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Written by Lyndsey McLaughlinLyndsey McLaughlin

How to write a formal resignation letter

18 min read
How to write a formal resignation letter
Artwork by:Anya Mihailova
There are many reasons why you might choose to resign from your job. You may have found a better job, or you may simply feel that the job is detrimental to your mental health.
Expert tip

Whatever the reasons for leaving your job, a formal resignation letter is required to inform your manager and the HR department of your intentions to leave.

In this blog, we’ll cover the following topics to help you get started writing a formal resignation letter and offer a formal resignation letter template for creating your own.

  • The purpose of a resignation letter
  • The required sections for a complete resignation letter
  • The importance of showing gratitude in a resignation letter
  • When you're not leaving on a good note
  • Offering to help ease the transition
  • Template for a formal resignation letter
  • How to send your formal letter of resignation
The great resignation
The great resignation

What is the purpose of a formal resignation letter?

Resigning from a position means that you have decided you no longer wish to be employed in the place where you work. Most employers will expect you to resign formally to make it "official." That means you provide a professional-looking document — typically printed or meant to be printed — detailing your intentions, including your last day of work. 

How to write a short & simple resignation letter
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These are the main reasons why a formal letter of resignation is required.

  • It provides evidence in writing that you gave official notice of your intention to resign in compliance with the employer's notice policy — usually at least two weeks. This is typically retained to "close" your HR file for retention by the administrative officer responsible.
  • It might one day be legally required.
  • It ensures that other managers and staff you work with will officially be made aware of your resignation, instead of hearing about it through the grapevine.
  • It sets the tone for your remaining time with the employer, and your relationship moving forward.

Is the formal resignation letter enough?

It is good practice to let your manager know you have decided to resign before you provide a formal resignation letter. This will allow the chance to discuss any questions that the manager may have about your departure and to help keep the relationship positive and open.


Following up afterwards with the formal resignation letter makes it officially on record for the reasons outlined above. Your manager won't be caught off guard if you discussed your intention to reason beforehand.

In some instances, resigning employees are asked to participate in an exit interview after their formal resignation letter has been submitted.

What to include in your formal resignation letter

The organization you are resigning from will need some key information so it can keep operations running smoothly. before, and right after, you leave. 

What the letter must include What there is no need to include
Above all, up front, your formal resignation letter needs to state your intention to resign and the date your employment ends. You do not need to elaborate on why you are leaving, or even mention the reason. This can be discussed informally with your manager or formally during an exit interview. 

What your formal resignation letter should include

  • You are encouraged to include a statement of gratitude to the employer in your formal resignation letter. Leaving on a good note is beneficial for you, your co-workers and the manager. If you enjoyed your time with the organization, this will be easy to write. But keep it short and simple; there’s no need to gush or get long-winded.
     
  • One or two “helpful handoff” statements can go a long way. Without going into detail (or promising anything you can’t deliver), indicate your willingness to help smooth the transition from your final days on the job to the initial period after you leave. Indicate you'll tie up as many loose ends as possible, and ensure key people are informed about the status of outstanding tasks. You might also offer to  help recruit or train your successor or someone filling in for you temporarily.
Expert tip

How do I resign gracefully from a job I hate ?

Even in less than ideal circumstances — barring outright hostility — try to think of something you are grateful for, in all honesty — the opportunity to learn from a colleague, gain insight into a process or industry, or develop a skill. At least, you’re less likely to burn bridges by expressing gratitude in your formal resignation later. At best, you are more likely to receive positive references if needed.

Now, let's go through each letter-writing step one at a time.

Writing a formal letter of resignation

It shouldn’t take long to write your formal short resignation letter. That’s the easy part — it doesn’t have to be long!  As discussed above it must include some standard information, and should include a bit more, but with no unnecessary details . Here is an outline of the sections it should contain:

  • Greeting
  • Introduction
  • Reason for leaving (optional)
  • Statement of gratitude
  • Offer to help smooth the transition
  • Conclusion
  • Sign-off

Greeting

The first step is to address the recipient of your formal resignation letter. That might be your immediate supervisor or line manager, a department head, CEO, or even just the HR Department, depending on the nature and size of the organization. In most cases, you would use the formal greeting "Dear (First Name)" or "Dear Mr./Ms. Surname."

Introduction

Next comes the introduction to your resignation letter, which is how you inform the recipient of your intentions to resign. The introduction should include the phrase “Please accept this letter of resignation” along with your position title, company name and final day at work. (Although the position title and company name will be obvious to the recipient, the letter of resignation serves as a formal, legal notice of your decision to leave, so these details so should be crystal clear.)

Expert tip

In many cases, your work contract will stipulate the amount of advance notice you need to give before quitting. Make sure to check whether “14 days’ notice” means calendar or business days before determining your last working day. Also double-check to be sure that no more than 14 days' notice is required. 

It is good practice to leave any job on good terms, by giving managers sufficient notice so they can find cover. However, if this is not possible, it is important to speak with your manager directly before submitting your letter.

Here you’ll find an adaptable example of the greeting and introduction of a formal resignation letter.

