Though it is easier to write a letter than an essay, letter-writing has more practical value. Many of us will not be called upon to write essays outside the examination hall, but almost all of us have to write letters. An educated person should be able to write different kinds of letters in an appropriate manner.
The main kinds of letters are formal and informal letters which can further be categorised into sub-type.
A letter has two aspects-form and content. By the form of a letter is meant the writer’s address, the date, the salutation, (My dear Ram, Sir etc.) and the subscription or ending (Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully, etc.) Each kind of letter has its appropriate form; and if you are ignorant of it, or neglect it, you produce a poor impression on your correspondent. The content of a letter-its matter and style-depends on the kind of letter it is and the particular subject it deals with. We shall explain below certain important points to be noted about the form and content: of the different kinds of letters and give some specimens of them.
Personal letters are letters written either to relations or to friends. Because you are writing to your father or sister or friend, you shouldn’t neglect the form of your letter. Your complete postal address should be written at the top right-hand corner. While writing the address, you should take care to write the number and/or the name of the house, and the names of the locality, the street, and the city or the town in that order, as shown in the specimens given below. It would be incorrect, for example, to write the name of the street first.
The address writing should be left- aligned as shown. One should not forget to write the date just below the address. As regards the salutation, it should be written below the date on the left-hand side, close to the margin. The usual forms of salutation in personal letters are My dear father, My dear mother, Dear uncle, My dear Ashok. ‘My dear’ denotes greater intimacy than ‘Dear’, and is always used in greeting relatives. If you are writing to an intimate friend, you should write his or her name in the salutation (My dear Arun, My dear Asha). A comma after the salutation is essential.
The letter itself should begin on the next line, a little away from the margin.
The subscription or leave-taking is written at the bottom right hand corner of the letter. The common forms of leave-taking are yours affectionately, your affectionate brother, son, etc., in the case of relations, yours sincerely, your sincere (or loving) friend in letters to friends. There should be a comma at the end of the subscription. The subscription is followed by the writer’s signature in the next line immediately below it. (However, at examinations candidates are instructed not to sign their letters.)
The body of the letter should be divided into suitable paragraphs corresponding to the different aspects of the theme dealt with. Since a personal letter has been defined as a conversation by post, its style should be intimate, simple, and conversational. Colloquialisms and abbreviations like “don’t” and “I’d” are quite in place in this kind of letter. But the language should be grammatically correct and, as far as possible, good and readable. There is scope even for literary graces. While one is free to express one’s personality, one should not forget the personality of the correspondent.
(If you write to an acquaintance, write your address and date in the usual place, greet him as Mr. So and So, and end the letter with ‘yours truly’. The style of such a letter should be formal.)