Writing Letters

You write letters for several reasons. Friendly letters are written to greet a friend or relative and to share something of yourself with him or her. Social letters are written to say thank you for a gift or special favor and to extend, accept, or decline an invitation. Business letters are written to apply for a job, request information, and place or correct an order, among other things.

All types of letters follow standard forms. A close friend probably cares more about what you say than how you say it but correct letter form makes it easier for him or her to read your message. Because social and business letters may be written to people whom you wish to impress favorably, their appearance is particularly important. In this chapter you will learn the correct forms for writing friendly, social, and business letters.

Writing Friendly Letters

You write friendly letters to those people who care about you and who are interested in reading about your experiences and your thoughts and feelings. Your notebook can be an especially good source of ideas for this kind of writing.

When you write about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings, select those that will be meaningful to your reader. Experiences that the two of you have shared make good subjects. For example, if you and your friend enjoyed visiting the city zoo, he or she might like to hear about the coral snake that got loose somewhere in the reptile house or abut a rare species of antelope the zoo has recently acquired. Another way to show that you have your reader in mind is to inquire about his or her activities and well-being. Such questions not only show that you care, but also give your friend a way to begin a return letter. Correspondence of this nature may greatly enrich a friendship.

Writing an Interesting Letter

One of the best ways to show that you care about your reader is to take time to write an interesting letter. Such letters have specific details about people, places, events, thoughts, and feelings that help the reader share in the writer’s experiences. Some preparation is needed to write a letter of this type. For instance, you can get ideas for an interesting letter by looking back at your notebook to see what you have recorded there. If you have written about an experi­ence while it was fresh in your mind, you will have a good source of specific, vivid details. As you write, try to imagine your friend or relative sitting across from you. What specific questions might he or she have about the experience you describe? In your letter use details that answer these questions.

Form for Friendly Letters

While the content of your friendly letter is more important, correct form is important also. A letter carelessly written with smudge marks and crossed-out words ‘ gives a reader the impression that you do not care enough to write a neat letter.

Friendly and social letters follow the same standard form, which consists of five separate parts: heading, salutation, body, closing, and signature.


The heading consists of the address of the letter writer and the date on which the letter is written. It goes in the upper-right hand part of the page and is three lines long. The street or rural route and apartment number, if there is one, go on the first line; and the city, state, and ZIP code number go on the second line. The date belongs on the third line. Punctuation in the heading includes a comma between the street and apartment number, a comma between the city and state, and a comma between the day of the month and the year. There is no comma between the state and ZIP code.


The salutation greets the addressee. An acceptable salutation for both social and friendly letters is Dear, followed by the person’s name: Dear Carlos, Dear Bobby. In a friendly letter to a person you know well, you may use your own favorite form of address: Dear long-lost Friend. The first word and all nouns in the salutation are capitalized, and a comma follows the salutation. The salutation is even with the left-hand margin of the letter and begins several spaces below the heading.


The body of the letter is your message. When you write a letter by hand, you usually move, or indent, the first line of each new paragraph a few spaces to the right. Leave a space between the salutation and the body of the letter.


The closing is almost even with the left-hand margin of the heading. There are many acceptable closings for social letters, such as Sincerely or Sincerely yours. In a friendly letter to a person you know well, you may wish to use your own special closing. Only the first word of the closing is capitalized, and a comma always follows the closing. Leave a space between the body of the letter and the closing.


If you know your reader well, you may sign only your first name. Otherwise sign your first and last names below the closing. Even if you type your letter, you should always sign your name.

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