name
  12. Writer’s status

BONUS: A link to real past questions on letter writing is included at the end of this tutorial.

1. Writer’s Address 

As the writer, your address must come first and positioned at the right-hand side of your paper.

There are two types of writer’s address in a formal letter, they are;

  1. Address of the writer’s residence (i.e. your house address)
  2. Address of the organization (i.e. school, church, mosque, etc.) that you are writing from.

However,

I will use the first type of writer’s address (i.e. house address) in my example and explain the second type (i.e. address of organization) at the end of this Lesson 1.

Writing a residential address

STEP 1: Begin with your house number and then the name of your street.

Example:

19, Samson Street,

If your house does not have a street name (which is unlikely), then replace the space for ‘street’ with the busstop, junction or major road closest to your house.

Example:

19, Onuegbu Road,

STEP 2: For the second line of your address – where is that your street or road located?

This should be the area that contains your street as well as other streets. It is usually the community within which your street is found.

Example:

19, Samson Street,

Toppers Island,

STEP 3: For the third line of your address – where is that community located? A community is usually found within a town/city.

Example:

19, Samson Street,

Toppers Island,

Badagry,

STEP 4: For the fourth line of your address – in which State is that your town/city located?

Example:

19, Samson Street,

Toppers Island,

Badagry,

Lagos State.

TAKE NOTE THAT the above is not my real house address (privacy reasons). But once I am able to get an Island for Toppers, there will definitely be a ‘Samson Street.’

Writing an organizational address

For the second type of writer’s address, which is the address of an organization, put the name of the organization first and then proceed to write the address of that organization in the same format as your house address.

Example:

Toppers Nigeria,

19, Samson Street,

Toppers Island,

Badagry,

Lagos State.

Summary on the writer’s address in a formal letter

  • Each line of the address is positioned directly under the other in a block format.
  • The first alphabet of every word and paragraph is CAPITALIZED.
  • The entire address has only one full stop.
  • The address occupies 4 lines which is the minimum (5-6 is the maximum)

A good address is followed from the last area at the bottom to the first at the top.

Here is what I mean,

If you were to visit me with the house address in the Example above, you will have to first be in LAGOS STATE, then get to BADAGRY, find TOPPERS ISLAND before getting to SAMSON STREET and knocking on the house number 19.

TAKE NOTE THAT when writing to someone or company abroad, indicate the country that you are writing from.

Example:

19, Samson Street,

Toppers Island,

Badagry,

Lagos State,

Nigeria.

2. Date

This is the date of the day that you are writing the letter.

Put the date directly under your address (i.e. leave no gap) and it must be written in this format: Day Month, Year.

Example + date:

19, Samson Street,

Toppers Island,

Badagry,

Lagos State.

23rd July, 2020.

Summary on the date in a formal letter

  • The day is written in numbers.
  • A comma is after the month.
  • It ends with a full stop (i.e.) after the year

3. Receiver’s Address

The receiver’s address must come immediately after the writer’s address and be positioned at the left-hand side of your paper.

Writing the receiver’s address in a formal letter

STEP 1: Begin with the official position of the receiver in their place of work.

Example:

The Honourable Minister,

STEP 2: For the second line of your receiver’s address, write the name of their place of work.

Example:

The Honourable Minister,

Federal Ministry of Education,

STEP 3: For the third line of your receiver’s address, write the Town/City where their place of work is located.

Example:

The Honourable Minister,

Federal Ministry of Education,

Garki,

STEP 4: For the fourth line of your receiver’s address, write the State where the Town/City of their place of work is located.

Example:

The Honourable Minister,

Federal Ministry of Education,

Garki,

Abuja.

TAKE NOTE THAT when writing to someone or company abroad, indicate their country.

Example:

The Honourable Minister,

Federal Ministry of Education,

Garki,

Abuja,

Nigeria.

