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How to Write an Informal Letter – Yes, You May Have to Write One Someday

November 10, 2015 - Posted toWriting

Content how to write an informal letter   yes  you may have to write one someday

How to Write an Informal Letter – Yes, You May Have to Write One Someday

It’s hard to imagine. In your world of email, IM, tweets, and texts, you might have to write a letter for anything other than as part of an application or perhaps a business letter on the job. And true, letter writing by snail mail just does not occur much anymore. But, there may be times when you do want to write a letter instead of an email – grandma still appreciates a thank-you note for a gift; you may want to write a note of thank-you to someone who has done you a huge favor. The thing about letters is that they are a bit more permanent, and people may want to keep them.

Defining the Informal Letter

Informal letters are those that you would write to a friend, to someone you know who may not be a friend (teacher, coach, pastor) or a relative. Your language and style will be much more casual than in formal letter writing, along with the greeting (also called the salutation) and the ending, or sign-off. Still, your thoughts should be organized.

Here are some times when you will write an informal letter:

  • As a congratulations – someone got a promotion; someone achieved something (a new job, finished a training program, etc.)
  • A thank-you for a gift, for some help, for some advice
  • Hand-written invitations to an event
  • Declining or accepting an invitation
  • As an apology
  • As an expression of sympathy for loss of a loved one
  • Requesting information
  • Letter of complaint to a company

Obviously, your tone will vary, dependent upon the circumstances. For example, you will not use the same language in writing a letter of congratulations as you would writing a letter of sympathy.

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The Steps for Writing an Informal Letter

  1. You may or may not want to put a date at the top of your letter – this is optional, dependent on the circumstances. If you are writing a letter of complaint to a retailer, for example, you may want to include a date so that you have a timeline of the communication.
  2. Use a greeting that is comfortable for you and for your recipient. Typical greetings are “Dear Joan,” “Hi Joan,” or even “Hey There,” if the letter is going to a really close friend or relative, like a sibling. Sometimes you will use a title and last name, such as, “Dear Pastor Miller.”
  3. Start with a sentence of introduction which establishes the point of your letter. For example, “I just wanted to write a note of thanks for all that you did to help me out while I was sick,” or “I was so terribly sorry to hear about the loss of you sister,” or, “I am very disappointed with the electric knife I ordered from your company.”
  4. Start the main body of the letter with a new paragraph. Here is where you will give the detail. Depending upon the nature of your letter, you will be writing one-two paragraphs.
  5. Your concluding paragraph can be rather short – just a sentence or two. For example, “Again, I just wanted to say thank you for all that you did,” or “Again, let me say how sorry I am that you have suffered this loss. My thoughts are with you,” or, “I would like to hear from you soon regarding a refund for the electric knife I am returning,” “Let me say it once again – congratulations and great job!”
  6. Your sign off should be appropriate for your relationship with the recipient of the letter – “Fondly,” “Love,” “Sincerely,” “With Best Wishes,”
  7. Signature: In most instances, informal letters will be signed with just your first name. Exceptions will be in those instances where you do not know the person well or at all – for example, a letter of complaint or to request information.
  8. Be sure to proofread your letter for mistakes.

Do’s and Don’ts for Writing an Informal Letter

Do's Don'ts

Be polite, even if you are writing a letter of complaint. You do not inspire others to help you out if your tone is angry and accusatory.

Don’t use lengthy compound sentences with too many thoughts in them. Break up sentences to keep the points being made simple. This is not an academic piece

Try to break the body up into at least two paragraphs. You reader will follow your train of thought better.

Don’t skip your introductory statement. You have to let the reader know the point of your letter right away.

You can let emotion show if the reason for your letter is to say thank you, to apologize, or to express sympathy.

Don’t use overly familiar jargon or slang for people who are not really close buddies or relatives.

 

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Learning how to write an informal letter is not hard. Here are some additional considerations:

  1. As you write, pretend you are speaking with the person face-to-face. Write as you would talk to that person, and you will get the right tone.
  2. Informal letter writing may indeed occur via email. When it does, avoid using some of the typical shortened jargon – “yu” instead of “you,” “R U” instead of “are you,” etc. While your letter is informal, it is still a letter, and you do want to use basic English well.
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