How To Write a Good Letter: Formal and Informal Letter Tips and Examples

Knowing how to write a letter, whether business or personal, is a skill that everyone needs. Sometimes, these letters will be short, informal emails. Other times, theyll be highly polished for corporate correspondence. Learn how to write a letter step-by-step, and review a printable sample letter. Then, explore best practices for writing both formal and informal letters.

Writing Effective Letters
  1. Identify your audience. …
  2. Organize letters to meet your users’ needs. …
  3. Start with the main message. …
  4. Letters may need a sympathetic opening. …
  5. After the main message, use an overview sentence. …
  6. Letter headings. …
  7. Use pronouns. …
  8. Choose the right tone for your letters.

Writing Letters: formal & informal English

Reasons to write a letter

You might write a letter to personal, professional or academic contacts to:

Why is it important to know how to write a good letter?

Knowing how to write a good letter is important if you plan to communicate with co-workers, hiring managers, bosses, professors and other professionals in a formal way. A good letter can:

A well-written and properly formatted letter tells someone you have taken the time to communicate important information and that you are serious about the topic you have written about.

Formal vs. informal letters

The main difference between formal and informal letters is that formal letters professionally address someone, and informal letters address someone in a personal way. Other differences include:

When trying to decide what type of letter to write, choose a formal one when communicating with an official or someone you only know professionally. Choose an informal letter when writing casually to someone you know very well, such as a co-worker.

Types of letters

Letters are organized under two main categories: formal and informal. Informal types of letters include:

Formal types of letters include:

How to write a letter

The best way to write a letter depends on whether it is formal or informal. Follow these steps when writing a formal letter:

When writing an informal letter, follow these steps:

The tone of your informal letter should match how you normally speak to that individual.

Letter-writing tips

To write a good letter, regardless of the type, follow these suggestions:

Know your reader

Use a tone appropriate for that individual and language or terminology they are likely to understand.

Choose the right format

Letters can be emails or hard copies and typed or handwritten. Write an email if the letter is informal or if you are writing a formal letter to a professional contact who prefers to communicate through email. Make a hard copy if you need documentation of your letter. Write an informal letter by hand to make it more personal, but always type formal letters.

Be concise

Clearly state your intent or objective, and make sure the information you include is necessary, particularly if you are writing a formal letter. Ask yourself questions like “why am I writing?” and “what do I want from this letter?” as you write to keep your content focused.

Keep it short

Respect your recipients time by limiting your content to just the most important details in just a few brief paragraphs.

Write to the reader

Use words such as “we,” “our” or “you” if you want to make a letter feel more personal.

Proofread

Read over your letter to find any misspellings or grammatical errors. You can also have a trusted friend or coworker read it over for proofreading and to identify areas for improvement. Both of these steps can ensure your letter is as clear and easy-to-read as possible as well as professional.

Letter examples

Here are two examples of good letters by type:

Formal example: academic recommendation letter

Carson May
39 Schnabel Street
Las Vegas, NV 89129
391-339-3042

April 10, 2019

Dr. Madison Scott
Professor of English Studies
Grice University
1009 Lewis Lane
Charlotte, NC 28202

Dear Dr. Scott:

I am pleased to write a letter of recommendation to admit Sandy Everett to your English Studies program. I had the honor of teaching Ms. Everett in two of my literature classes at Pownall High School, and she is one of the most gifted and hard-working students Ive taught.

Ms. Everett has the ability to balance multiple assignments and complete each one on time with exceptional attention to detail. She is also a brilliant writer who understands how to use words to make convincing arguments and craft beautiful stories. She has even been the editor of the school yearbook for the past two years and has transformed it into a stunning work that showcases our school, students and projects in the best light.

Ms. Everett is a model student and would be an exceptional addition to your program. Please contact me at 391-339-3042 if you need additional information.

Regards,
Carson May
Literature teacher, Pownall High School

Informal example: congratulatory letter

February 11, 2020

Hi Carly,

I hope youre doing well! I just heard from Sandra Pierce NYU that you accepted the assistant swim coach position there. Congratulations! I know how challenging it can be to land your dream job right out of college, and Im so honored to have provided you a letter of recommendation for that role. I know you will make an exceptional swim coach and make a real impact on the young athletes at NYU.

Congrats again. No one is more deserving of this role than you are, and I look forward to hearing about your new venture in person.

Sincerely,
Matt

FAQ

How do you start an impressive letter?

Begin your letter with an engaging opening.

If you think of your letter like an essay, the logical first step would be to craft an opening line or paragraph that will catch the reader’s attention, while also briefly outlining the letter’s purpose. Creative openings are the best way to catch a reader’s attention.

How do I begin to write a letter?

The traits that make an attractive cover letter include the following:
  1. An error-free letter, free of grammatical, syntax, and language errors.
  2. The one that contains only relevant information.
  3. No focus on personal life or attempts to emotionally attract the recruiter.
  4. It should be concise but well explained.

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