Writing a letter is one of the oldest forms of communication that while technology has made most things automated these days, a lot of people still turn to it to send different messages to different people, whether it’s personal or for business.
The basics of writing a letter
Here are some of the basic parts of a typical formal letter:
- On the upper left-hand corner of the paper, place your full name, street address, city, state and zip code. Below that, skip a line and put the date.
- Skip another line and place the recipient’s name and title, company name and full mailing address.
- Skip another line and place the greeting or salutation. Depending on the type of letter that you’re writing, you can either use the generic salutations like “To whom it may concern:” or personalized greetings like “Dear Ms. Smith:.” Remember that salutations for formal letters should have a colon but informal letters should use a comma.
- After skipping another line, you can begin the body of the letter. To make sure that your recipient understands your letter, it’s best to separate each new thought or idea into a new paragraph. Never write one long paragraph of text because it will only make your letter hard to digest.
- Skip one line after the body of the letter and write a complimentary close. Depending on who you’re writing the letter to, you can choose from different closings like “Your truly,” “Sincerely yours,” or “With regards.” All closing statements should end with a comma.
- Skip three lines to give space for your handwritten signature and place your full name and title if needed.
- If you’re including some attachments with your letter, you can skip another line and put “Enclosure” and the number of attachments to let your recipient know that you’ve included additional documents in the letter.
The different types of letters
Now that you know the basic steps in writing a letter, let’s get to know the different types of letters:
Being a professional form of communication, business letters should follow the formal type of writing with proper salutations and punctuations. Business letters should also be written in a professional tone.
Although emails are now used more often as a form of correspondence within offices, more serious concerns call for a formal employee letter including an apology or an explanation. You’d also want to use a more professional tone and format with this type of letter.
This type of letter can be written to family, friends, colleagues and other people who you don’t do business with. Written in a less formal and more relaxed tone, informal letters can talk about anything, from simple congratulations to discussions about personal things.
The most common type of informational letter is a name change announcement where you would want to let people know that you changed your maiden name after you got married. You can also use informational letters to inform people of other changes in your personal or business life including a new address or office location.
Job search letters
These letters involve anything that has to do with looking for a job or hiring someone if you’re the employer. They should be written in a formal manner and the body needs to contain all the information needed for the purpose of that letter. The most common types of job search letters include application letters, networking letters, job application letters, inquiry letters and cover letters.
Thank you letters
Appreciation, thank you and congratulatory letters are a way to show your gratitude to someone who helped you in one way or another. It could also be a form of informational letter where you congratulate someone of a promotion. Thank you letters are written in a less formal manner although proper formats still need to be followed.
Resignation or retirement letters
It’s part of proper business etiquette to inform your employer if you wish to resign from your job. This is when you should write a formal resignation letter stating your reason for leaving, the date when your resignation will take effect and some words of thanks to your employer for the opportunity to work in the company.
On the other hand, a retirement letter is simply one that you can send to an employer, some clients and your colleagues to let them know that you’re retiring from the job.
Postscripts and envelopes
If you’re wondering what P.S. means in letter writing, it simply stands for postscript and it’s a way to add some information after you’ve already written the letter.
As a general rule, you should not add postscripts to formal letters to follow proper formats. If you need to make changes, you should revise the entire document with the new information.
When sending a letter, you have to know that 3.5 ounces is the maximum weight for a first-class letter in the United States. You should also use a rectangular envelope that measures approximately 6×11 inches. Anything heavier or bigger may be flagged by the post office and returned to you.
Sending a letter
If you’re ready to send your letter, you should put the right information on the envelope to make sure it gets to the right recipient. Write your name and address or attach a mailing label at the upper left-hand corner of the envelope.
On the center, write the name and address of your recipient. If you’re sending the letter internationally, you need to include the country from both the destination and return address. Make sure that all the information is correct on the outside of the envelope before folding your letter and sealing it.
Writing letter will never go out of style. Whether you’re doing it for business, for a job or for a loved one, it’s very important to make sure that your letters are written well and they follow proper formats so you can get the right message across to your recipients.