In these days of texts, email and apps, communicating by letter may seem old-hat. But there may come a time in life when you need to write a letter. It could be work related or maybe something personal. The thing is, knowing how to write a letter is a very useful and under-rated skill.
It is definitely worth familiarizing yourself with the art. The tips used to write letters can also be used when writing emails.
Let’s look at the basic skills of how to write a letter, whether formal or informal.
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This will have your full address along the top, date of writing, address of the person you are writing to on the left and their name below as in: Dear Mr Smith. You can then put the subject of the letter and below this, start your content.
Because you have written to a person i.e. Dear Mr Smith, you end the letter with ‘yours sincerely’, followed by your full name. If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, put instead ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ and end the letter ‘Yours faithfully’.
Here you can be as relaxed as you like, following the above format or not, as the situation dictates. If you are writing to a friend, you can sign off ‘With love’ or ‘Big hugs’ or something similar.
You won’t really need to show a subject or their address, nor your surname.
What if you don’t have a name?
If you don’t have a name and ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Madam’ doesn’t seem to suit, try something like ‘To whom it may concern’. If you are not sure whether you are writing to a male or female, it is technically correct to use ‘Dear Sir’ but many prefer to use ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.
If the letter needs to be targeted towards a certain person with a position in the company, get online and search for the name. This should not be hard to do if you have the company name and position. If Google does not pull up what you need, get the head office telephone number, phone the company and ask for the information.
If the letter is a complaint and the switchboard will not give a name, then simply address to the CEO if it is a large company.
Getting a name helps because letters that are personally addressed are more likely to get opened and read.
If you are writing to someone with an unusual title and are not sure how to address them in writing, simply call their office and ask. Better to do that than be embarrassed.
Type-written or hand-written?
Here the rule is a simple one. Business and formal letters should be typed. Personal letters should be hand-written. If you are sending a ‘Thank You’ letter or RSVP, always make it hand-written.
Address it to the person by name, write a sentence or two pertaining to your intent and then sign off informally.
Receiving a personal letter from someone is still an exciting event, so you can see why we should not let the art of letter writing die out.
Follow our ‘How to Write a Letter’ tips and you should soon find yourself becoming an expert.