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How to Write a Letter

Writing a letter can be deceptively difficult, and Ultius is here to show you how to properly write, format, and review a variety of letter types. Check out the guide below on how to write a letter, and if you still need some help, we offer the following services and additional writing guides:

 
 
 

Introduction

When deciding how to write a letter the most important step, the first step, is establishing a full understanding of the purpose for the letter. The purpose of the letter will determine its form, style of writing (the voice), and its length. There are many types of letters: letter of introduction, personal correspondence, love letter, legal letters, letter of complaint, and simple business letters. This review does not cover how to write a cover letter for a resume. Most letters are written in the first person, with the intention of simply conveying information. The tone of the letter conveys its emotional content. Having appropriate tone will establish whether the letter is successful, and this is why it is imperative to understand the purpose for the letter. 

Although correct grammar and punctuation are always important, in a personal letter the rules may be bent. For example, in professional essay writing, contractions (isn’t, doesn’t, etc.) are not allowed. However, in a personal letter this is perfectly fine, because a personal letter often conveys a conversational tone. In a business or legal letter contractions are not permitted, and the aim is to present the highest level of professionalism and clarity. Most letters are formatted in single space, size 12 font, justified right with no indentations for paragraphs, with a space left in between paragraphs.

How to Write a Business Letter

When choosing how to write a business letter, specific formatting is required to present oneself professionally, and to guarantee ease of information access. Business letters may have many purposes; to introduce oneself to a business (as a possible employee, volunteer, consultant, etc.); to follow up after a resume or interview; to thank a business after successful collaboration; to provide an update on a project; to present a bill; to request information, or a letter of recommendation. 

A business letter begins with the sender’s full name, address, and contact information justified right. Leaving a space on either end, the date of the letter is inserted. Then the receiver’s full name, address, and contact information is added. Next, leaving a full space between the salutation (To whom it may concern, Dear, etc.) the recipient is addressed (shown below). 

The first paragraph of the business letter clearly and simply introduces who the sender is, and what the reason for writing is. Justified right, in first person, this paragraph consists of two to four sentences. The most proper business letters do not exceed one page, because most professionals are busy, do not engage in unnecessary reading. Therefore, concision is a respected virtue. What follows is a poor example of an introductory paragraph for a business letter followed by a revised, and improved upon version:

Poor Business Letter Introduction

I am writing to inform you of the 2015 International Crochet Conference is being held in Indianapolis, Indiana on March 15, 2015. No doubt you are fully aware of this, having been the keynote crochet advocate for three years running representing your favorite Crochet company, Needlework’s, Inc. After viewing your impassioned address at last years’ conference, I am writing you to offer you a lifetime supply of premium hooks if you agree to represent the burgeoning new company Hooks n’ Pulls, Inc. I understand that a woman of your long-standing devotion to Needlework’s, Inc. may be trepidatious over transferring loyalty to our unproven company. That is why I have enclosed a set of our newest master hooks to entice you to sample the future of Crochet. It is my fervent hope that you will become so overcome with pleasure at our innovative design that you will passionately accept our request to become our representative.

 

 

Revised Business Letter Introduction

After having witness your passionate address at this years’ International Crochet Conference, I am writing to offer you a position as a representative of my new crochet company, Hooks n’ Pulls, Inc. The verve with which you advocated for Needlework’s Inc. has prompted this offer for a lifetime supply of premium master hooks if you will choose to be our representative.

 

 

The revised version is superior because it is shorter, to the point, doesn’t tell the recipient information they already know, and above all is not emotionally overblown. Business letters are more reserved emotionally, and especially do not support gratuitous flattery. When considering how to write a business letter, remember that much is implied in the pure facts the letter relates. Also, the line “I understand that a woman of your long-standing devotion to Needlework’s, Inc. may be trepidatious over transferring loyalty to our unproven company” does not support the objective of the letter. When writing anything, assume goodwill, and do not go out of the way to remind the reader of reasons they may not agree with the offer presented. Business letters traditionally have three paragraphs; an introduction, body, and conclusion. Here follows the proper business letter in its entirety: 

Example

Mr. Richard Right

3356 Veritas Way

Crisption, NJ 29899

Richardrr88(@)gmail.com

202-397-3434  

 

August 29, 2014

 

Mrs. Glenadine Powers

529 Oldtimey Place

Quaint Town, RH 57997

crochetroxforevar(@)yahoo.com

686-373-8898

Dear Mrs. Powers,

After having witnessed your passionate address at this years’ International Crochet Conference, I am writing to offer you a position as a representative of my new crochet company, Hooks n’ Pulls, Inc. The verve with which you advocated for Needlework’s Inc. has prompted this offer for a lifetime supply of premium master hooks if you will choose to be our representative.

