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.
Spot the Signs. According to Alison Green, who writes the blog Ask a Manager, this is common practice for some industries, especially if you're leaving to work for a direct competitor. However, in those situations, you'll likely know it's coming and can prepare accordingly.