A well-crafted letter can accomplish many things: create a lasting impression, forge stronger connections, and become a cherished keepsake. A compelling business letter can give its writer an advantage in negotiations. Letters between friends can strengthen bonds, or rekindle something that was lost. A hand-written letter is a time capsule of emotions, capturing thoughts and feelings in the moment to be revisited again and again. Here are some tips to write effective letters that make a lasting impression.

Audience and Purpose

Understanding your reader is essential to making your correspondence memorable. Figure out the purpose of your letter, and then tailor it to your recipient. Even an informal letter to a friend benefits from a brief outline. This can be as simple as this:

1. Greeting
2. Share recent highlights from your life
3. Ask about their life (something specific is better, e.g. “How did your big project go?”)
4. Discuss a common interest, e.g. “Are you caught up on [TV Show]?”
5. Closing

It may seem obvious, but sometimes we get caught up in our own stuff that we forget to ask about others. This exercise will help ensure you hit all the important topics. 

The right stationery can make a great first impression.

Choosing the Right Stationery

First impressions matter when it comes to written correspondence. Think of seeing a hand-written envelope amidst the typical pile of junk mail, and the accompanying shot of endorphins that comes with the joy of opening a letter written for you! To elevate a letter from mere mail to a whole experience, the stationery matters. Up your stationery game by choosing quality paper, matching letter sets, fine pens, and adding a personal touch such as calligraphy, stickers and decorative tape, and even illustrations.

Setting the Tone in the Opening

Opening paragraphs are important for setting the tone in any piece of writing, including letters. They serve to engage the reader, grab their attention, and set the mood for the rest of the correspondence. Consider how these examples set the tone for what’s to come: 

  • Excited and energetic: “You won’t believe what I have to tell you!”
  • Warm and nostalgic: “Remember those trips we used to take to the beach every summer? I was reminiscing about those times and I thought I’d write.”
  • Casual and friendly: “I hope you’re well! It’s been too long, and I wanted to catch up with you!"
Developing a Strong Body

Just because a letter is informal doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be compelling. Follow these tips for drafting a letter that will leave an impression:

  • Keep the ideas clear and coherent; think again of your reader and if something sounds confusing, provide an explanation or simplify the telling. 
  • Add personal anecdotes and be sure to include specifics, like certain sights, sounds, and smells. Using sensory details creates a more immersive experience for the reader.
  • Express genuine emotion to create a deeper connection with the reader. Talking about feelings makes the writing more relatable and engaging.
Closing with Impact

An effective ending should leave the reader with a positive feeling. Sending well wishes, and expressing gratitude are good ways to leave the reader with the warm and fuzzies. If there was an important reason for the letter, reiterate key points in the closing. And finally, look forward. End the letter with anticipation for the next interaction (e.g. “I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!”, or “Let’s catch up in person soon!”). 

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Adding Personal Touches

One of the benefits of sending a physical letter in the mail is the many ways you can add a personal touch. 

  • Handwriting is a unique expression and adds personality to a letter. In some situations, such as professional correspondence, a typed letter might be more appropriate, but handwriting, when done neatly, can show thoughtfulness and effort.
  • Adding small drawings or doodles to enhance the content of the letter can bring joy to the reader. Enclosing a photograph, stickers, or return postage are also simple ways to personalize the exchange. 
Final Tips
  • It’s important to proofread your letter for spelling and grammar errors. Reading it aloud helps to ensure the tone is as intended.
  • Check that the envelope is addressed correctly, and for more formal letters, make sure proper titles are used. 

Whether writing to an old friend, a business contact, or a new penpal, each correspondence is an opportunity to make a case, make a connection, or make someone smile. To write a letter that is worthy of being a keepsake, hold the audience in mind and tailor your writing to them. Include personal stories filled with rich details and genuine emotion. Close your letter on a high note, and send it off knowing you will soon be putting a smile on someone’s face.