Summary on the receiver’s address in a formal letter

  • Receiver’s position
  • Their place of work
  • Town/City
  • State

4. Salutation

This is a short reverence to the receiver of your formal letter. It must begin with the word “Dear” followed by “Sir,” or “Ma,” depending on the gender of your receiver.

Example:

Dear Ma,

Usually, exam questions on formal letter writing will suggest the gender of your receiver.

For example: Write a letter to the Chairman of your local government…

However, in a case of no gender suggestion (which is rare), use this alternative instead.

Alternative:

Dear Sir/Ma,

5. Title of the letter

This is the topic of your formal letter in its shortest possible form.

There are no steps for writing the title of a formal letter, but one thing to note is brevity. A single line is best for the title of your formal letter, and anything more than two-lines is too much.

Example:

PROBLEMS WITH EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

Summary on the title in a formal letter

Leave a space between the receiver’s address and your salutation, but do NOT leave another space between your salutation and the title of your letter.

6. First paragraph

  • Subject matter

This is the first sentence of the first paragraph in your formal letter. It comes directly under the title and should state the title again but in a complete sentence format.

Example:

I write to draw your attention to the problems that students in Nigeria face in their studies.

  • Enumeration

For this second sentence, you can either list those issues you will be discussing or mention some points that bultresses your first sentence.

Example:

Though they are numerous, I shall, however, brief you the high cost of academic materials, the incessant strikes by teachers and the poor state of learning facilities in schools across the country.

  • Introduction

This part is optional but when necessary it should be the last sentence of your first paragraph. Use it to usher in the body of your formal letter.

Example:

The aforementioned points will be vividly discussed in subsequent paragraphs.

7. Body of the letter

The body of your informal letter should discuss, in full detail, the main topic that you are writing the letter on. It should cover at most 3 paragraphs of about 4 lines each.

8. Last paragraph

  • Suggestion

If the body of your formal letter discussed a problem, then this part of the last paragraph is about the solution in the form of suggestion.

Write what you are suggesting as the possible solutions to the problems listed in the opening paragraphs and discussed in the body of your formal letter.

Example:

The myriad of problems mentioned above can be tackled if the government abolish import duties on educational materials. Again, teachers should be paid well and on time too as incentive. Finally, the government must replace obsolete equipment and install some in school where they are nonexistent.

  • Documents attached

When you are writing a job application letter, replace the closing paragraph of “suggestion” with this closing paragraph of “documents attached.”

Here you will mention all the documents (e.g. your results) that you have attached to the formal letter.

Example:

I enclosed photocopies of my Senior School Certificate Examination result, National Certificate of Education result, and two reference letters.

  • Expectations

This last part of the closing paragraph is compulsory for all forms of formal letter (application or not).

Express your gratitude in advance that your receiver will heed your suggestions or give you a positive reply.

Example:

I shall be grateful if this letter is treated as a matter of urgency.

9. Complimentary close

The complimentary close of a formal letter is always written as:

Yours faithfully,

This must be written with a comma at the end and placed directly under the last line of your closing paragraph.

10. Writer’s signature

Sign here, and do NOT include a full stop or comma at the end of your signature.

Example:

Yours faithfully,

(sign here)

11. Writer’s name

As the writer, your name comes next under your signature. Write your surname first followed by your first name IN FULL.

Example:

Yours faithfully,

(sign here)

Onuegbu Samson

12. Writer’s position or status

If you have written on behalf of an organization or society, you should state your status in that organization or society.

Example:

Yours faithfully,

(sign here)

Onuegbu Samson

Editor

Final summary on writing a formal letter in WAEC/NECO

  • Writer’s address to the right.
  • Receiver’s address to the left.
  • Salutation before title.
  • Complimentary close is “Yours faithfully,”
  • Do NOT abbreviate any word.
  • Do NOT use slangs.
  • Be polite.
  • Punctuate appropriately.
  • Go straight to the point and avoid beating around the bush.

Do you have something to add to or ask on this topic? Post it in the English Discussion Group and I will reply you as soon as I can.

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