An informal letter or a personal letter is a letter to a close friend or an acquaintance. Isn’t it wonderful to receive such a letter from a friend? Better yet, isn’t it wonderful to actually write one?
If you think letter writing is lame or old fashioned, read this article first: Letter writing
Letter writing still has a sentimentality about it that transcends all other forms of communication, and this is probably why some people stick to it even though they could use other means.
The best way of learning how to write letters, I reckon, is to look at a number of specimens, analyse what has to be done and perhaps what does not have to be done, don’t you agree?
Of course there are no hard and fast rules about how to write an informal letter and common sense dictates that someone may use whatever works best for him. However, there is a conventional way of going about it that will make all the difference if you apply it.
Let’s start off by reviewing a letter I wrote to my sister some four years ago:
Some people may think the address is not important in an informal letter and prefer to leave it out. That works well if the person you are writing to knows your address already or if she has a good memory! However, it is very unlikely that someone will always remember your address, so it is always a good idea to include it. Remember, this is the address they have to write to for the letter to reach you. The recipient’s address is on the envelope.
The address and date should be in the right hand corner. If I were writing to a person in another country, I would have preferred to add the following details:
Hillcrest Secondary School,
P.O Box 60453,
7th February 2004
Since she already lives in Zambia, it is not necessary to include the country and the postcode i.e. 10101. However, if you are writing to someone outside the country, always include your country and post code.
After you have written the address, leave a line and write the date.
The most common salutation in an informal letter is “Dear….”
Note that it is followed by a comma.
However, some go extremely informal and use “Hey!” or “Hi!”
You should use your discretion. Obviously if you are writing to your father, you would not use “Hey!” unless of course you are extremely close.
Here are a few things you should take note of:
Since informal letters are usually written by hand, the paragraphs are usually indented. However, with more people using their computers to do most of their writing(and I have a bad feeling most people will forget how to write with their hands), it is becoming a common practice to write paragraphs without indentations—like the way this one is written. This, apparently, is the modern way of writing paragraphs.
The first paragraph generally expresses a greeting, followed by wishes of good health. Remember you are writing to someone you know very well, so try to be as friendly as possible:
How are you my dear sister?
However, always use your discretion. Try not to go overboard. Some people become bold and daring in letters and write things that they would otherwise not say to the person face to face. Obviously if you are writing to an adult that you respect, like your dad, try not to write things like:
“What’s up dude!” or “What’s going down?”
Try to picture the person you are writing to standing in front of you. Imagine the things that you would say to him and write them down. This will help you not to go overboard.
Also avoid boring sentences like…
“I am writing this letter to….”
…unless you are writing to a stranger. Even so, try to be as amiable as possible:
I have heard so much about you and would be head over heels with joy if you could agree to be my pen pal
Try to be as conversational as possible. You are allowed to use colloquial language – i.e. language that is appropriate for speech but not really for writing:
My journey back here was fine, though it was quite a long one. I wanted to travel by CR bus but guess what; all the wretched buses were full! So I had no choice but to travel by a small Rosa bus. The journey took seven hours. By the time we reached, my legs were tried and my bottom was severely sore, ugh! Next time, I promise, I’m not gonna use one of ‘em tiny buses!
However informal you get, you should not forget to pay attention to…
I have come across a good number of letters that abound with spelling mistakes and awful punctuation. Such mistakes tend to distract the reader, so don’t neglect them even though you know your friend will understand.
The quality of your letter also speaks volumes about the kind of person you are so all the more reason to be careful!
If you use contractions, make sure that you put the apostrophe in the right places. For example:
Isn’t and not is’nt
won’t and not wont
mustn’t and not must’nt
The contraction it’s is especially one that you must watch out for. It is the short form of it is or it has. But if you want to use it to indicate possession, you should use its and not it’s. Check out this example:
The dog lost its collar.
Remember also to use capitals for the right things i.e. the names of people, places, holidays, etc should all start with a capital letter.
Bottom line? Don’t throw away your grammar book!
Use the active voice if you want your letter to sound more conversational and interesting. Avoid shifts in the voice. Check out this article on the advantage of using the active voice: Use active Voice
One common error is inconsistency in the tense. For example read the following sentence:
I was going to town yesterday when a dog bite me and I ran all the way to the hospital.
Here is a sentence with starts in the past tense and then right in the middle, the tense changes to present and then finally reverts to past. Even if your friend is very understanding, this is still distracting.
It is always a good idea to ask questions in the body of the letter that you would like the person to answer in their reply. Questions work as a good base on which to write a letter, and they give the recipient motivation to reply:
How are those wonderful brothers of mine?
Did I tell you that I am librarian too, eh?
This is where you sign off, i.e. say toodle- oo:
In informal letter writing, the complimentary close is always very friendly:
Lots of love,
Missing you lots,
Remember, a comma always follows the complimentary close.
Use P.S. to add a short message after the complimentary close. Use it especially to write down something that you may have forgotten in the body of the letter.
Oh, what was that you are asking? How do I properly write the recipient’s address on the envelope?
No problem, I have that covered. check the example below:
N.B:You may choose to leave out the commas after each line in the address.
Here are some more sample informal letters:
The first is a letter from George to his girlfriend Lisa, whereas the second is her reply:
I would love you to take note of the following in these informal letter sample:
George takes care to mention the things of lesser important first. Obviously, the informal letter is not about Trevor, so he deals with this first. I like the way he skilfully shifts the attention from Trevor to his girl friend in the closing sentence of paragraph two:
...What I did tell him was that your radiant smile is lighting up the entrance of the MTN offices.
In my own opinion, it is a good idea to mention the by-the-way and less essential things first, and then concentrate on the important things in the body.
A teasing statement like:
I am sure that the very idea of marrying a jobless and destitute man repels you enormously!
is bound to elicit a response, especially a defensive one. Learn to write in a manner that will compel the reader to reply. I am sure we are past the 'Pliz reply' postscript!
Take care dear! Remember, I am here—right here, in your heart.
Here was Lisa's reply:
Take note of the following:
Lots of love,
I will be putting more sample informal letters in future to help you get better and better, so just stick around!
If you are not content with the information I have put here on writing an informal letter, or if you think there is something I could do better, please put forward your complaints or suggestions. The beauty of writing-lovers.com is that I am more than willing to tailor everything to your tastes!