How to address a letter

How to address a letter

The art of letter writing

You may think that the days of letter writing are well and truly over. Certainly it is a fact that much fewer letters are written nowadays than in days gone by.

However, sooner or later you will need to write a letter and address the envelope. When this time comes addressing the envelope properly will speed its delivery and addressing the letter in the correct manner will give it an appropriate professional or personal touch.


Step 1

Getting started

Various features of your letter will depend upon who you are writing to. Consider whether your letter is:

  • Personal.
  • Professional.
  • Business.
  • Legal.
  • Casual.
  • Authoritative.
Step 2

The letter

There are also other points to consider such as:

  • Will the letter be lengthy?
  • Will the letter simply be a brief note?
  • The size of paper to be used.
  • If the paper is lined or not.
Step 3

The recipient

Decide if the letter is to be:

  1. Informal, such as one to a family friend or family member.
  2. Formal, such as a business letter or one to someone you have never met.
Step 4

Addressing the recipient in an informal letter

For an informal letter begin by using the word Dear followed by the person’s Christian or first name. If the letter is very informal use only the person’s first name and omit the word Dear.

To close such an informal letter use a phrase such as:

  • Best wishes.
  • Best regards.
  • Regards.
  • All the best.
  • Take care.
  • Yours sincerely.

Add your signature to this. Alternatively you can simply sign your signature.

Step 5

Addressing the recipient in a formal letter

Addressing a formal letter correctly is vital. If you do not you may find that you are not taken seriously, or even that you cause offense. The letter should be opened with Dear and then Mr, Master, Mrs, Miss or Ms plus the recipient’s surname. Bear in mind that:

  • It can be difficult nowadays to get the person’s title right. The wrong title for a female can sometimes cause offense. If in doubt it is best to stick to Ms, although some females hate being addressed in this way.
  • You may be able to work out what to call the person if they have written to you in the past and signed the letter themselves. How they have signed will usually be how they like to be addressed.
  • You need to avoid using Dear and just the person’s first name unless you are on informal, friendly terms.
  • You must use any formal title such as Dr, Reverend, Lord and the like.
  • Dear Sir or Madam and Dear Sir or Sirs tend to be rather old fashioned ways to address a letter these days. If all else fails though these can be used for a formal letter.
  • To close a formal letter, end with Yours faithfully, followed by a comma and then your full signature on the line below.
Step 6

How to address a letter

  • Type or hand write your address in the top right of the letter, to match your letter’s format.
  • If desired include your telephone number, email address and the date, each on a separate line.
  • At the left, toward the top, write the recipient’s full name and address. Include any necessary reference numbers below the address. Some people prefer to add the date here.
  • Make sure that there is a space of at least two lines between the addresses and the greeting.
  • Write the greeting at the left hand side, lined up with the recipient’s address.
  • If, for example, you are writing to a business and do not know the name of the person you wish to address your letter to, write: To whom it may concern.
  • Make sure that the whole letter has a balanced appearance. For example, that the end of the lines are lined up at the left.

Things Needed
• A ruler, especially if the paper is unlined.
• The recipient’s full name if possible.
• The recipient’s title.
• Clean hands.
• A flat or purpose designed writing space.
• Appropriate stationery.
• A good pen.

Tips & Warnings
• Make sure you know whether or not the letter should be formal or informal.
• Stick to the basic rules regarding the letter greeting and ending.
• Make a rough draft so that you have an idea of the length of the letter. This will help you with the spacing and layout.
• Check your letter for words that may have been omitted, punctuation errors and spelling mistakes.
• Write neatly and clearly.


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