How to Write a Letter in English: The Oxford Dictionary for English defines ‘letter’ as follows:
A written, typed or printed message that is put in an envelope or attached to an email and sent to somebodyOxford English Dictionary
Letters are a form of communication that has been used since around 500 BC. The progress of letters can be traced from pigeon-delivered notes to ones sent through messengers, to emails, and text messages. However, the original form of letter writing is still relevant in various sectors of life, especially in workplaces. With this being the case, knowing how to write letters- whether formal or informal, is a very useful skill to have. Whether as a student or a working professional in any sector, letters may have to be written for n number of reasons.
Hence, this blog will detail the basics of how to write a letter in English. An all-you-need-to-know guide on how to write basic formal and informal letters. Let’s start!
How to Write a Letter in English: Purpose of Letter Writing
So the first thing we need to understand- why do we even need letters. After all, we now have phones, Whatsapp, and so many other ways of communicating. Is writing a letter even worth the effort?
The answer is a big yes. Some situations in professional settings demand the formality of a letter. These can be applications for a job, letters for leave, applications for scholarships in case of students, letters of reference, or resignation.
For Bank and Government Job Aspirants
Aspirants of government and bank jobs in particular will need this skill. Most jobs nowadays require basic proficiency in written English along with spoken English. So much of the communication between employees and higher-ups, between departments, etc. take place through letters. Your applications for leave, accommodation, reimbursement, etc. all require you to write letters. Hence it is of great importance to have a good awareness of how to write letters and to write them well.
How to Write a Letter in English: Types of Letters
Broadly, letters can be of two types: formal and informal. This difference is between the intent, the recipient, and the message conveyed. Most professional settings need formal letters. Informal letters are for friends, family, and other social acquaintances. While we’ll look into both formal and informal types of letters- formal letters are more relevant and we suggest practicing those a bit more.
The Formal Letter
A formal letter is a letter used in most professional settings. These are usually requests, applications, and confidential communications.
A formal letter can have the following purposes:
Invitation to Event
Writing to the Newspaper
There may be other reasons to write formal letters, but for now, these are a few of the situations you may encounter where you may find yourself having to write a formal letter.
So here’s how you structure a formal letter:
Points to Remember while writing a Formal Letter
- The name and address should be added without fail. This goes for both the address of the sender (the one writing the letter) and the recipient (the one receiving the letter).
- Writing the month in words is not a necessity but it adds to the neatness of the letter.
- Do not exceed a single line for the subject. Formal letters are supposed to be crisp and short. Convey the intent of the letter clearly in as few words as possible.
- In case you are not sure what to write in case of the salutation (sir/ma’am), you can write their designation or simply ‘To whomsoever it may concern‘.
- Keep the letter as short as possible. Give a simple self-introduction, the reason for writing the letter, and what you want from the recipient. Keep the tone formal and polite.
Let’s us see an example. One of the most basic formal letters is the leave application. So for our example, we’ll assume:
- Employee A of X company, works in Marketing department
- Lives in Y Appartments in Z City of Karnataka, India
- Wishes to apply for a 2 day leave in lieu of a family emergency
- Addressed to the Reporting Manager of the Marketing department who’s female
- Date: 8/11/2022
Now we’ll see how to frame the formal letter.
Y Appts, Z City
Karnataka, India – (PIN)
8th November, 2022
The Reporting Manager
Marketing Department, X Company
Karnataka, India – (PIN)
Subject: Application for 2-day leave
I am A, employee ID (XXXXX) from the Marketing Department. An unforseen family emergency has cropped up which requires my immediate presence at my home town. I wish to apply for a 2 day leave on 10th of November (Thursday) and 11th of November (Friday), for the same.
I will ensure the completion of all ongoing work before I take my leave to prevent any backlogs. I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience my absence may cause.
Hoping to hear your response.
We hope this example makes the idea of a formal letter a bit clearer. The only way to grow proficient at formal letter writing is by finding different topics you can write a formal letter for. It could be a letter to the journalist of a newspaper making them aware of something you think people should have more awareness about. It could be an application for a scholarship or fee waiver. A report on performance or request for funding. Or even a formal invitation to a Chief Guest. There are many areas where formal letters are necessary.
Make sure that the tone is neutral and polite, especially when writing to senior posts like CEO, team lead, etc.
The Informal Letter
Informal letters are used for social purposes. These can be for family, friends, etc. Nowadays, writing letters to loved ones is a novelty and not many do it. However, it is always good to know how to write an informal letter. While it does have a format, it is not necessary to follow if the recipient is a close friend or family member.
An informal letter could be written for a number of reasons:
- Party invitation
- Simple catching-up with loved ones
And other such reasons.
The basic format of an informal letter is as follows:
Let us see an example. Say, you’re writing to your sister Sahara who passed her 12th Boards with flying colours. You are A, with the same address as the formal letter above. You want to congratulate her on her Board exam performance with a few words of encouragement Let’s see how to frame this letter:
X Appts, Y City
Karnataka, India – (PIN)
8th November 2022
How are you? It’s been a while. How are mom and dad? I hope everyone has been keeping well. I too am hale and hearty here.
I heard that you cleared your Board exams with flying colours! Congratulations dear! You had been nervous about it, but you needn’t have worried at all. You did really well!
How are you celebrating? I hope mom and dad treat you to some tasty food. I have enclosed a small gift to celebrate your achievement, I hope you like it!
Sorry for being busy for the past few weeks! I have to go now, but we’ll talk again soon. I am so proud of you and how well you have done. Here’s to greater achievements ahead. Best of luck!
With love and warm regards,
We hope this example made the idea of an informal letter a little clearer. While informal letter are not really widely used anymore due to the spread of technology, letters are a nice way to communicate with your loved ones.
How to Write a Letter in English: Conclusion
So this concludes our complete guide to letters, both formal and informal. Letter writing is a necessary skill set from school itself. Whether SBI or UPSC, any job that you land will see you needing to write formal letters in many cases. Even if you’re not an exam aspirant, letter writing is vital for many other scenarios in life. We hope this short and thorough guide gave you what you need to kick start your letter writing practice.
How to Write a Letter in English: Frequently Asked Questions
There are manly 2 forms of letter – formal for a professional setting and informal for a more casual and relaxed setting
The first letter was written in around 500 BC.
While letter writing on it’s own is not tested for most bank exams, it will be a skill necessary during the job for various communication within teams, between teams and even between departments. So letter writing is a really important skill to have.
Formal letters are for professional communication like within a company, with teachers or Principal of a school. A basic feature is the presence of a subject like. Informal letters are for more informal communications like with friends and family. Informal letters do not have subject lines.
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I write content to help people prepare for banking exams because I have experience as an aspirant myself. My goal is to provide accurate and easy-to-understand information for candidates. I cover various topics such as exam patterns, syllabus, study techniques, and time management to support those preparing for the exams. As a former aspirant turned content writer, I want to make the information accessible and helpful for others so that they can do well in their banking and government exams and achieve their goals.