How to Write a Letter

How to Write a Letter
The art of writing a letter takes practice, knowledge about proper form and the ability to put into words
your feelings, thoughts, and/or ideas. If you learn the basic parts of a letter, it will help you to create
letters for a variety of occasions.
Parts of the Letter:
Your address
At the top of your letter, you will put your address, so the reader will know where to send their reply to.
Date
Put the date on which the letter was written in the format Month Day Year i.e. June, 15, 2009.
Inside Address
The inside address is only required for a business letter and will include the address of the person you are
writing to along with the name of the recipient, their title and company name. If you are not sure who the
letter should be addressed to either leave it blank or try to put in a title, i.e. "Director of Human
Resources".
The Greeting
The greeting will address the individual that the letter is being sent to. This is usually completed in the
form of "Dear Anne" or "Hey Anne", for less formal letters.
The Introductory Paragraph
The first paragraph and will generally outline the purpose for the letter and the reason that the letter is
being sent. This can address any issues that are outstanding and is used to set the tone for the entire rest of
the letter. In this first paragraph, the summary of the letter can be found and the intentions which will be
displayed through the rest of the letter should be outlined. From the first paragraph of the letter, the
introductory paragraph, the individual should be able to note the tone of the letter.
The Body
The body of the letter will expand upon the introductory paragraph and the individual can extend their
thoughts and feelings further when it comes to the letter. The body of the letter can be anywhere from
multiple pages for personal letters, to one page or two pages for most business letters and other types of
proposals.
The Closing
In the closing of the letter, the individual will close the letter and finish any thoughts that have been
mentioned. The closing of the letter comes in various forms from yours truly, for those individuals that
are familiar with one another, to a traditional sincerely which is a versatile closing that can be used in a
variety of letters detailing many situations.
The Presentation of the Letter
The presentation of the letter can be hand-written for less formal letters that are addressed to friends and
family members, especially thank-you letters. In the case that you have illegible handwriting, you may
want to consider typing the letter in these cases, although proper etiquette dictates against this type of
behavior.
Formal letters which are written on behalf of businesses to or professional contacts should remain
typewritten and grammatical and spelling error free. These types of letters should be legible and
professional and therefore typing the letter is one of the most effective ways to ensure that the letter
demonstrates a professional appearance through the entire course of the letter, thereby creating a positive
impression on the recipient of the letter.
As well as outward presentation, it is important to determine the tone which will be written in the letter,
including a professional tone or a tone that will be taken with friends or family members in a more
informal setting. Read through the letter once it has been completed to ensure that the tone remains the
same. The tone can be adjusted based on the language which is used through the letter, as well as the
greetings (familiar as opposed to formal).
9 Ways to Get Better at Letter Writing Tasks
1. Identify the type of letter you are being asked to write. Is it a formal, semi-formal or informal letter?
The entire tone of your letter is based on your answer to this question. Adjust your style and choice of
words according to the type of letter you have been asked to write.
2. Open and close the letter correctly. Remember that each type of letter requires a different opening
and closing. The chart below will help you remember this:
Style
Characteristics
Opening
Ending
Formal
To someone you have not
met, whose name you
don't know
To someone you may or
may not have met, whose
last name you know & use
To someone you know
well, whose first name you
know and use
Dear Sir / Madam
Yours faithfully
Dear Mr Brown,
Dear Ms Stone
Yours sincerely
Dear John
Dear Anita
Best regards
Warm wishes
Semiformal
Informal
3. Open a formal and semi-formal letter with a formal sentence. Don't try to be friendly, as you do not
know the person you are writing to. Get right down to business and indicate the reason you are writing, as
shown below:
Dear Sir / Madam,
I am writing to inquire about / I am writing in connection with...
Dear Mr Jones,
I am writing to inform you ... / I am writing in connection with...
4. Open an informal letter with a general, friendly paragraph. With friends whom we know, we care
about the whole person. We have a broader relationship in the context of which this communication is
taking place. So it is best to acknowledge that friendship first, before getting down to the reason for your
letter. In fact, the first paragraph could be purely friendly small talk, unrelated to the reason for your
writing. Look at the example below:
Dear Jane
I hope you and your family are all well. It was such a pleasure to see you again last summer. We sure had
a great time catching up with each other after so many years. You have always been a cherished friend,
no matter how much of a gap there has been since we met.
Anyway, the reason I'm writing is that I have some good news - I am getting married this summer...
5. Identify the main purpose of the letter. Are you asking for help, apologizing, inviting someone,
complaining or thanking someone? Learn appropriate and polite expressions that will support what you
need to say.
6. Learn and use standard written phrases. Students sometimes struggle to finish their writing in time.
This happens when you are trying to write every sentence from scratch. The fact is, in conventional letter
writing in English, we use a number of standard expressions and phrases and add on to them the specific
information we wish to communicate. By learning how to use these expressions, you will find the letter
writing task much easier and will never have to fight for time.
7. Make sure you write at least 150 words. Practice writing letters till you know what 150 words feels
like and looks like.
8. Learn the correct spelling of commonly used words. It is surprising how many students make a
mistake when spelling words such as "sincerely", "faithfully", "in connection with" and so on. You can
prevent yourself from losing marks by learning the correct spelling of these words and expressions which
you are highly likely to use on your exam.
9. Stay on topic. In order to complete your letter within 20 minutes or less, practice writing letters where
you stick to the point. A General Task does require you to make up a bit of a story to complete your letter,
but don't make your story so complicated that you run out of time.
List of Proper Letter Closings
List of Proper Business Letter Closings
Be it for marketing letters, cover letters or professional e-mails, writers can use a great variety of business
letter closings to sign off a work-related document. Denote a friendly-but-business-like tone with the
letter closing “Kind regards”, or keep things ultra sharp by ending an important letter with “Confidently
yours”.








