Letter writing is a very important activity in day-to-day business, personal and academic life. It is said that letter writing is nothing but an art. Even though letters have transformed into e-mails and SMSes, the art still remains, only the medium has changed. Letters can be broadly classified into formal letters and informal letters. As the name suggests, formal letters include business letters, official letters, applications, complaints, letter to editors, letters written to people whom we want to convey certain important information. On the other hand, informal letters include personal or private letters, letters that are written to our friends and family. While formal letters follow certain format, one can be flexible while writing informal letters. Nonetheless, letter writing is a skill that needs to be sharpened over time with practice. It is a pleasant task once you know the basic rules.
Letter-writing is a skill that has to be developed. It is part of the required curriculum. It comprises of a standalone element teaching correct styles of letter writing. Quite apart from curriculum requirements, being asked to write letters is a task that appeals to one and all.
Letter writing is an art. A well-written letter is always a pleasure to read. Writing a letter is about conveying a message. Letter writing is much different from other kind of writing. The context can be casual or formal. There are other essentials to be noted as to whom the letter is addressed and if there is any tone required in the language. The flow of thoughts has to be continual.
The skill of writing letters is not always an easy one to acquire, yet letter writing remains an important activity in our daily lives. The first impression left by our letter is not only critical to the success of our message, but also to the image we wish to present.
If the letter we have written carries the wrong tone, contains grammatical or spelling errors, or is poorly structured, then we’ve successfully sent the wrong message and the wrong impression of ourselves. To make matters worse, the recipient now has a permanent copy to refer to. It is extremely difficult to ‘undo’ the damage that can be introduced by poorly written letter.
Letters are important means of expressing different feelings and needs. Writing them down helps to organize thoughts and states a clearer message. We encounter different kinds of letters in our routine. We get personal letters from friends.
We receive professional letters at work, and some other letters from offices. These letters are integral parts of our lives since we were babies. It is interesting to learn the different kinds of letters.
Writing letters encourages good social skills, learning to say thank you and asking for information politely. Writing imaginary letters to people can encourage understanding the nuances of better life skills. It will improve communicative, social and handwriting skills, and teach us what we need to know about writing and structuring letters.
Before we begin to go deep into this topic, it is important to know that the outward form of a letter makes great contribution in conveying its purpose. The quality of the writing material and the letter pad indicate the amount of interest the writer has in the addressee to whom he writes.
In a good letter, not only should the matter be well phrased and written but also the paper should be of a suitable quality, the envelope properly addressed and stamped, the size of the sheet handy to read and easily foldable.
How to write a letter depends on why one is writing a letter and to whom. Letter writing, whether by post, fax, or e-mail needs all the formalities of writing a letter.
The typical lay out of a particular kind of letter together with its parts written in their places concerned amount to the format related gives the letter the currency of acceptance.
PARTS OF A LETTER
Irrespective of the kind of a letter, it is essential that every letter has the following parts in it, at minimum.
1. The Heading (the writer’s address)
2. Salutation (greeting)
3. The Body of the Letter (message)
4. Leave Taking (conclusion)
5. Subscription (writer’s name)
6. Superscription (to address)
1. The Heading: This contains the return address (usually two or three lines) with the date on its last line. It is written at the top right corner of the page. Sometimes it may be necessary to include a line after the address and before the date for a phone number, fax number, e-mail address or something similar.
2. The Inside Address: (in fact, it is superscription. Formal Letters do have it.)
* This is the address of the addressee.
* Make it as complete as possible.
* Include titles and names if you know them.
* This is always on the left margin.
* Skip a line after the heading before the inside address.
* Skip another line after the inside address before the greeting.
3. Salutation: (Also called The Greeting)
It starts from the Left Margin. (Below the inside address in Formal Letters)There is no inside address in Informal Letters.
* Salutation in Formal Letters:
Sir, / Madam, (usually) Honourable Sir, Respected Sir, (customized)
* Salutation in Informal Letters:
Dear Madhav, (in case of friends)
Dear father / mother / sister / brother . . . (in case of family members and relatives)
Dear Sir / Dear Madam (acquaintances)
4. The Body of the Letter:
* The body is written as text.
* Depending on the letter style you choose, paragraphs may be indented.
* Regardless of format, skip a line between paragraphs.
* Skip a line between the greeting and the body.
* Skip a line between the body and the close.
