In the age of text messages written hastily with two thumbs, and emails dashed off with nary a second look, some of the finer points of proper letter writing have been lost or forgotten along the way. While not every single missive necessarily needs to be presented in absolute perfect form, it’s still good to know some of the rules of good letter writing for those important times when you really do need to send a proper letter.
We’ve compiled some good advice and handy tips for getting back to basics:
- A handwritten note isn’t always necessary, but in a time when it’s so easy to use a computer to communicate digitally, handwriting your note is a very personal touch that will demonstrate how important the receiver is to you and how much you care.
- If you’ve forgotten how to format a letter (where the address, date and salutation go), click here for a refresher on how to format a casual letter, and here for the correct business letter format.
- Plan your letter before you start writing. Jot down the things you want to cover in point form, and consider writing a draft of your letter first, particularly if you’re planning to handwrite the final copy.
- It’s perfectly acceptable to use “Dear” followed by the recipient’s first name if you know them well, or surname if you don’t, followed by a comma. If you’re sending a letter to someone you’re very friendly with, it’s fine to start with “Hi” or “Hello” followed by their first name, followed by a comma.
- When closing your letter, end with a farewell expression that matches the tone and purpose of the letter. If it’s a formal letter, “Regards” or “Sincerely” followed by a comma then your full name is appropriate. If it’s a friendly, less formal note, you can close with expressions like, “Love”, “Cheers!”, or “Talk soon”, followed by a comma then your first name.
- Be clear and concise. Your letter is intended to make a point, deliver information or incite action on the part of the receiver, so be as clear as possible while still being as polite as possible.
- Make sure to include your contact information if you’re expecting or asking for a call or email from the recipient. This information can go in the body of the letter: “Please feel free to call me at (555) 555 5555”.
- Read your letter out loud to “hear” what it sounds like. This can help determine if the letter flows well and gets your message across clearly.
- Check your spelling. If you’re writing your letter on a computer you can, and should, use spell check to verify that you haven’t made any mistakes. If you’re handwriting your note, check the spelling of any words you’re unsure of just to be on the safe side during the draft stage of the writing process.
It may feel very formal and laborious to write letters this way, but taking the time to do it properly shows a tremendous amount of respect for the receiver. When a first impression counts, or you really want that apology to sound as sincere as possible, go the extra mile!
For more tips, rules and handy letter writing templates visit GoodLetterWriting.com.
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