Transitioning gracefully: How to write a resignation letter

A woman leaving gracefully with sunglasses on and her box of things in her hands after submitting her resignation letter

Even a positive change can sometimes feel difficult. A good resignation letter helps you manage your own exit, protect your relationships, and leave your job on the best terms possible. Here’s how to write a resignation letter and transition between jobs gracefully.

Changing the place where you spend most of your time isn’t easy. Even for workplaces you feel ready to leave, there’ll be someone or something you’ll miss. As hard as it might feel, it’s important to preserve your professional relationships if possible, so you can:

  • Secure recommendations from colleagues.
  • Maintain a strong network in your industry.
  • Keep the door open in case you want to work there again.

Leaving a job gracefully is a great way to progress your career while maintaining your network. A good resignation letter or email is the best way to start this process. Here’s how to write one.

Your health and safety come first. Exiting a business gracefully helps your career when its possible, but your health, safety, and wellness are more important. If you’re leaving due to harassment, discrimination, bullying, or abuse, you won’t need to write a resignation letter unless your contract states you must. Register your concern with HR and seek their support if you can to help with your exit. Seek legal counsel early on if you plan to pursue legal action and follow their advice.

How to write a resignation letter

1. Look up some resignation letter or email templates

In theory, there’s nothing wrong with just sitting down and writing a letter about how you’re leaving. In practice, lots of people have difficulty starting or formatting this type of letter.

Looking up examples of resignation letters can really help, and you can edit a template to suit you. There are hundreds of letter templates you can draw inspiration from. 

A resignation letter is all about the message and sentiment – losing time on formatting is never productive. By writing the letter sooner, you’ll have more time to sleep on it and reread it a few times. This way, you have time to revise it, and you’re happier and more confident with your final letter.

2. Be clear and keep your resignation letter concise

You must state that it’s a resignation letter in the first sentence.

You may want to pour your heart out on the paper, but there’s a time and place for everything. The key thing is that you’re leaving, and that’s that. Your exit interview or questionnaire is your chance to go through your reasons more clearly, and recommend any changes.

The body of the letter should go something like this:

  1. Inform them that you’re leaving, and when.
  2. Reminisce about how long you were in their employ.
  3. Tell them that you’re grateful for the opportunity.
  4. Say that it’s time for you to move on.
  5. Wish them all the best!

This is a simple format that conveys all the key points you need to communicate to leave your current job.

While there’s no formal limitation on word count, you should try not to exceed 300 words. About 150 to 250 words should be more than enough. Writing a longer letter (up to 1,000 words) can be taken the wrong way even if that’s not your intention, so it’s best to keep it short and to the point.  

3. Set a positive tone for your resignation letter

A positive tone doesn’t mean you’re thrilled about leaving, but it goes a long way to making your resignation effective and professional. 

You’re not doing anything wrong.

An average person changes careers 5-7 times during their working life. Leaving your job is a natural part of your career journey, even if you are a bit more conservative. You’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. Most importantly, you don’t have anything to apologise about.

Talk about the good things.

How old were you when you started working there? Which important events in your life transpired while you were there? What did you learn, and how did it help you grow as a person? While it may seem too much (according to some tips), you can still do this and keep your letter short overall! 

Personalise the letter

Keep the focus on these positive memories instead of apologising for leaving.

Mentioning your memories of work and how you’ve grown in your role is a great way of adding more of a personal touch to your letter.

Personalising your letter in this way makes it seem less template-like, even if it started out as one. It’s fine to use templates but taking the time to edit them shows that you care.

Wish them well

When wishing your manager and employer well, make sure it sounds genuine. This can sometimes be more difficult than you expect it to be, depending on the context.

4. Give them enough time to respond to your resignation

Is your timeline flexible?

To leave on the best terms possible, you might see if you can work out a longer timeline for your exit than your contract outlines. That way you can support your employer with training your replacement. This can extend the leaving process, – and how long this will take usually depends on your job role in the business. If you opt for this route, remember to make sure that you agree and specify the date when you’re leaving.

Is your timeline set?

In some cases, you may have to depart immediately. You may have an exciting new job offer and a set starting date your new team is no doubt counting down to! In these cases, your contract outlines when your notice period is, and you can include the date you’re leaving. (however many days after you hand in your letter).

The situation will also be different if you’re in a hostile work environment, worried about unethical practices, or have safety concerns.  In this scenario, you may not write a resignation letter. 

Your contract will usually specify whether you need to provide written notice. In some locations, it’s more of a custom, like saying goodbye before leaving the room. Nothing prevents you from leaving without saying farewell, but it’s just impolite. 

5. How you deliver your resignation letter matters 

It’s not just about the content of your resignation letter or its format. You also have to submit it.

While you can mail it or email it (that’s how you do it in a remote workplace), if you’re working in a traditional office or hybrid work model, you should also tell your manager in person or virtually beforehand.

It can help to have a few words prepared.

This can be an intimidating experience even if you get on really well with your boss. If you prepare a few points, you can remember the crucial things you need to share, even if you’re emotional in the moment. 

The four key things to communicate are:

  • It’s time for me to leave.
  • Working here was a privilege.
  • Here’s my resignation letter.
  • I wish you all the best.

Use these as a starting point, and elaborate if it feels natural. You don’t need to write out everything and memorise it, but it helps to remember the key points to get across and to plan what you’d most like to share before the actual moment. 

Proofread before you send

Read over your resignation letter and make sure that there are no grammatical or semantic errors, like you would if you were writing a CV. This shows you’ve spent time and effort on your words and not rushed through the process, which is a sign of respect and compassion. 

A professional resignation letter ends things on the right note

They say that you shouldn’t praise the day until the evening, and the same thing goes for any job that you hold. No matter how great you were as an employee, leaving on the wrong note can sour your relationships and what you’re remembered for. With the right letter, you can end things right. 

About the author

Veteran content writer, published author, and amateur boxer, Srdjan Gombar has a Bachelor of Arts in English Language & Literature and is passionate about technology, pop culture, and self-improvement. He spends his free time reading, watching movies, and playing Super Mario Bros with his son.

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A woman leaving gracefully with sunglasses on and her box of things in her hands after submitting her resignation letter

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