Adaptable greeting and introduction example

Dear Brian,

Please accept this letter of resignation as formal notice of my intentions to leave my role as a project manager in the JCT Ltd New York office. My last day will be January 4, 2023.

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You can also add in your reasons for resigning if you wish to, although we would only suggest doing this if it's in no way critical of the employer. Here's an example of a reason unrelated to the employee's job or company.

Adaptable reason for leaving example

As discussed, I have decided to return to education and will be starting my BSc in Engineering in early 2022.

Copied!

Showing gratitude in a professional resignation letter

As discussed earlier, you should always keep your formal resignation letter professional. If you are leaving because you have been unfairly treated, this is not the place to state your concerns. Rather, this brief, formal letter is to inform your manager and the HR team of your intentions to leave. 

If you are leaving on good terms and have had a pleasant experience, it's quite appropriate to show gratitude. Below is an example of what you might say.

Adaptable example of gratitude statements

I have enjoyed my time here at JCT Ltd and have met many people who have become lifelong friends. I feel this is a company that values its employees, and it’s been a pleasure working here.

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Expert tip

Should I be honest in my formal resignation letter?

Of course, if you are leaving your employer on bad terms, or have had a negative experience like a toxic boss , your formal resignation letter does not need to include a statement of gratitude. However, as stated above, it is also not the place to vent your grievances. If you wish to do this, you can speak to your manager or ask for an exit interview with HR to discuss your concerns.

Offer to help smooth the transition

Before concluding your formal resignation letter, it's a good idea to add any information that you feel may be relevant or helpful to the employer before your last day. Here is an example of what you might say.

Adaptable example of offer to help smooth the transition

I have an outstanding project that will be completed by December 28. I am also happy to train a new member of staff if required.

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Conclusion

There are many ways to end your formal resignation letter on an upbeat note. Below is an example.

Adaptable example of concluding remarks

I wish you and the rest of the JCT continued success, and look forward to staying in touch in the future.

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Signing off your resignation letter

You can be as informal or formal as you wish here. You might want to sign off your resignation letter with “Yours Sincerely,” "Best," or simply, “Thanks” above your name.

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Formal resignation letter template

You can use the sample letter below to write your own formal resignation letter. Simply, copy and edit with your information, and add wherever relevant.

Expert tip

To make it even easier, we suggest using one of our cover letter templates to create your formal resignation letter. Simply choose a style you like — perhaps from the simple or professional category — and drop in your own replacement text. The layout, design and formatting will be taken care of for you.

Adaptable formal resignation letter example

Dear Jan,

Please accept this letter of resignation as formal notice of my intentions to resign from my position as account manager at Best Group, in the Boston head office. My last day will be June 3, 2023.

As mentioned in our earlier conversation, my wife has accepted the offer of a job promotion in Seattle, and together we decided the relocation opportunity would be a great for the family.

I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to thrive in a role that was interesting and enjoyable beyond measure. I have learned so much from my manager and colleagues, who were always supportive. This finds me forever thankful for the many positive experiences I was fortunate to have during my employment at Best Group.

During the next two weeks, I will finish up as many projects as possible, and bring other team members up to speed on outstanding tasks. Please let me know if I can assist with recruiting or training a successor, or anything else that would help during this transition.

Thanks again and best wishes for the future.

 

Sincerely,

John

Copied!

As you can see, the resignation letter is formal, but it also ends on a positive note. John may want to return in the future, and by providing a formal resignation letter giving his notice, plus an expression of gratitude and  offer to help, the manager will be more likely to open the door to him again. In the meantime, the same manager would likely have no hesitation if John's next employer asked for a reference.

Top tips for dealing with resignation

  • End on a high note – Ultimately, you are ending the relationship between yourself and the employer, but it doesn’t need to be negative. Keep the resignation letter as positive as possible and always try to end on a good note. It is never pleasant to leave a job on a negative footing.
  • Prepare for a negative response – Some employers will wish you well in your future endeavors, while others may not have such a positive response about your resignation. Even if you wish to leave on a good note, be prepared that your  resignation letter  may not be received well. Take it as a compliment if this happens, rather than being tempted to get angry or annoyed.
  • Support next steps – You may be asked to support your manager with the next steps in the transition, including training a new team member. Be ready and prepared to give a bit more effort on your last days.

How to send your resignation letter

If possible, aim to hand in your resignation in person as well as emailing it to ensure a digital trail. If working remotely, email a copy to your direct manager and cc a hiring manager as well. Make sure to let them know first though. A surprise resignation email never looks professional.

Key takeaways:

  • Set your formal resignation letter out with an introduction, middle, and end, wrap it up with a positive conclusion.
  • Keep your resignation letter positive throughout. Use positive language and don’t get caught up in the whys and hows, especially if you are leaving on a negative note.
  • Offer your support if possible in making the transition easy for the company to hire a new person.
  • Prepare yourself that your manager might not take the news well, try to stay professional and positive. It is not good to leave jobs on a negative note .
How to write your resignation letter (with examples & templates)
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How to write your resignation letter (with examples & templates)

Explore why a good resignation letter is important and how to write it, and check out our free resignation letter examples.

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