Letter writing seems to be a lost art form today. Nevertheless, some people still do write letters and oftentimes they wonder do you capitalize yours truly in their signature.
When you’re signing your letter “Yours truly,” only the first word is to be capitalized. You also capitalize all nouns. If the recipient is unknown, then you capitalize all the words in the salutation.
How to Write a Letter
Regardless of whether you’re writing a formal or an informal letter, there are still four basic elements that you must include. These are the salutation, introduction, body, and conclusion with your signature. Let’s take a look at how to write each of these elements.
Salutation (a.k.a. Greeting)
When you’re writing a formal letter it’ll typically begin with “Dear Sir/Madam.” However, if you know the person’s first name you should personalize the letter by using it. You should include a colon after the salutation in a formal letter but in an informal letter you should use a comma instead.
You don’t need a lengthy introduction. All it takes is a couple of sentences to explain why you’re writing the letter.
Here is where you outline the information that you want to communicate in your letter. While you want to be concise here, you also want to make sure that you communicate all the necessary information. When you’re writing either a formal or a semi-formal letter you need to also include a formal conclusion.
Closing and Signature
In a formal or semi-formal letter the most common closing is “Yours sincerely.” However, if you don’t know the addressee’s name you should use “Yours faithfully” instead. When you’re writing an informal letter you can use other closings such as “Regards” or “All the best.” After you include your closing, make sure you leave space to sign the letter.
Polishing a Formal Letter
Today with email being our primary means of communicating through writing, we don’t have as many occasions to write formal letters as we did in the past. However, there’s still occasionally the need to do so. When writing a formal letter you’ll want to make sure that you follow these tips for polishing it at the end.
Once you’ve stated your letter’s purpose in the opening paragraph you don’t want to veer away from it. You also don’t want to use flowery language or long words. You should always keep the letter short and to the point. This doesn’t mean that every sentence should be short or that a subject shouldn’t be discussed in detail though.
Using the Right Tone
When you’re writing either a business letter or a formal letter you’ll want to use a tone that’s slightly more formal than the language you use everyday. There are certain things you’ll want to avoid, including:
- Slang or jargon
- Contractions (e.g. I’m, can’t, it’s)
- Vague words (e.g. good, nice)
Regardless of whether or not you’re complaining you should be both polite and respectful throughout the letter.
It’s vital for you to proofread the letter once you’ve written it. Pay special attention to the grammar and spelling that you’ve used. Besides using your computer’s spell-checker you should also read through the letter yourself as the program won’t catch every error you make. If necessary, don’t be afraid to use a dictionary or a thesaurus. Make sure you also check the grammar and punctuation. You want to use complete sentences too.
After you’ve proofread the letter yourself it’s still a good idea to have someone else look over it for you. You never know when you may have overlooked something because you’ve read through the letter too many times.
Don’t rush through this process. Any errors that you make will diminish your letter’s impact.
Use Proper Format and Presentation
The first impression you make is the one that people will remember the most. This is why you should use high-quality paper with a matching envelope. Make sure you properly address the recipient and spell their name correctly. Something that is just as important as properly addressing the recipient is ensuring that you’ve signed your name.
By adhering to formal letter writing’s standard conventions you will help to ensure that the recipient takes your thoughts seriously and that they’ll pay attention to what you’re trying to communicate. With this in mind, there are a few formatting tips you should remember here.
The heading should be located in the top left-hand corner using block format. You should include your address in your heading along with the date. Don’t include your name here but you can include your telephone number and your email address if you wish to do so.
123 Pine Ave.
Cleveland, OH 12345
November 23, 2008
Located four lines under the heading, this is where you include the name and the address of the person to whom you are writing. Do your best to address the letter to a specific person. If you don’t know their name, at least include their title.
Mr. L. Maple (name)
Chief of Syrup Production (title)
Old Sticky Pancake Company
456 Maple Lane
Forest, OH 12345
After the inside address you’ll want to skip another line before typing out the salutation. The salutation you use will depend on whether or not you know the person whom you’re addressing. Typically you’d use “Dear” followed by the person’s name and a colon. However, if you don’t know if you’re addressing a man or a woman you should use “Dear Sir or Madam” followed by a colon. Here are a few other tips:
- When you don’t know a woman’s marital status use “Ms.”
- If the person has a specific title (e.g. Dr.), make sure that you use it.
After the salutation you should skip another line before you start writing the body (the main part of the letter). Remember to keep this brief and coherent. You should use short, clear, logical paragraphs here.
Closing and Signature
After the last paragraph of the body of your letter you’ll want to skip another line. Now is when you should type the closing (a.k.a. the ending) of your letter. Make sure to only capitalize the first word of the closing. This is to be punctuated with a comma followed by several spaces after which you type or print your name. Between these two printed lines is where you’ll insert your handwritten signature.
Your typed signature will signify the end of your letter. You can include a postscript (P.S.) afterwards but it’s better to include all the pertinent information in your letter’s body so the recipient doesn’t accidentally overlook something.
Now is a good time to read through your entire letter once again to make sure you’ve thoroughly and accurately communicated all your points. Once you’re satisfied with your letter it’s time to mail it off to the recipient.
Tips for Writing a Letter
Now that you know how to write a letter, there are some tips you should follow to ensure that your letter comes off truly polished and professional looking. These include:
- Know why you’re writing the letter and what purpose you hope to achieve by doing so.
- Remember, the first letter you write is always a draft. Your initial goal is to get your thoughts down on paper. You can polish them afterwards.
- Give yourself some time to cool off so you don’t just revise the letter immediately and fire it off to the recipient. Failure to do so could damage your credibility – something that’s sometimes impossible to repair.
- Never threaten someone in a letter. While doing so may make you feel better initially, it could cause irreparable damage later on.
- Assume that you won’t be able to resolve your dispute and that things will get worse before they get better. However, by writing a letter you are creating a record of paperwork showing what you’ve done to try to resolve the issue.
- Present your issue as being unique. This opens up the lines of communication instead of opening up the rules of bureaucracy that are “always” followed.
- Remember! You’re writing a letter to a stranger with whom you’re attempting to form a “relationship” so you can work out the problem you’re addressing in your letter. Assume that they don’t have any personal interest in the situation and that you must work to persuade them to see your cause’s justice.
- Make sure that you state facts that support your position or request. This is not the time to demand, threaten, or vent your anger or frustration. Instead, you want to come across as smooth, polished, and professional.
- Never be judgmental. You want the person to whom you’re writing to be interested, not defensive or anxious so stick to providing the facts.
Now you have all the tools to write a proper letter and know when to use “yours truly” in your signature if it is that sort of letter.