How Do I Write Different Types of Letters?

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Letters can be an effective communication tool.
Letters can be an effective communication tool. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Cell phones, email, instant messaging and social media have made it possible to communicate using short messages and phrases. While this type of communication is most frequently used in today’s society, there are still occasions when writing a letter is more acceptable. Learning about the different types of letters and their purpose can help you know what to say.

Types of Letters

There are a variety of different types of letters you can choose to compose. Cover letters are used in career settings to detail your qualifications for a particular job, while a query letter is used by a writer pitching a story idea to an editor. Sales letters pitch a product to the reader, while a complaint letter is often written by a disgruntled client. It’s important to learn what type of letter you want to write before you begin.

Length

Most letters are kept to a maximum length of one page. Some letters don’t require a lot of information, such as a resignation letter or acceptance letter for a job. For example, these simply need to state the actions of the employee (resigning or accepting), the position and the date the resignation or acceptance is effective. Even sales and pitch letters should ideally be kept to one page, as readers often lose interest quickly. Remember that letters are an introduction or quick snippet of facts and information for the reader.

Benefits

Some people question the purpose of writing letters in an age when instant communication is available, but there are many benefits to writing letters. In a court, letters are often viewed as proof to substantiate a case, since they are written documents. You also have the benefit of ensuring that a person got your letter since you can mail it and request a return receipt. There’s no way to know if an email or text message was received unless the person responds to it or you share the same email server or messaging plan.

Formatting

It’s important to include the date on letters so individuals receiving it have a time frame of when it was sent, since postal mail can take several days depending on location. Professional and business letters should be properly addressed to the recipient of the letter. This often requires using Mr. or Ms. accompanied with the last name rather than addressing the letter to their first name. Make sure that the information is presented in a font and size that makes it easy for the reader to review.

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