Going in Style: How to Write a Resignation Letter

By Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman is a nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and a best-selling author, including “The Proximity Principle: The Proven Strategy That Will Lead to the Career You Love.” Follow Ken at KenColeman.com and on Twitter @KenColeman.
October 30, 2021 Updated: October 30, 2021

You’ve made the decision to leave your job. You’re almost out the door, and on your way to a new opportunity. But before you get too carried away, don’t forget to send a resignation letter.

A resignation letter is an email or printed document formally explaining you’re leaving your job. Sometimes, a resignation letter is required for all exiting employees, so the company can have it for their records. But even if it’s not a requirement, it’s still good workplace etiquette to send one before heading out the door. It should never replace an in-person conversation, though, unless email-only resignations are a company policy, or you have an unusual, urgent situation that makes resigning in person impossible. Have the conversation first, and then follow up with a formal resignation letter.

Your resignation letter should be emailed or given to your direct leader, and it doesn’t hurt to give a copy to your human resources department, too.

What to Include 

Resignation letters shouldn’t be long. They should state you’re leaving, give a brief explanation for why you’re leaving (if you choose to give one), say when your last day in the office will be, offer to help make the transition as smooth as possible, and express gratitude for your time with the organization. You don’t have to say things you don’t mean, but you should say something that’s professional and positive.

What Not to Include  

Don’t speak negatively about your boss, coworkers, compensation, or experience at the company. Remember, this is a formal record of your departure. It will probably stay in the company’s files for a long time …

It’s also not a good idea to rave about your new job in the letter, even if it’s your dream job. Don’t say anything that implies the company you’re going to is better, or pays more than your current company.

7 Steps to Follow

OK, now it’s time to get down to business and write the letter. Here are seven easy steps to follow:

  1. Add a subject line.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. A simple “(Your Name) – Resignation” will do just fine. If your resignation letter isn’t in email form, you should also include the date at the top left side of the page.

  1. Formally address your leader.

The standard greeting for a letter like this is, “Dear Mr./Ms. (your leader’s last name).” That’s the best practice here, unless you have a leader who insists that you call them by their first name and you’ve always done so. However, I’d keep it formal to be safe.

  1. Open with a clear statement.

The first sentence of your letter should make it clear this is your formal resignation. Don’t beat around the bush or apologize. Just state the facts, and keep on moving.

  1. Briefly say why you’re leaving.

This part is optional, but don’t feel the need to make it a long, drawn-out explanation. This could be anything from “I’m pursuing other opportunities” to “I’ve decided to make a mid-life career change” to “I’m moving out of state to be closer to family.” It’s best to leave this part out if your real reason for leaving is because you dislike your boss, or you think your job is boring.

  1. Give a specific last day.

Don’t keep them guessing about your last day in the office. Make sure you’ve already decided on this date—which should ideally be at least two weeks away—in collaboration with your leader, or that you’ve made them aware of the date in person. Repeat the date in your resignation letter, so it’s in writing and there’s no possibility of confusion.

  1. Offer to help if needed.

It’s a great way to go the extra mile for your team and your company. This can be as simple as saying “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” or as detailed as saying exactly what you’ll do to make the transition easier. Don’t promise anything you’re not fully prepared to follow through on.

  1. Close with gratitude.

This is the most important part. No matter how much you disliked your job or coworkers, you had a steady paycheck and an opportunity for growth and learning. The only scenario where I could see leaving this out would be if you were abused in some way, or the work environment was extremely toxic. Otherwise, thank your leader for your time at the company.

If you want to stay in touch with your coworkers, send them separate emails with similar details explaining that you’re leaving. Thank them for working with you, and let them know how they can contact you.

Keep everything professional, classy, and thankful. It’ll leave a lasting good impression!

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman is a nationally syndicated radio host of The Ken Coleman Show and a best-selling author, including “The Proximity Principle: The Proven Strategy That Will Lead to the Career You Love.” Follow Ken at KenColeman.com and on Twitter @KenColeman.