How To Write a Formal Excuse Letter

Writing a letter

An excuse letter is typically required when you need to explain a past or future absence at some institution, usually in school or college. Absences from your place of employment generally do not warrant excuse letters, as most HR policies will provide guidelines for unplanned and medical leave. It's a common perception, however, that students have not attained sufficient maturity and should still be subject to some authority or control, whether by parents, the teaching faculty, or the school administration; hence the formal excuse letter comes into play.

It is generally expected that an excuse letter be prepared by someone in authority or control of the student - usually a parent or guardian; in some cases, where the absence is due to a prolonged illness, a doctor's medical certificate can also serve this purpose. You can find some excellent tips on proper, clear letter writing in general in the popular Instant Home Writing Kit.

Although an excuse letter doesn't have to follow the proper letter format, it should still look neat and present all the information in an organized way. Listed below are writing tips and steps to follow while writing a letter to excuse an unplanned absence.

  1. Getting started: You can write the note by hand, but a printed copy from a word processor looks more formal and is better for older students. Begin your letter by writing the date on the top right or left hand corner. This date should be the date you are writing or handing over the letter, preferably the latter.
  2. The addressee: Below the line where the date is given, write the name of the person to whom the letter is addressed. This can be followed with the designation of such person and the address of such person in brief. For example - "To...Mr. Jones...Grade I Teacher...Teaching School..." including the city in which the institution is located. Below this, give your address or the address of the person writing the letter in the same format. Usually, the person writing the letter will be someone who is an authority figure in the student's life - a parent or guardian.
  3. Subject: Below the ‘from' and ‘to' information, write the subject of the note beginning with "Subject: ....." or "Re: ....." where you will mention the student's name and the reason for the absence. You must also mention the date(s) of absence within the subject.
  4. Main text: This is where you will write out the details - who, when and why - of the excuse letter. Keep the content brief, crisp and lucid, stating just the reason for absence (whether past or future), relevant dates and any additional action, if necessary, which should be taken. For example, this could refer to the missed assignment, homework or test which the student is/was unable to take on account of the absence.
  5. Conclusion: Close the letter with the appropriate salutations - "yours sincerely", etc. - and sign the letter. If the unplanned absence is on account of an illness going over three days, it is also preferable to attach a doctor's certificate explaining the illness and the medical care and attention required.

From the above, you can see that writing an excuse letter is actually a very simple task. Just make sure that you keep it short and sweet and compliant with the institution's policy for unplanned absences.


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