5. Leave Taking: (Also known as the Complimentary Close)
It is a short and polite closing paragraph. It starts at the left margin with para indentation.
It begins at the same column the heading does.
* Formal Letters: Yours faithfully, Yours sincerely, Yours truly,
* Informal Letters: Yours lovingly, Yours affectionately,
IMPORTANT: Apply no apostrophe in the word Yours'
► Signature Line: Skip two lines and type out the name to be signed and include the name of the letter writer in brackets in capital letters. Signature is not always clear. We should facilitate the addressee know the name of the writer.
* This is address to which the letter is sent.
* It is also used as inside address in Formal Letters.
Note: స్నేహితులకు, కుటుంబసభ్యులకు, తల్లిదండ్రులకు, బంధువులకు, పరిచయస్తులకు, కలం స్నేహితులకు, మనతో వ్యక్తిగత సంబంధం ఉన్నవాళ్లకు రాసే ఉత్తరాలను informal letters (personal letters / letters private letters) అంటారు. ఆఫీస్, ఉద్యోగ, పత్రికా, వ్యాపార, ఫిర్యాదు సంబంధిత లేఖలన్నీ formal letters (official letters) పరిధిలో ఉంటాయి. రాసే ప్రతి ఉత్తరంలోనూ పైనతెలిపిన అన్ని భాగాలూ చోటుచేసుకుంటాయి.
Features of a Letter
We observe the following features to distinguish the kinds of letters from one to another.
Address — business or private?
Greeting — formal or informal?
Style of letter — friendly or business?
What is the message?
How does the letter end?
Broadly speaking, in general, there are two types of letters: formal, that are written to convey official business and information and informal, which are personal letters to communicate with friends, acquaintances and family.
KINDS OF LETTERS
Letters are broadly classified into two kinds, of course, excluding Business Letters.
1. Formal Letters
2. Informal Letters
Formal letters are very important for any organization and business. There are certain rules to be followed when writing a formal letter. Most of the business letters are formal letters so never use an informal language while writing them.
In a formal letter your address and the address of the person you are writing the letter should be written in the top left hand corner of the letter. After the address, the date is specified and then the salutation and ending a letter. Always end a formal letter with yours faithfully, yours sincerely and with your signature.
In the content of the formal letter, the first paragraph should be brief and contain the purpose of the letter whether it is a request or an enquiry or a complaint. The next paragraph should contain the details of the information like the date, time, venue for an interview, etc. The formal letters shouldn’t be too long so it should be written clearly and to the point. Last paragraph should state what you expect the reader to do or what action to be taken.
There are certain abbreviations, which are widely used in a formal letter like ASAP i.e. as soon as possible, PTO i.e., Please Turn Over and RSVP, i.e., Reply if you please.
The different examples of formal letters are the cover letter, enquiry letters, request letter etc. Which ever kind of formal letter it is, state clearly what you want in the beginning and ending of the letter. Be to the point and straightforward while writing a formal letter.
When writing formal letters like the complaint letter, job application or covering letter provide necessary documents related to the letter. When you are asking for some information or requesting the format, make it short and simple as if you do not know much about the subject. Cleary asks the details and information and end the letter.
Writing a letter formally implies officialdom. They are often non-routine. Formal letters include – Letters to Offices, Authorities, Companies, Public Representatives, Organizations, different government Officials, Executives, Administrators, Bureaucrats, Spokespersons, Ministers, Employers, Principals, Consulates, Institutions, Societies, Associations, Unions, Bodies, Controlling Officers, Coordinators, Managements, Establishments and so forth.
Formal letters are usually known as official and business letters. They are written in a strictly formal style. Such letters are always written on an A4 (8" x 11“) sheet of paper. They can be folded three times so that the address to which the letter is being sent can appear in the window of a business envelope. The layout is always the same.
Structure of Formal Letter
* The senders address and the date are written at the top right hand side of the paper. (Include telephone number and e-mail if available.)
* The address of the person receiving the letter goes on the left hand side below the
* Salutation : Sir / Madam (starts at left margin) (You can use adjectives like Honourable, Respected, Esteemed …before the nouns indicated here.)
* The message (can be divided into paragraphs accordingly)
* Leave Taking – end with a requisition for the action to be taken
* Subscription — Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely or Yours obediently
* Below the signature, write name in block letters (this is to ensure that the person receiving the letter knows exactly who has sent it. Signatures may not be very clear.)
Personal letters are written to family and friends who stay far away from you and you want to be in touch with them. It is usually written as though you are talking to the person directly. These letters are written to someone you know well so the language of the letter need not be formal.
Personal letters can be written to congratulate someone or thank someone or share some news describe what happening in your life or just to say you are missing someone. The best thing about a personal letter is that you can write the letter any way you like. There are certain elements to be included like the date you are writing the letter, your name and address, start the letter by greeting the reader, write clearly what you want to convey like your future plan, trip with the family, old memories etc. It can also be used to share your problems and get advice from someone close. Close the letter in the way you like to, depending on how close you are to the reader like lovingly, with regards etc.
It is one of the best ways to be in touch with those who stay far away. With the letters, you can share the old memories that you had spent with the reader and also share the things that are happening now in your life.
Informal letters are letters to friends, members of a family, relatives, pen friends, acquaintances , phone friends, lovers, strangers and people we know well etc.,
Structure of Formal Letter
* The senders address and the date are written at the top right-hand side of the paper. (Include telephone number and e-mail if available.)
* Salutation (Greeting) : Dear ..., / Dear father, (Starts at the left margin of the paper.)
* The message (can be divided into paragraphs accordingly)
* Leave Taking – complimentary close
* Subscription — Yours lovingly or Yours affectionately
* Below the signature, write name in block letters (this is to ensure that the person
receiving the letter knows exactly who has sent it. Signatures may not be very
Commit to Memory
* Receiving a letter from a loved one or a surprise connection is a pleasant feeling.
* Formal letters require a subject line that has to be brief. For example,
Sub: Disconnection of my internet.
* Make the Letter Clear and simple –Use short words, clear words as much as possible.
* Avoid jargon or vague words which may confuse the letter reader.
* Make your letter come Alive – Try to address the letter directly to the reader.
* Visualize the reader ahead of you and imagine yourself talking with him
through your letter
* Everyone would like to read a pleasant letter when it appears specially written for him.
* Avoid spelling errors, poor grammar and mistakes in your letter.
* Think about to whom you are writing the letter.
* Use the right style of writing and language —formal or informal, business like or friendly.
* Lay out your letter using paragraphs. This makes it easier for the reader.
STANDARD LETTER FORMAT STYLES
1. Block Style
All sections of the letter are flush against the left margin of the page. Each paragraph in the body of the letter begins flush left margin, with a one space line dividing each paragraph.
2. Semi-block Style
The date, signature, and address heading (if not on preprinted letterhead stationary) are aligned on the right side of the page. All other sections are flush left margin. Paragraphs in the body of the letter begin flush left with a one space line dividing each paragraph.
3. Indented Style
The date, signature, and address heading (if not on preprinted letterhead stationary) are aligned on the right side of the page. The greeting is flush left. Paragraphs in the body of the letter are indented with no space line between paragraphs. Postscript and notations are flush left.
4. Memorandum Style
This is a business format that is best used for interoffice correspondence. Directly above the body of the memorandum, are the following sections flush left:
“To:” Name or column of names of those people to whom memorandum is being sent. (listed in alphabetical order by surname).
“From:” Writer’s name. Title, if any, listed directly below name.
“Ref:” or “Subject:” Subject line may be emphasized by underlining, bold font or all capital letters.
- Body text may be indented or block format.
- Signature of writer not required on Memorandums
PRINCIPLES OF LETTER WRITING
* Be brief and direct.
a. Convey maximum information in minimum number of words.
b. unnecessary details and long introduction should be avoided
* Be clear and precise.
a. Choose suitable words to express the text.
b. Be careful in your sentence structure.
c. Select fit and precise diction. d. Prefer Active Voice.
* Be polite and positive
a. Maintain courtesy in your writing.
b. Avoid the use of negative expressions.
Letters also serve as memories. Most letters today are in the electronic medium and hence a hand written letter has a personal touch. To enable students perform letter writing in academic examinations is in fact the very purpose of lesson item. Apart from the exigency of distance, every letter has some definite advantages over speech. That is why; some people prefer to communicate through correspondence even while at the same station, same locality and at times, even the same house.
Perhaps no form of professional writing reflects the personality of an individual so vividly as does a letter. A slip in speech can be corrected but a mistake in writing can never be! Observe all the models of letters offered in your text book for the application of the concepts.