Breaking Down the Fundamentals of Personal Letters

As opposed to other means of written communication such as emails, personal letters can convey a completely different meaning, and evoke different feelings in a reader. Despite the convenience and efficiency of e-mails, personal letters are still more desirable means of written communication in various contexts. Personal letters include holiday letters, letters of complaints, as well as letters for travel correspondence.Because this type of correspondence takes more effort to create, they can provoke or highlight different degrees of emotions such as disappointment or create a more intimate connection between the reader and the writer.

Standard Writing Conventions for Personal Letters

Each personal letter comes from a different situation, that’s why there are so many different varieties of openings and closings. Because there are so many types of personal letters that convey different messages, we’re just going to address some of the most standard writing conventions that are used in personal letters.

Common Salutations

Depending on the purpose and audience of a personal letter, there are several most common salutations used for openings. Some are considered more or less formal while others are used to portray a specific feeling or tone. Here are some of the most common salutations and their connotations:

Dear – It’s applicable in many different contexts, and it is usually considered formal.

Hello/Hi/Good Day – All of the mentioned are slightly less formal but aren’t used to in letters that want to achieve a certain connection between the writer and the reader of the letter.

Season’s Greetings – Used as an opening in most letters during the holidays.

Whatever the salutation is, it should be followed by the last or full name of the person you are writing to. The first letters of the salutation, names and titles should be capitalized.

Common Closings

Before the signature at the ending of the personal letter, complimentary closings are necessary. Here are some of the most common closings:

Regards – It’s used to denote formality and it demonstrates a certain distance between the writer and the reader.

Sincerely Yours – In the case of a closing like this, the distance between the writer and the reader is somewhat shorter, yet it’s not completely considered informal.

Get Well Soon/Happy Holidays – These kind of closings are usually more intimate and denote a sense of intimacy between the writer and the reader.

The Basics of Formatting

Although personal letters serve a purpose of connecting two people or groups of people on a more intimate level, they still have a certain structure that is usually followed. They consist of four parts, usually the heading, the opening, the body and the closing, but the structure widely depends on the information presented in the letter.

The Heading
It varies depending on the information given in the letter and the basic purpose of it. Some headlines may contain a return address and a date while others don’t have to, depending on the aim of the letter.

The Opening and Body
This part of the letter has the purpose of stating whom the letter is addressed to, as well as writing opening salutations. Following the opening, is the body, which contains all the necessary information the writer wants to deliver to the reader.

The Closing
The ending usually contains the signature of the writer as well as the complimentary closing. It may also include job titles or postscripts.

Stylistic Characteristics

Letter writing is tied to certain linguistic issues. Due to the fact that every letter has a specific intention and audience, opening and closings can differ, and the vocabulary has to vary in order to achieve a certain intention of the letter.

For instance, each section requires special attention because the slightest offset in vocabulary and tone that doesn’t fit the context can negatively influence the impact of the letter on the reader. Choose the right kind of opening and closing based on the context as well as what you want to achieve with the letter. The essence of writing a personal letter lies in keeping in mind the exact audience you are writing to.

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