When writing any type of letter, the basic considerations are the same. Who is your audience? What is your relationship with your audience? And finally, what is your intent?
Who you are writing to is the first question you need to ask yourself. Are you writing to a friend or family member? Or are you writing to an individual or a company you don’t personally know? Your relationship with your audience member determines whether the tone of your letter should be professional or personal.
What is the goal of letter writing?
Are you trying to salvage a relationship? Are you trying to terminate one? Is the relationship in question a personal one or is it work related? Are you trying to procure funding, obtain a job, make a business proposal, or convey gratitude?
With most letters, you should be succinct and to the point, particularly if you are writing to someone you are not on friendly terms with. It has been said that the worst thing you can do is to waste the time of a great person. Whoever you are writing to, you should write to them as though greatness is one of their qualities. After all, there is something you want that person to do for you in all likelihood. You want them to help you achieve the goal of your letter writing. If you want them to rise to greatness, you should pave the way for them to do so with kindness and respect.
So get to the point of your letter writing quickly, and add in only the details you need in order to make your case. The sole exception here would be a letter to a close friend or family member. In that case, you may want to write a longer letter which touches on the many personal issues you want to discuss, as well as special moments in your relationship.
While you should always be polite with any letter you write, don’t forget to use courteous words like “please” and “thank you”, many things will be determined by your relationship to your reader. In general, you are safe with “sincerely” to close most letters. If the person is a known acquaintance, but not a close friend, “cordially” may suffice. The language of your letter is in some ways as important as the content of your letter. How you say something can have as much of an impact as what you are saying.
This site features many letter examples for various situations and needs. Please read the letter examples provided on the right side of the site.
Good luck with composing your letters!