How to Write an Informal Letter
Informal and semi-formal letter writing might not exactly be rocket-science, but it still requires knowing some basic knowledge of the principles and rules that cover general letter writing approaches. Whether you are writing to a friend to share your experience of a recent trip, or writing to thank your high school tennis coach for the useful practice that you are now polishing up at college, or inviting an international student from Europe that you made friends with while on vacation to come visit you, there are some general guidelines concerning the structure and style of an informal letter with which you need to get acquainted.
There are several basic situations when an informal or semi-formal letter is written.
- Congratulating on a wedding, birthday, birth of a child, graduation, etc.
- Thanking for a favor, invitation, advice, etc.
- Inviting someone to a wedding, retirement party, housewarming party, baby shower or any other celebration
- Accepting or refusing an invitation
- Requesting information or replying to such a request
- Apologizing or expressing regret/sympathy
- Asking for or giving advice, recommendations, sharing experience and the like
- Transactional letters – in reply to a magazine prospect, brochure, advertisement, etc.
Steps for Writing an Informal Letter
- Start with an appropriate greeting – depending on whether you are comfortable with addressing your recipient by the first name, last name, or sir/madam.
- Compose an introductory sentence, where you state the reason of your writing (it can be anything from a complaint to accepting or refusing an invitation, or simply replying to an e-mail you received).
- Write the main body of your letter, in which you develop the subject into one or two paragraphs.
- Create a concluding paragraph consisting of one or two sentences in which you sum up the letter and express your willingness to continue the correspondence. You also can thank your recipient for the favor, prompt reply, etc.
- Have a suitable ending (could be anything from “Love/Yours…”, “Best wishes/regards”, to “Sincerely/Faithfully yours”).
- Put a date and a signature (both optional).
- Proofread your letter.
Key Points to Consider
- Informal letter writing allows one to choose from a variety of expressions, both formal and informal, depending on the particular situation. You can even use slang, a conversational style, contractions and abbreviations. However, try to keep it balanced and to not overuse simplifications, so that your letter does not sound too lax or plain impolite. Some language might sound okay when you say it in person, but the same expression might not be appropriate to use in a letter, even an informal one. Overall, the general rule is to use common sense and write in a natural way.
- You have the freedom of using idioms and colloquialisms to enrich your writing – a practice that would be completely unacceptable when writing a formal letter. You can also omit pronouns and articles where possible, but make sure that your writing is understandable and you don’t have run-on sentences with thoughts that are jumbled. Stay organized, use a simple sentence structure and logically develop your thoughts.
- If you are writing an e-mail, the general rule is to leave a blank line between paragraphs for the sake of mere visual convenience. For the same reason, when writing an informal letter, it is advisable to start every paragraph with a little indent at the beginning of the first line.
- Use present continuous when talking about your expectations (e.g. “I will be looking forward to hearing from you…”) or stating the purpose of your letter (e.g. “I am writing to you on behalf of/with regard to…”). Use present perfect or past simple when giving news or describing recent events.
- Try to split the main body of your letter into at least two or three paragraphs instead of cramming your content into one big paragraph. The information is much better perceived when divided into logical sections, each starting with a general topic sentence.
- You can end your informal letter with a question or two to your recipient with regard to the letter to which you are replying, or just to continue the correspondence you have started. It will show your interest in the life of your pen-friend or relative, as well as being a logical way to end your letter by showing enthusiasm and encouraging your recipient to reply.
Practical Tips for Writing Specific Types of Letters
1. Letters of Invitation
- Can be informal, semi-formal or formal.
- Must contain additional information about the event (place, date, dress code) with clear directions how to get to the place, if necessary.
- Opening remarks: We would be honored if you…/ Your presence would be appreciated at…/ I’d love if you could come to…/ We are organizing a…/ I cordially invite you to…
- Closing remarks: We would be grateful if you could…/ please indicate whether you would be able to attend…/ I hope you can make it…/ Hope you can come/ Looking forward to seeing you at…/ Please let me know if you can come.
2. Letters Accepting an Invitation
- Can be informal, semi-formal or formal.
- Must contain a clear response regarding your attendance at the event.
- Opening remarks: I am writing to thank you for the (kind) invitation…/ Thank you for the invitation which I would be honored to accept…/ Your invitation sounds lovely/ I am very much willing to go.
- Closing remarks: We await the event with great anticipation/ I will be looking forward to the party/ See you then/ We’re really looking forward to your party.
3. Letters Declining an Invitation
- Can be informal, semi-formal or formal.
- Opening remarks: Thank you for the recent invitation, but unfortunately …/ I am afraid I will not be able to make it/to accept your invitation/to come to your event/party.
- Closing remarks: I am sorry to miss the opportunity of greeting you in person/ Thank you again for the invitation/ I hope we will have another opportunity to meet/celebrate…/ I am really sorry I will have to miss it/ I’m sure we can get together some other time.
4. Letters of Apology
- Can be formal or informal.
- Should include reasons for the inconveniences caused or an explanation of why the duty/promise cannot be fulfilled.
- Opening remarks: I am writing to apologize for…/ Please accept my sincerest apologies for…/ How can I apologize enough for…/ I must apologize profusely for…/ I owe you an apology…/ I can’t describe how sorry I am and how guilty I feel.
- Closing remarks: Once again, my sincerest apologies for…/ I hope for your understanding/ Hope my apologies will be accepted…/ I know there is no excuse good enough for… and I just hope you can forgive/understand me.
5. Letters of Complaint
- Are usually formal.
- Can use mild or strong language, depending on the seriousness of the complaint, but should not contain abusive language.
- Should clearly present the reason for the complaint in the opening paragraph and provide valid argumentation in the main body.
- Should not get too emotional when justifying the complaint.
- Opening remarks: (Mild) I am writing to complain about…/ I would like to complain with regard to/on account of…/ I would like to express a complaint on the subject of…/ I am writing to draw your attention to…/ I am writing to you in connection with… (Strong) I was appalled at…/ I would like to express my strong dissatisfaction with…/ I feel I must protest/bring to your attention the way…
Closing remarks: (Mild) I hope/assume you will replace/take appropriate action to resolve the matter/ I trust the situation will improve…/ I hope the matter can be amicably sorted out. (Strong) I insist you replace the item at once/ I demand a full refund for…/ I hope I will not be forced to take further action…
6. Transactional Letters
- Are written in response to writing input (ads, notes, brochures, prospects, website information, advertising e-mails, etc.)
- Can be both formal and semi-formal.
- Normally ask for additional information about the subject presented, or call for an explanation/clarification of the information given earlier.
- Opening remarks: In response to your advertisement in…/ I am writing to inquire about/in connection with…/ I would be grateful if you send me additional information on…/ I would appreciate some information about…/ Another matter I need information on…
- Closing remarks: I look forward to receiving…/ I would appreciate your prompt reply/ Please inform me as soon as possible whether my request can be fulfilled.
Dos and Don’ts
Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic informal letter writing tips and rules, you can check out our informal letter samples to link theory with practice.