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Letters will always be one of the most effective method in communication. Regardless of what stage you are in life, a letter will always help you clearly convey your message. One of the obvious advantages of a letter is that it gives you time to think how you can effectively convey your message unlike in a face-to-face communication where you have to construct sentences as you talk.
With that in mind, you need to learn how to write letters that will effectively convey your message and express your thought exactly as how it is in your mind. In this article, you will learn the elements needed in a letter, how to effectively write it, various types of letters, along with usable templates.
A letter can only be effective when essential elements are present along with flawless and coherent sentence construction. Making sure you are including the appropriate intangible aspects of your letter is as equally important as ensuring you include the tangible ones such as the addresses, date, salutations, complimentary close and so on. Here are the essential intangible elements that your letter should have:
1. Professional tone: Informal letters aside, letters should always have a professional tone. The tone of a letter must not come as demanding, condescending, or overall aggressive or rude. Formal letters especially require that you use a professional tone in your letter and make sure to exhibit professionalism with the words that you use and how you convey your thoughts. However, it is the opposite for informal letters. This rule doesn’t necessarily apply since the letter is used for personal correspondence.
2. Coherence: Aside from the tone of your letter, it is also important to ensure that what you’re saying is coherent. The sentences in your letters must be complete and easily understandable; make sure that your sentences are grammatically correct and that the words you use actually convey what you mean. There must be a clear transition with the thoughts you convey in each sentence or paragraph; use signal words to indicate a change in thought or topic.
3. Clarity: In relation to the previous element, a letter should clearly convey the message. The message or intention must be expressed directly in order for the reader to easily grasp its purpose. Aside from that, having clarity with the words used in the letter ensures that the reader can also effectively respond. Clarity in every aspect of the letter; word, sentence construction, font style and size, and so on, ensures that what you intend to convey is understood and can be given the right action.You may also see formal letter examples.
4. Brevity: Since you should write the purpose of your letter in a straightforward manner, it also means that your letter should be brief. When making letters, especially when used for a formal correspondence, it is best to write shorter sentences and avoid run-on sentences since it also exhibits a weak writing/communication skill. Most of the time, your reader doesn’t have the time to read through a couple of pages of paper especially when it is not an urgent matter. It doesn’t need to be lengthy as long as the main purpose is explained clearly and directly.
5. Courtesy: Just like how you should use a professional tone in your letter, it is also important to be courteous. You should show respect to your intended reader by using proper salutations, complimentary close, and choice of words. Especially when you’re writing to ask for a favor or positive response like an application letter or cover letter. Showing courtesy also means you should address your letter using the actual name of the receiver. You should always research beforehand so you know who you’re addressing the letter to.
Writing a letter is not difficult as you think it is. If you have enough knowledge about the topic or if you can research about it, then it will be easy for you. In addition to that, if you have a clear goal on what you want to achieve with it, will be easier for you to express it in your letter. However, should you still find it difficult to write a letter that will effectively express your message, here is an easy guide you can follow:
1. Write return address: Your personal/mailing address will be the return address of your letter. The return address includes your name, address, and contact information. Depending on the format your choose to follow, the return address can be written on the top left or right corner of the paper.
2. Date: The date on your letter should indicate when the letter was written. It can be written as day month year (30 November 2018) for the British English style or month day, year (November 20, 2018) for American English style. It is important to include a date on the letter for easy tracking and recording process. The date should be written a single space below the return address on either left or right side of the paper. You may also see official letters.
3. Include inside address: The inside address of the letter is intended to indicate the contact information of the recipient. It should include the name, position/designation, address, and contact information of the recipient. Including an inside address ensures that your letter is delivered to your intended recipient. It should be written a single space after the date on the left side of the paper.
4. Salutation: Before you start writing the content of your letter, it is important to formally greet your recipient first. The salutation of your letter is your first formal greeting to the reader. In this day and age, it is important to know the correct name of the reader and use the correct title such as Mr., Ms., Dr., etc. The salutation include the formal salutation Dear followed by the title and name of the reader, then use a colon (:) for formal letters and a comma (,) for informal letters; for example: Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Johnny, .
5. Introductory paragraph: As mentioned, it is important that your letter is direct and brief; thus, the introductory paragraph should immediately explain the purpose of the letter. It is best to explain it within two to three short and direct sentences. The main goal when writing the introduction is to make the reader grasp the context of the succeeding paragraphs in the letter. For business/formal letters, it is not necessary to indent the beginning of every paragraph especially when using a full block format.
6. Body: The body of your letter must then provide the whole context the directly supports your introduction. It must provide details and information that will explain the purpose further. The introduction merely provides context to the main purpose of the letter and the body must be able to explain it more. It is important to remember that the body of your letter must help the reader understand why it was necessary to send the letter in the first place.
7. Concluding paragraph: As you conclude your letter, it is important to reiterate what you have discussed within the body of the letter. It is best to just reiterate your purpose of briefly summarize your main points. You should also add a call-to-action wherein you express your willingness to take or receive the most relevant course of action or to simply urge them for a reply or specific action.
8. Complimentary close: In the same sense like the salutation of your letter, the complimentary close is your formal goodbye to your reader. The complimentary close should be formal and professional. Some examples of formal complimentary closings are Sincerely Yours, Truly Yours, Respectfully, etc. The complimentary close is normally aligned with the salutation, but in some format/style, it can be aligned with the return address. You may also see proposal letters.
9. Signature line: Although you have already provided your information on the first part of your letter, it is important to indicate it again on the end of your letter. A few spaces after the complimentary close, there should be enough space for you to affix your signature. This is the signature line, it includes your full name printed in bold, title/position/designation, and/or contact information. Remember to align the signature line to the complimentary close of your letter.
Since you already know how to write a letter, here are additional tips that you can refer to to as you write:
Letters can be used for anything; apologizing, selling, complaining, applying, and so on. To help you know which type of letter is appropriate to use for whichever reason, here is a list of the various types of letter:
1. Formal Letters: Formal letters are letters that you write for professional or formal purposes. These letters follow certain rules and standards. These letters maintain formalities and must uphold certain regulations. Here is a list of some types of formal letters:
2. Informal Letters: Informal letters are used for personal reasons, be it to keep in touch or exchange personal information. These letters do not follow any standard format or style; it is up to the writer’s preference. Usually, these letters are used when communication with family, friends, or close acquaintances.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about letters:
A letter can be written following different letter formats. Here are some types of letter formats:
1. Full Block Style: The return address, date, inside address, salutation, complimentary close and signature line are all flushed to the left side of the paper. All the actual texts of the letter are also aligned to the left.
2. Semi-Block Style: The headings (addresses, date, and salutation) are still flushed to the left. However, the paragraphs are indented to the right. The closings (complimentary close, signature line, enclosures, etc.) are flushed to the left. You may also see agreement letters.
3. Modified Block Style: The return address and date are indented to the right, but the inside address is flushed left. The complimentary is aligned with the return address and the signature line is indented to the right.
4. Modified Semi-Block Style: The return address and date are flushed to the right side of the paper. The inside address on the left. The complimentary close and signature line are also flushed to the right.
There are a lot of benefits to writing letters. Writing letters allows you to improve your overall vocabulary and enhances your grammar. It allows you to exercise expressing your thoughts in written form. Aside from that, it also allows you to apply your personal touch.