Additionally, Hooks n’ Pulls would be pleased to cover your travel and lodging expenses while you visit any conference in which you will represent our interests. It is my hope that you will find our company to be supporting the crochet community in innovative ways, and bring your support and expertise to be our public face.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I have included a free gift of our premium master hooks for your pleasure. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I am at your service.

Kind regards, Richard Right  

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The body paragraph of a business letter expands on the introduction, adding pertinent information, and sweetening the deal. The conclusion thanks the recipient, encourages a swift reply, and emphasizes that the lines of communication are open. A double space is left between the closing remark (Kind regards,) and the name to give space for the sender to sign their name. This signature is the personal touch that breathes life into the formal structure of the letter.

How To Write a Personal Letter

The format of how to write a personal letter is much looser, and emotional content is welcomed. Usually personal letters are exchanged between people who know each other, which is not always the case with other letters. The content of personal letters can be almost anything from a simple hello, thinking about you, to informing someone of a death. Thus, understanding context for the letter is of utmost importance. Here follows the simple format of a personal letter:

Example

Dear Grandma,

Hi grandma! How are you? I miss you! It was so great seeing you at Christmas. You surprised me with the gift, and I was so glad to see you so full of life. I know you were sick a great deal last November, but it didn’t show when I saw you. Thank you for the gift of some of your finely bound books. You know how much I love to read, and keeping these editions in the family only heightens their sentimental value. To know that your eyes ran over the same pages I enjoy makes me feel like you are with me while I’m reading.

I don’t want to wait until next Christmas to see you, so I was thinking we could set up some time to see each other when I am out of school. Spring semester is done mid-May. How would you feel about me taking the train out to see you and grandpa for a few weeks? Early summer should be a good time to visit New Mexico before it gets too hot. 

Write me back soon so I can start getting excited!

Much love,

Gracie  

How to write a personal letter is all reflected in how the recipient is feeling, the information they wish to convey, and what the relationship is between the sender and receiver. -A personal letter may be structured with the intro-body-conclusion format, but that is not required. What is valued in a personal letter is the unique voice; letting the recipient feel they are conversing with the sender in a private place without distractions. If a personal letter was written to a co-worker, pastor, or acquaintance, it would not be as familiar as if written to a family member or close friend. Understanding these distinctions will set a foundation for clear communication. 

How To Write a Critical Letter to Classmate/Coworker

Working well with others is an integral part of society, and is often a challenge. Discussing things critically can be difficult face-to-face due to tendency for people to become defensive to hide embarrassment. Reading critical assessments in private gives individuals the space to process their emotions without confrontation and assimilate the feedback more readily. This is the function of critical letters. Highlighting areas that need improvement professionally, in ways that will engender no resentment. This is often a challenge, but it need not be if the format of how to write a critical letter is understood.

When writing a critical letter to a classmate/coworker it is important to be specific about the action that is being criticized without being overly negative. While working on a group project, inter-personal dynamics are often subtle, and working for clarity, efficiency, and kindness will promote success not only for the group but for continued positive dynamics. The formatting of the critical letter is free-formed like a personal letter. Here is an example:

Example

Dear Kevin,

I wanted to clarify my feelings about the discussion we had in class the other day. Working on this group project in Religion class is both fun and challenging. While I appreciate your passion for your belief in atheism, I don’t think this debate is appropriate for our class project. I don’t know if you noticed, but Sara was really hurt when you said “Anyone who believes in God needs to have their head examined or just sign up for a complimentary lobotomy.” 

Personally, I’m not a Christian, but I respect that Sara and many of the people in our class are. We are all young, and the path to discovering what you believe is different for each person. What is more important than specifically what a person believes is the ability to extend basic respect for each person on their path. I don’t think you meant to come off as callously as you did in class, but I wanted to write this to give you some objective perspective on this hot issue.

I appreciate your intelligence and passion, and know that this class may get on your nerves. However, this project is worth a third of our grade, so I ask that you be patient and more sensitive in the future.

Thanks,

Calvin   

When deciding how to write a critical letter, first decide which action needs critical attention. If there are many actions that need attention, it is best to choose the most important three and leave it at that. Any more than three, and there is a good chance the recipient will feel attacked and not receive the message. The purpose of a critical letter is to help promote harmony, and including positive attributes to soften the negative will help to soften the blow.

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