It’s official. Letter writing is having a revival. In these digital days, when most of our messages are seen on screen and sent in an instant, the notion of receiving a thoughtful, handwritten note through the post feels more special than ever.
It’s a chance to press pause on the fast pace of life. The sender gets to stop, slow down and enjoy the pleasure of putting pen to paper; the receiver winds down as they carefully unfurl a meaningful message from someone who cares.
Knowing what to write can be a little tricky, especially when you’re faced with very lovely writing paper. But, whether you’re scribing a love letter, an apology letter or a thank you letter, our how-to guide should deliver some helpful reminders and tips.
(optional if you know the person very well)
14 Paper Lane,
Date goes here 27th August, 2020
Greeting Dear Jasmine,
Body Hope you're doing well and had the best time in Deià? Just a note to say thank you so much for the lovely apron - it's perfect. I've been wearing it to all my pottery classes and getting lots of compliments. Let's arrange a catch up this month, please? It's been too long! I know Suzy is in London next month, so perhaps we could all meet for a long lunch. Let me know.
The beginning of your letter depends on who you’re writing to and why. Think about how well you know the person and whether your letter is formal, informal or somewhere in between to decide on your tone. Here’s a few examples:
To whom it may concern,
Tone: Very formal/traditional
For addressing: People you don’t know
Dear Sir or Madam,
For addressing: People whose gender you know but name you don’t
Dear [Ms. Hardy],
For addressing: General letters to people you don’t know well
For addressing: People you know well or someone you know on a first-name basis
For addressing: People you have a good, friendly relationship with
For addressing: Friends and family
To my [amazing big sister],
Tone: Very informal/modern
For addressing: Close friends, family, partners or anyone you want to show affection to
Signing off your letter is just as important as the start. Once again, think about who you are speaking to and the content. Notes to loved ones call for a conversational round-off, whilst formal letters should be finished with a traditional closing. Remember to capitalise only the first letter of your sign-off and to write your signature underneath your full name for business and legal letters.
For signing off: Letters that are addressed with someone’s name
For signing off: Letters to someone you don’t know, usually correspondence beginning with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’
For signing off: Letters of condolences
For signing off: Letters to people you have a good relationship with, from relatives to work associates
For signing off: Letters to people you’ve written to a few times
For signing off: Letters to show your appreciation for the time or efforts of someone you know
For signing off: Letters to friends and family or anyone you love!
How to set out your letter depends on the kind you’re writing. Business letters should include both the sender and recipient address, while personal letters can omit the recipient address and sometimes the sender’s too. We suggest all letter include the date – it’s essential for formal letters and a nice touch for social ones.
The letter author’s address should include full address and postcode and be placed on the top right-hand side of the page. If you already have your address printed in a letterhead, then there’s no need to write it out.
The recipient address should include their name and title (e.g. Dr Warwick) along with their full address and postcode. Include their company name for business letters too.
The date usually sits on the right-side of a letter, 1-2 lines beneath your address. For the UK, the format is day-month-year, e.g. 24th September 2021. And in the US, it’s month-day-year, e.g July 17, 2023.