Condolence messages may follow the format of personal letters. However, the formatting of a condolence message isn't exactly strict as long as it truly conveys the feelings of the writer towards the recipient. The writer must be sensitive about the recipient's loss in order to write an appropriate condolence message.
Personal letters typically consist of four essential parts: the heading, opening salutation, body and complimentary closing. The information found in each part varies according to context and the relationship between the writer and his recipient. The heading contains the date line and return address, which is optional in personal communications. An appropriate opening salutation is "Dear" followed by the sender's name and appended with "and family" if preferred, with appropriate complimentary closings including "Much love," "Sincerely" and "With deepest sympathy."
When writing the body of the letter, the writer must reflect on details such as how he learned about the loss, how the loss brought him emotional pain, the remarkable traits and accomplishments of the departed, and the support he is willing to give to the bereaved. The body may consist of only a few sentences, providing it sincerely expresses the understanding and compassion of the writer. He may mention a particular, precious memory he shared with the departed.