"Writing letters," some have said, "is a lost art." We disagree. The craft of writing formal and informal letters is alive and well, and if letter-writing is less frequent in the era of email and social media, that just increases the impact of a well-written personal message.
To begin writing such a meaningful message, carefully review our article on how to write a letter. That lays down the basics. Past that, all letter writing comes down to a question: formal or informal?
A formal letter is written in a professional or official capacity. Everything else is an informal letter. Formal letters and informal letters follow different rules and adhere to different guidelines. Formal letters strike a formal tone and come in a particular format. Informal letters don't need to do either. We've linked to instructions for both below.
One of the most common circumstances for writing a formal letter is in the context of business. Improving your business letter writing will improve your communication skills in and out of the workplace.
General Business Writing: It's always helpful to have a refresher on the basics. See our general business communication article to make sure your formal letter writing is as good as it can be. Never feel bad about reviewing basics; trust us, our writers employ resources like these daily.
Professional Email: A letter doesn't stop being formal just because it's transmitted electronically. We've put together five tips for writing a professional email to keep your skills at their best.
Letters of Appeal: In detailing something negative happening in your workplace and asking for redress, letters of appeal have to strike a careful balance. It is important to state the problem and the desired response clearly and confidently. At the same time, you have to be sure your criticism is constructive and your tone civil.
Letters of Apology: Apologies are always hard. Believe it or not, knowing how to write a formal letter can actually make them easier. We've outlined the do's and don'ts of apology letters to help get you through this challenging situation.
Letters of Complaint: Like letters of appeal, letters of complaint have to strike a balance between a firm statement of the problem and laying groundwork for a constructive response. Our article on complaint letters is all about balancing those factors and writing an effective message.
Letters of Resignation: Another kind of business communication we can help with is the resignation letter. It's important to think of that letter, not as your final message to your current workplace, but as the starting-off point for a new opportunity. For help finding your next position, review the job search section below.
Writing good letters is even more important when you're looking for a job than when you actually have one. During your job search, letters will often represent your first impression with a potential employer. Getting that right is vital.
Cover Letters: Along with your resume, your cover letter will often be the first thing a potential employer sees. We can provide top quality advice on how to perfect it.
Letters of Interest: There is a vital difference between a cover letter, which is submitted for a specific job, and a letter of interest, which requests time with a particular employer to discuss all the jobs they may have available.
Recommendations: In many cases, the job hunt is less about what you know than who you know. Politely direct your supporters to our advice on how to write a recommendation to increase your chances of success.
References: There's an important qualitative difference between writing a formal letter of reference and a less formal recommendation. We've got you covered on both. Here are our tips on how to write a reference for maximum effect.
Thank You Letters: One of the most overlooked parts of the job search process is thanking interviewers, headhunters and the writers of your references and recommendations. It's both the polite thing to do and an excellent way to keep your name in the forefront of their minds. We're standing by to help you write the best thank you letters.
Letters written to family, friends or anyone else outside an official or professional setting are informal letters. Unlike formal letters, there are no standard categories that define informal letters. That doesn't mean there aren't rules! Instead, there are guidelines that guarantee you convey your message and express your feelings no matter what they may be.
Positivity: When you're writing to thank someone, in addition to the "thank you letter" article linked above, take a look at our advice on words of appreciation. Careful word choice can take a letter from a formulaic message to truly meaningful communication.
Concision: To make a clear point in writing, avoid filler words! They're tempting to write, but guaranteed to lessen the impact of your work.
Clarity: Commonly confused words! Everyone, every teacher, every boss, and even every professional writer has a couple of words they will just never get straight. Read up and banish them from your lexicon.
Flow: When writing in a comparatively lengthy form like a letter, transition words are crucial to keep your work from becoming unreadable. Transitions help reading flow, rather than letting a letter degenerate into an impenetrable wall of text.
The power of writing letters is that, in an increasingly digital world, the impression of receiving a well-written letter endures. Rather than clicking to the next page, letters demand attention and, when written well, reward it. Use our advice to improve your own letter writing skills.