Letter Writing

English letter writing - fountain penWriting Letters in English

Writing letters is a skill often needed in general life when enquiring about a service or responding to a request for information.

English letter writing can seem a daunting task to non-native speakers but all EFL students can learn a few useful phrases that will make writing letters in English much easier.


Business letters

When writing letters in English, you should always begin with ‘Dear …’ unless you are writing to a friend or writing an informal note, in which case you might prefer to write ‘Hello …’ or ‘Hi …’ or the American ‘Hey …’

For example:

  • Dear John (informal, or if you know the person very well)
  • Dear Mr Smith
  • Dear Ms Smith (always use ‘Ms’ when writing to a woman, unless you know that she prefers  ‘Mrs’ if married or ‘Miss’ if single)
  • Dear General Manager
  • Dear Sir or Madam (use this if you don’t know who you are writing to)

Possible beginnings

  • In reply to your letter,
  • With reference to our phone call,
  • Thank you for your letter of September 3rd.
  • Further to our conversation yesterday,
  • I enjoyed our conversation last week.

writing letters in English

The reason for writing

  • I am writing to enquire about
  • I would like to enquire about
  • I would like to confirm my reservation/ my order / apologise for my behaviour/ reply to your phone call / organise a meeting / suggest that we meet up


  • I would be grateful if you could
  • Would it be possible for
  • Could you possibly

Agreeing to Requests

  • I would be delighted to (accept your invitation)

Giving Bad News

  • Unfortunately, I have to inform you that
  • I am afraid that
  • It is with sadness that I must inform you that (you will no longer be required) / of (your redundancy)

Enclosing Documents

  • Please find enclosed
  • I am enclosing
  • Enclosed, you will find

Closing Remarks

  • Thank you for your help
  • Thank you for your time
  • Thanking you in advance
  • Please contact us again if we can help you in any way / there are any problems / you have any questions.

Reference to Future Contact

  • I look forward to hearing from you soon / seeing you on Friday / meeting you.

Signing off

  • Yours faithfully, (Formal, if you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to)
  • Yours sincerely, (Formal, if you know the name of the person you’re writing to)
  • Best wishes/ Best regards / Kind regards (more informal, If the person is a close business contact)

Sample Business Letter

45 Red Lane
Tel: 00000 000000
Email: j.smith@xxxxxx.com

September 3rd 2009

Mr T. Clark
General Manager
Furniture Warehouse.
73 Table Avenue
TN6 789

Dear Mr Clark,

Thank you for sending me the new kitchen furniture brochure, which I received yesterday.

Further to our telephone conversation, I would like to place an order for the large, green table with mahogany legs. Please find enclosed my order form with payment details.

I would be grateful if you could let me know when I should expect delivery.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

J Smith.

John Smith

Letter Structure

A well-structured letter creates a good impression. Formal business letters are best typed, rather than hand written. Typing looks more professional and also ensures that  handwriting does not get in the way of sense or style.

When writing letters in English, your address goes at the top on the right. The rest of the letter can be in “block” format, with each line starting on the left. There should also be plenty of white space.

1 Your details

Put your address, telephone, fax and/or email at the top on the right.

2 The date

The date comes next, below your address. In British English, the numerical date is written day/month/year (e.g. 27/3/09), but in American English it is written month/day/year (e.g. 3/27/09). It always looks good to write the date in full (27 March 2009 or March 27th 2009).


3. Destination name and address

This is the name of the person to whom you are writing, his/her job title, the company name and address. This should be the same as on the envelope and written on the left side, lower down than your own address.

4. Reference

If you have a reference code which you are replying to or writing about you should put it here before the body of your letter.

5. Salutation (Dear…)

A formal letter in English almost always begins with ‘Dear…’, even if you do not know the person. There are several possibilities:

  • Dear Mr Smith
  • Dear Ms Smith (always use Ms for a woman unless you know she prefers Mrs or Miss)
  • Dear Sir (if you don’t know the name, but know it is a man)
  • Dear Madam (if you don’t know the name, but know it is a woman)
  • Dear Sir/Madam (if you don’t know who you are writing to or if they are a man or woman)

Writing Formal Letters in English - Dear Sir Madam

6. The body

The letter itself, in well-structured paragraphs.

8 Ending (Yours…)

  • Yours sincerely (if you knew the name in the salutation)
  • Yours faithfully (if you didn’t know the name in the salutation)

9 Your signature

Sign your name in black or blue ink.

10 Your name

Type/write your full name under your signature. You can also put your job title and company underneath.


Informal Letters to a Friend

When writing letters in English to a friend, you need to use different vocabulary and a different writing style to when writing to a business contact. Of course, when writing a Christmas card in English or a short postcard, you will also need a different style.

Here are some examples of ways to start and end your letters to an English friend:

Salutation Beginning comments
Dear John How are you?
Hello John I hope you are well
Hi John How’s it going?
Happy Birthday John! It was great to see you last week
Greetings John! Sorry for not writing sooner, I’ve been really busy
Hiya John (very informal) It was good to catch up last weekend
Howdy John! (very informal, fun) Everything is fine here
 Closing comments Signing off
Hope to hear from you soon From
Hope to catch up again soon Love
I’ll look forward to seeing you next week Love from
See you soon! Best wishes
Write soon! Bye for now
Take care! Ta’ra / Ta ta (very informal, Northern British English)
Have a good week! Bye!
Can’t wait to see you! Cheers (British English)

Share your thoughts on English letter writing

Can you think of any more useful phrases for writing letters in English?

What do you find most difficult about writing letters in English?

Do you have any tips for better English letter writing? Let us know in the comments.

Explore more writing resources in our writing page and read all about punctuation!


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *