Letter Writing

Letters remain hugely important in our everyday lives. People still feel the need to have something confirmed in writing and a letter can add the all important personal touch. But there are pitfalls to letter writing. Below are our top tips for getting your letter right.

1. Define your purpose
Before you begin writing a business letter ask yourself:
• • • •

Why am I writing this letter – what has led up to it? What do I hope to get out of it (my maximum aims)? What do you expect to get out of it (my realistic aims)? What is the best way to achieve this? What information do I need to provide? For example, dates of previous letters, dates you saw advertisement, dates of appointments, addresses of shops and people, names of people involved, reference or account numbers. What arguments do I need to use?

2. The first paragraph
The first paragraph of the letter should introduce the subject matter and either state or imply your purpose in writing.

3. The body of the letter
The body of the letter should consist of one or more paragraphs. It should develop clearly and logically the argument and facts of the case. If there is more than one paragraph, each paragraph should focus on a separate aspect of the subject matter and there should be clear links between paragraphs.

4. The final paragraph
The final paragraph should leave the reader in no doubt about your attitude towards the subject of the letter. It may, for example, spell out what you would like to see happen. It should be positive and unambiguous.

5. Achieve the right tone
Although the reader of your letter may be unknown to you, it is important to achieve a suitable tone in your writing and not to be too casual or too formal. So, as far as possible:
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Avoid Jargon whenever possible. Use shorter sentences rather than longer ones.

• • • •

Avoid using the passive. For example write, ‘We sent you that letter by mistake’, rather than the more pompous, ‘Our letter was sent in error’. Don’t let your feelings get the better of you. Don’t try to be too clever. Be clear and to the point, but don’t be too blunt.

6. Adopt a clear layout
Adopt a letter layout that is clear and consistent. For example, if you put a comma after the person’s name in the greeting, include one after Yours faithfully/Yours sincerely; either indent the paragraphs or leave a space between them, without indentation.

7. Sincerely or Faithfully?
If you are writing to someone whose name and title you do not know, use the greeting Dear Sir or Madam, and the ending Yours faithfully, signing yourself with your initials and surname. If you are writing to a named person, address them as Dear Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms, and end Yours sincerely, followed by your first name and surname. If you have met them or spoken to them by phone, or otherwise feel that you have some acquaintance with them, address them by their first name and sign yourself Yours sincerely, using your first name. If you need some extra inspiration then we have sample letters for almost every occasion from letters of resignation to letters of condolence, letters of complaint to letters booking a holiday. We also have plenty of useful phrases to get your letter started, finished, and on the right track.

Letter Writing: Useful Phrases
Phrases for Personal and Social Correspondance
Openings: The standard opening for personal correspondence is Dear but variations include: My dear … My dearest … Darling … Useful phrases: Thank you for your letter [inviting, offering, I am delighted to announce that

confirming] I am very grateful to you for [letting me I was delighted to hear that know, offering, writing] It was so kind of you to [write, invite, send] I am sorry to inform you that Many thanks for [sending, inviting, I was so sorry to hear that enclosing] I am writing to tell you that Closures: For acquaintances and formal situations Best wishes With best wishes Kindest regards Closures: Affectionate variations for close friends and family All my love All the best Love Lots of love Much love With love Love from us both See you soon Once again many thanks I look forward to seeing you soon With love and best wishes With love to you all Do give my kindest regards to …

Letter Writing: Useful Phrases
Phrases for Letters about Employment
Openings: The standard opening for formal correspondence is Dear Dear Sir Dear Madam Dear Sir or Madam Dear Sirs Useful phrases: Dear Mr Dear Mrs Dear Ms

I am writing in response to your advertisement in [publication] I am writing to apply for the post of I should be pleased to attend an interview Closures:

Thank you for your letter of [date] offering me the post of I am delighted to accept the position of [job title] I look forward to starting work with you

Thank you for considering this application I should be pleased to attend an interview Please do not hesitate to contact me on the above number if you should require further information I look forward to hearing from you If you know the name of the person use: Yours sincerely If you don’t know the name of the person use: Yours faithfully

Letter Writing: Useful Phrases
Phrases for Business Letters
Openings: The standard opening for formal correspondence is Dear Dear Sir Dear Madam Dear Sir or Madam Dear Sirs Useful phrases: Dear Mr Dear Mrs Dear Ms

Thank you for your letter of [date] concerning Thank you for sending me a [catalogue, quotation] Thank you for your enquiry of [date] I refer to your letter of [date] concerning Further to our telephone conversation of [date] I am writing to confirm our telephone conversation of [date] I would be grateful if you could forward me a [price list, catalogue] I am contacting you regarding I am writing to complain Closures: I look forward to hearing from you

I apologise for the delay in replying As stated in your letter/fax of [date] I wish to draw your attention to the I wish to inform you that I am writing to inform you that I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with Please note that Please find enclosed

I trust that you will give this matter your urgent attention I look forward to hearing your response I hope you can settle this matter to my satisfaction I would be most grateful if you would look Please do not hesitate to contact me should into this matter as soon as possible you require further information Please let me know as soon as possible what Please contact me if you require further action you propose to take details If you know the person’s name use: Yours sincerely If you don’t know the person’s name use: Yours faithfully

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