Letter writing is the art of writing messages, be it handwritten or printed, business or personal. It is a skill we all need to know. Now that emails and text messages exist, letter writing has taken a back seat. However, it is still a prominent feature, especially for formal communication.
A Formal Letter is framed for professional, business contracts, or letters to authorities. It includes cover letters, promotional letters, a business intent letter, application letter, bank letter, resignation letter. It is customarily typed in a specific format, and some companies may use a special paper called a letterhead.
An Informal Letter is a casual message written for friends and family, be it handwritten, emailed, or via social media platforms. They contain less structure compared to a formal letter, as they need not follow any formalities. It’s just a simple conversation put into written words.
While writing a letter, there are few points to keep in mind. Writing an address properly isn’t the only focal point for writing a structured letter. To begin with, you must identify what kind of letter you are going to write. Here are some of the basic steps of writing a letter that can be followed and will help in conveying the intended message to the receiver.
How to Write Formal Letters?
Formal letters are part of our career and profession. They are strictly kept professional and follow a specific writing pattern.
When you write a formal letter, stick to the subject as it is addressed to authorities, dignitaries, colleagues, etc. It requires good writing skills to communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively and precisely. Several precepts must adhere to writing constructive letters or emails. So, let's look at the steps to follow while writing a formal letter.
Step 1: Initiation of a Formal Letter
- Letters always begin with the Sender’s Address. It will include the sender’s name, address, and contact details. Some companies' letterhead will incorporate this information along with the company logo. The address should be complete and accurate in case the recipient of the letter wishes to communicate with the sender.
- The Date follows the sender’s address just below. A formal letter must add a date, as it is to be kept on record.
- Leave a line to mention the Receiver's Address. Here you’ll want to include the recipient’s complete address with their name and designation.
Step 2: Salutation
- Skip a space to add the salutation after mentioning the address. This is where you greet the person you are referring to.
- Formal letters include “Dear” or “Respected” followed by the name of the receiver. If you don’t know the name, use the generic form “To whom it may concern”. A comma follows the greeting.
Step 3: Subject of the Formal Letter
The subject comes after the salutation where the intent of the letter is stated. Write “Subject” followed by a colon and the summary line of the letter. This helps the receiver to focus on the intent of the letter at one glance.
Step 4: Body of a Formal Letter
- Skip a line to begin with the body of the letter. We must segregate the content within the body into different paragraphs based on its topic. The first paragraph must focus on the reason for the letter.
- Never draft an enormous block of text. For each new thought or topic, begin a new paragraph. The tone of the entire letter must be formal and respectful, regardless of the topic.
- Always proofread and eliminate any contradictions. A formal letter is always a recorded document, hence, avoid writing anything you might be remorseful about.
Step 5: Closing of a Formal Letter
- Leave a line to add a complimentary closing as simple as “Sincerely” or “Yours truly” followed by a comma. We must capitalize only the first word of the phrase. It is a polite form to convey your regards to the recipient.
- Skip a line or two to sign your name. It must include your digital or handwritten signature followed by your full name and designation.
- If the letter is being emailed and requires attachments, have it done after the closing of the letter and indicate how many attachments it encloses in the parenthesis.
How to Write an Informal Letter?
Informal Letters are usually written to our friends, family, and acquaintances in a casual language. As they are mostly used for personal communication, they may have an emotional undertone and there is no need to follow any specific pattern or convention. It has less structure overall but contains few elements, the same as a formal letter. Let’s get into the guidelines to follow while writing an informal letter.
Step 1: Initiation of an Informal Letter
- The Sender’s Address is to be mentioned, just like in a formal letter. The address must be complete and accurate. This will help the receiver write back if needed.
- Followed by the address comes the Date in the preceding line. This gives a clearer idea of when the letter is being addressed to the receiver.
Step 2: Salutation
The salutation is a greeting that is customarily typed after leaving a line from the date. It can be casual, like “Hello” or “Dear” followed by a comma or an exclamation mark to create enthusiasm. It all depends on the relation to whom the letter is being addressed.
Step 3: Body of an Informal Letter
- It is customary for the introductory paragraph to set the tone of the letter. You can begin with enquiring about the recipient’s well-being and hope the letter finds them in good health.
- The letter can be of casual and friendly tone depending on the subject and the receiver. You can apply the same sentiments of how you talk to the receiver while writing a letter.
Step 4: Closing of an Informal Letter
- After summarizing your letter, leave a line to sign off the letter using common phrases like “Best wishes”, “Lots of love”, “Warm regards” or anything that you think would suit best for the content of the letter.
- If anything is to be mentioned at the last minute, you can do so with PS. (PostScripts). Postscripts are not added in a formal letter, you’ll have to revise the body of the letter to add any information.
Even today, in this age of online communication, letter writing is an important skill to learn. By following the above guidelines on how to write a letter, you will write a decent-looking letter. One prominent factor that you must never leave out is proofreading. Double-check the address before sending out the letter via post or e-mail. Be on the lookout for formatting errors like paragraph spacing or line spacing. If it ticks these checkboxes, then your letter is good to go.
Vandana is a highly qualified IELTS (British Council trained), and TESOL holder, with over 15 years of experience. She is a proactive professional with a progressive approach to teaching and lesson planning. She has the sound ability to maintain curriculum development. She is a science graduate, Six Sigma and PMP trained individual who has also worked with multinational companies in the Training & Quality domain for more than a decade. Right now, Vandana is working as an IELTS Trainer with Edoxi Training Institute, Dubai.