How to Write the Perfect Personal Letter

It’s trite to say that letter writing is a “lost art,” but try to remember the last time you sat down and wrote a personal letter. Nothing to do with business or networking – a real letter to another person in your life for the purpose of conveying information, messages and verification. For most of us, that was quite a long time ago.

If you’ve decided this long stretch of winter is the perfect time to put pen to paper and catch up, you may be wondering where to start or even what to say. Here are some expert tips to get you on the right track.

Personal letter format

First, you must decide how you are going to write the letter: by hand or electronically (by type or voice dictation). There is also a typewriter, but today we will skip it.

The environment is entirely up to you; just know that writing a letter (or anything else) by hand is a lot harder than you remember. Not only is there no way to delete what you’ve written (other than to blur, cross out sections, or just cross it all out), but you don’t have the ability to edit or move text around without it becoming messy or redundant. illegible.

In terms of structure, the Emily Post Institute has a helpful post that breaks down the three main parts of a personal letter : the beginning (address and date), the body, and the end of the letter. But again, it’s up to you how formal you want your letter to be.

How to write the body of a personal letter

Once you’ve written the greeting (like “Dear Person” or whatever you chose to start with), it’s time to tackle the tricky part: the body. According to the Emily Post Institute, the body of a personal letter is where “news and information are shared, good news mixed with bad news, questions asked or news shared in a previous letter answered, and inquiries about the recipient.”

Speaking to NPR in August 2021, Courtney Taylor, Senior Writer for Hallmark Cards , shared several tips for writing the body of a personal letter, including the following three:

Be vulnerable and curious

Lead with both vulnerability and curiosity. Specifically, Taylor says that you should commit to the story you’re telling someone, not only giving them the facts about a particular event or situation in your life, but also giving the reader some idea of ​​how they made you feel. Then ask the person open-ended questions to learn more about their own experiences and express an interest in their life.

Enable “universal features”

According to Taylor, including “universal features” in a personal letter means describing scenarios that might be relevant to most people, but providing specific details about your own experience. For example, if you recently traveled somewhere and encountered problems and troubles along the way, you can describe what happened to you, knowing that they probably went through something similar.

Be authentic

When writing cover letters or other work-related communications, it makes sense to present the best version of yourself. But Taylor says that writing personal letters is a chance to show yourself more (figuratively). “Even if it’s professional, I would say that you still want to be true to yourself and everything you write, no matter what form and no matter who the audience is, if the intention is to learn, who are you, ” she told NPR .

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