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Writing a Letter in English


Letters come in two varieties: personal and professional or business. Personal letters are sent to family and friends and are usually more casual in tone. Business letters and communication just as job applications or cover letters should use your best English skills and never get too friendly.

Either of these can be sent through the traditional mail or email. Learning how to structure letters properly will help your communication a lot.

Personal Letters - Informal Contact

Greetings

Although "Dear Mr. or Mrs. Last Name" works for all letters, it might be too formal if you are writing to your friend or family member. "Dear First Name" or just "Hello!" or "Greetings!" is also appropriate.

Figuring out what title to give someone can be a challenge as well. All men are "Mr." but women have three different ones to choose from. If you know the woman you are writing to is married, use "Mrs." If you know she has never been married, use "Miss." If she has been divorced, widowed or you are unsure about her marital status, use "Ms."

Body

Write casually in friendly letters. There is no need to follow a particular structure when talking with close friends and family.

Closings

Depending on your level of affection and closeness to the letter recipient, you can use "Love, Your Name" or just your name without any closing at all. Short phrases such as "See you soon!" or "Your friend," can be used in front of your name as well.

Professional or Business Letters such as Job Applications or Cover Letters - Proper Form Needed

Greetings

A business letter should always begin with a proper greeting. "Dear Mr. or Mrs. Last Name" is always respectful and polite. If the person to whom you are writing has a title, use it. This includes doctors, judges and political officials as in "Dear Dr. Last Name" or "Dear Mayor Last Name." It is acceptable to leave off "dear" as well and just use the person's name. "To whom it may concern" can be used if you are writing to an agency or office instead of a particular person.

Body

Business people and officials have limited time for reading their mail in the course of the work day. Keep the bodies of professional letters short and to the point. All important information about the reason for contact should be contained in the first paragraph. Do not share personal information, make jokes, get too emotional or add in entertaining stories about your life.

Closings

Most business letters end with the word "Sincerely," followed by your full name. Other phrases work as well. These include "Thank you for your time," and "Respectfully yours." Each closing means something a bit different, so it is important to choose one based on the content of the letter. For example, "Thank you" should be used if you made a request. "Respectfully" is appropriate when a disagreement happens and you do not want to offend the other party. No letter closings that indicate personal relationship or affection should be used.

Letter writing may be done almost exclusively through email these days, but the good manners and customs behind appropriate greetings, content and goodbyes have stayed the same.

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