Best regards/wishes
Confidently yours
Kind regards/wishes
Many thanks
Respectfully yours
Warm regards
With anticipation
Yours respectfully/sincerely/truly
List of Friendly Goodbyes to End a Letter
Whether it’s for the family holiday card, a letter wishing better health, or a thank you note, choosing the
right letter closings for friends is a fine and fun art. Here are some suggestions that denote the warmth of
friendship, but still hold a respectful and well-wishing air:








Cheerful greetings to all
Hugs
Kind thoughts
Take care
Wishing you the best
Write soon
Your friend
Yours in friendship
List of Online Goodbyes Used to Sign off an E-mail
Writers have more flexibility in the endings they use for e-mails than in written letters. To add a little
more life to personal e-mail closings, consider signing off with one of these e-mail salutations:










Be good/well
Cheerio
Cheers
I’m out
More to come
Smiles
Ta ta for now
Take care
Take it easy
Until next time
Quote Funny and Famous Closings to End a Letter
From Obi-Wan Kenobi's classic line from Star Wars “May the force be with you” and the hockey-themed
“Keep your stick on the ice”, television, music, and movies have given us some of the most popular and
creative letter closings.













All you need is love
Happy trails to you
Hasta la vista, baby
Keep your stick on the ice
Kiss kiss bang bang
Live long and prosper
May the force be with you
Over and out
Over to you
Peace, love, and unity
Start the engines
Stay tuned
Tag! You’re it


To be continued…
Yabba dabba do
Friendly Goodbyes in Other Languages
Adding a letter closing in another language can be a fun way to end a written note or e-mail. From French
goodbyes to Spanish farewells, here are some international ways to sign off a written note:






Adieu
Adios amigo (use "amiga" for a female letter recipient or "amigos" for a family or group)
Aloha
Au revoir
Ciao
Namaste
Selecting the Right Letter Closings and E-mail Sign-offs
Whichever letter closings or e-mail endings writers use, be sure to think about the recipients and how they
will interpret each goodbye. When in doubt, err on the side of more formal letter closings and e-mail
endings rather than risk offending readers with casual or inappropriate sign offs.
Abbreviations Used in Letter Writing
The following abbreviations are widely used in letters:







asap = as soon as possible
cc = carbon copy (when you send a copy of a letter to more than one person, you use this
abbreviation to let them know)
enc. = enclosure (when you include other papers with your letter)
pp = per procurationem (A Latin phrase meaning that you are signing the letter on somebody
else's behalf; if they are not there to sign it themselves, etc)
ps = postscript (when you want to add something after you've finished and signed it)
pto (informal) = please turn over (to make sure that the other person knows the letter continues
on the other side of the page)
RSVP = please reply
`