How to Write a Letter
In the modern age consisting of email, contact forms, social networking and IM (instant messaging) writing a letter may seem like an out of date form of communication that is carried out by older generations, but there are advantages to sitting down and expressing yourself in paper format. Whether you are looking to send a quick note to a friend in the form of a or are composing something far more formal to a figure of authority, using the traditional paper format shows effort, respect and care for other not to mention a personal touch.
The following guide will take you through the process step by step. It is designed to provide general guidelines for all formats, if you are looking for more specific information on different formats please visit the relevant sections of this website.
Plan before you write, think about what you want to say in and put it down in bullet points or a spider diagram. If you are writing by hand you may want to consider composing a draft before you construct your final version to avoid making any mistakes.
When you get to actually putting together the final article place all of the information that the reader will want to know at the beginning, before you get stuck into the main content. If you are writing to someone you are familiar with, you will not need much except the date, which will let your acquaintance know when your correspondence was sent. If you are writing more formally, the reader may not even know who wro it is from so it is important that you include all of your contact information at the top. To find out how to correctly layout in formal format, please take a look at our specific formal/business Free Guide.
You should start with a greeting which should begin on the left side of the page. The most widely used opening is "Dear" followed by the person's first name (if it is someone that you know) or surname (if it is someone that you are not particularly familiar with) followed by a comma. If you are composing something very formal to someone that you don't know then "Dear Sirs," would be the correct greeting. For a more casual greeting, you might decide to use "Hello (name)", or "Hi (name)".
The opening paragraph should be tailored depending on the recipient. If the format is personal, you might decide to begin with something informal such as, "How's it going?" or a simple "How are you?". If it is a more formal type, you should be direct in your opening paragraph and explain why you are writing. You should summarise the purpose and write in a clear manner so that the reader will be able to understand you.
The body in most cases should be the most unique section. As a general rule of thumb most formal correspondence should be no more than two pages long, but personal messages can be as long or as short as you want them to be. The two most important features of the body are that you write in a clear and concise way and that you ensure that each paragraph is engaging.
You should use the closing paragraph to indicate the type of response you are looking to obtain. If you would like a response, you may decide to include something like, "I look forward to your response" or, if you prefer a phone call/email, write "Please feel free to contact me via email/telephone".
You should include an expression to say farewell (also known as a valediction or complimentary close) for example "Thanks", "Cheers", or "Talk soon" selecting the correct farewell depending on the level of formality. This closing should be aligned to the left of the page and you should sign your name underneath, then print your name under your signature.
Tips for How to Write a Successful Letter
The UK Postal Service generally prefers if you do not decorate the front of the envelope, as it can interfere with their mailing system. If you want to use pictures, decorative stamps or stickers, place them on the back of the envelope out of main view.
If you are writing a something formal you should pay particular attention to the content, and try to be as polite as possible. This is especially true when the purpose is a complaint, where you do not want to anger the reader as it may result an unsatisfactory response. If you take care to be polite, you may receive more generosity.