Professional Development

How to write an excellent resignation letter

How to Write an Excellent Resignation Letter
Written by Kate Lopaze

I quit. J’arrete. Ich gebe auf. Me rindo. Whatever the language, the sentiment is the same: I’m outta here. However, as a professional person, you need to express that maturely and firmly—ideally, one that doesn’t alienate anyone at the job you’re leaving. I’m sure we all have that fantasy where we tell off everyone who wronged us on the way out the door, but that person in the fantasy/movie/TV show never seems to have to live with the consequences afterward. Or meet up with said colleagues at an industry event, because the world is awkwardly small. So it’s in your best interest to make sure that your resignation letter is clear, concise, and polite. Here are some best practices you can follow to make your big exit a professional one.

Why a Resignation Letter?

In these digital times, why should we submit a resignation letter, anyway? A paper trail does seem old-fashioned, but in this case, it’s a best practice. It makes your intentions clear, as well as the conditions. You’re removing any ambiguity about the end of your time there.

And sure, this could be an email (all of the same principles would apply), but a letter makes things official in every sense. It also gives you a prop to take along to the face-to-face meeting with your boss, when you let him or her know that you’re leaving. A resignation letter can also help your boss and your company start the transition process, get a replacement for you approved, and start planning internally, etc. The paper trail is beneficial all around.

So what should go into your letter? Let’s look at some examples of what to do (and perhaps more importantly, what not to do).

Necessity #1: A Professional Greeting

Your letter should be addressed to your boss. There’s a good chance that this letter will merely end up in a file in HR, but it starts with your boss. Assuming this is someone with whom you work reasonably close with on a daily basis, it doesn’t have to be super stiff and formal. Specific and professional is the right tone here.

For example:

  • Dear Mary,
  • Mary,

Bad examples:

  • Dear Ms. Stone,
  • Hey Mary,
  • To whom it may concern:
  • Dear Human Resources representative,

Even if you’re not close with your boss, chances are you have a working, first-name-basis relationship. Maintaining that in your official letter is okay. You don’t need to keep a Victorian level of formality here—just make sure it’s a professional tone.

Necessity #2: State Your Intent

The whole theme of your resignation letter is the statement that, well, you resign. You don’t need to play coy—the time has passed for you to fish around for a counteroffer if it’s gotten this far. At this point, you’ve made your decision to leave, and this letter needs to reflect that.

For example:

  • I will be leaving my position as Customer Service representative.
  • I resign my position as Customer Service representative.

Bad examples:

  • The time has come for me to think about parting ways with this company.
  • All good things must come to an end.
  • I will not be coming in after August 30.

You want your intent to be as direct as possible. You are leaving, plain and simple. There’s no need to mention where you’re going. You can discuss that with your boss (though you’re not obligated to do so) and your colleagues if you want, but there’s little purpose for including that in your resignation letter. That’s especially true if you’re moving over to a competitor—you don’t want to create ill will in this letter or cause any drama.

Necessity #3: Your End Date

The most crucial detail in a resignation letter is your end date. Legally and according to your company’s policy, you might be required to give a minimum amount of notice (two weeks, or possibly more, depending on the company and the role). If that’s the case, you don’t want there to be any confusion about how much notice you give. If it’s right there in writing in a letter dated two weeks before your last day, you’re saving yourself the hassle. It also starts the clock for your boss and your company, kicking off the transition plan of training, hiring, and otherwise covering your impending departure.

For example:

  • My last day in the office will be Tuesday, June 30.
  • I am leaving my position as a Customer Service representative, effective June 30.

Bad examples:

  • I will be leaving in a few weeks.
  • I will be leaving the company after a period of time.
  • Here is my required notice in accordance with company policies.

The bad examples here are all too vague. With the last one, you’re aligning yourself with company policy, which is good, but it still doesn’t tell the reader how much notice that actually is. Be as specific as possible on the time you have between now and your last day.

Necessity #4: A Gracious Tone

Your resignation letter is not the time to air grudges, take passive-aggressive shots, or otherwise be unpleasant. Regardless of how you feel about your (soon to be former) job or your boss, this letter should be an exercise in professionalism and graciousness. An excellent way to do that is to say a simple “thank you.” Even if you hated your job, you got something from it at some point. Focus on that positive bit if you need to.

On the flip side, if you loved your job, your coworkers, your boss, the cappuccino machine, everything about the place, don’t write page upon page waxing rhapsodic about all that you’re giving up by leaving. A brief, heartfelt compliment to the company, or a thank you, is fine.

For example:

  • I’ve appreciated the opportunities I’ve had here.
  • Thank you so much for the opportunity to work and grow as part of the Customer Service team.
  • This company has been a great home for me for the past six years, and I thank you for being a big part of that as my boss and mentor.
  • I’ve learned so much in my time here, and I know that this company will continue to grow and thrive.

Bad examples:

  • I’ve enjoyed SOME of my time here.
  • I think we both know that this has been a terrible place to work, but I appreciate the opportunity.
  • This is a great company, but the management leaves a lot to be desired, so I am leaving.
  • I hope the next person in this position enjoys the challenges of micromanagement and stressful workloads that I have experienced in my time here.

You’ll have plenty of time to vent personally about your work grievances as you leave, but really, you stand to gain nothing by putting negativity into your resignation letter. And unless you’re leaving the state and your current industry, you always run the risk of running into the same people later on. So you’re far better off taking the high road and making sure your exit is a classy one.

Necessity #5: Your End Game

When you hand in your resignation letter, it can kick off a bit of chaos—your position will need to be filled, but your duties will also need to be covered until they can replace you. As part of your resignation letter, it’s a good idea to convey what your availability is during that transitional period.

For example:

  • Over the next two weeks, I would like to work with you on training or any necessary transition duties as I wrap up my time here at the company.

Bad example:

  • I will be available to train a replacement.
  • I plan to be very busy until my last day.

These are vague… are you available to train a replacement anytime, even after your last day? Are you saying you’ll be too busy to help prepare someone else or that you’ll be busy helping with the transition? As with everything else in your resignation letter, clear and concise are the way to go.

After that, you’re ready to close out your letter and move on. The basic closings are fine here—again, you don’t need to go overly sentimental or formal, but you should also write as if it will be read by anyone at the company.

For example:

  • Sincerely,
  • Best wishes,

Bad examples:

  • Adios,
  • Bye Felicia,
  • Warmest eternal regards,

And with that signing flourish, you’re done! You’ve resigned, and you’re ready for your exciting new job. Let’s recap the good example resignation letter as a whole.

Dear Mary,

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation as a Customer Service representative. My last day in the office will be Tuesday, June 30.

Working here has been an incredible opportunity, and it was not an easy decision to leave to pursue another opportunity. This company has been a great home for me for the past six years, and I thank you for being a big part of that as my boss and mentor. I’ve learned so much in my time here, and I know that this company will continue to grow and thrive.

Ahead of June 30, I would like to work with you on training or any necessary transition duties as I wrap up my time here at the company.

Thanks again for the opportunity to be a member of this team!



About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.