Although people write letters pretty rarely, they should know how to do everything properly. No matter if you are writing a personal or a business letter, you will need to follow certain rules established in letter writing. Some letters are pretty short and informal, whereas others are detailed and informative. Letter writing has some characteristic features that should be followed by every person engaged in this process. You should understand that although it requires following certain guidelines, letter writing can be pretty interesting and enjoyable if you know some tips and suggestions that will facilitate this task. In our guide, you will find instructions on MLA letter format, as well as many other handy tips that will boost your letter writing proficiency. Our guidelines were collected by skilled letter writers through many years of their successful performance.
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Common Letter Types
All letters can be divided into two major groups: formal and informal. An informal letter does not need to follow common letter writing standards. For example, they do not require using a formal address on the top, as well as an official greeting. Instead of “To whom it may concern,” you may write “Dear Jack” (if you know the name of your recipient, of course). At the end of your informal letter, you may write “Best wishes,” which sounds pretty personal. Pay attention that no matter if you are writing your informal letter physically or in a form of an e-mail, the premise remains the same. You should understand that an informal letter typically has a personal nature. It is usually sent to your close person with the purpose to discuss some personal matter, share your experience, invite them to some event, etc. Personal letters accept using colloquialisms, slang, jargon, jokes, etc. Please, note that writing the left-hand corner in your personal letter is optional. You may skip including the address of your recipient moving to the salutation. Even though you are free when writing your informal letter, it should follow a standard structure; otherwise, you will confuse your recipient. This means that you will need to begin your letter with an introduction in which you will present your subject. Then, you will need to provide more detail on your subject in the main body of your letter. The closing paragraph should summarize what you were trying to say, as well as include a call to action.
A formal letter typically addresses important aspects and is written in accordance with traditional patterns. One may write formal letters for different purposes. For instance, you may need to write a cover letter that will accompany other documents during the application process. In a cover letter, you will need to explain your skills, competencies, and achievements that will help you succeed in the position chosen. In accordance with the traditional structure, your letter should consist of three parts. In case you are not sure how your cover letter should look like, you can have a look at some samples available on the web and they will help you figure out how your letter should be structured and formatted.
Letter Formatting Rules
All letters can be divided into three formats: block, semi-block, and modified block. A block format is typically used for formal letters. When writing semi-formal letters, you are free to utilize modified block or semi-block format. When writing an informal letter, you are allowed to use a semi-block format. Most business letters including recommendation letters, cover letters, complaint letters, and many others are formal. If you are sending a business letter to a recipient you know well, you may make it semi-formal. Informal letters are used mainly for personal correspondence. You should know that most formal and semi-formal letters are often typed whereas informal letters can be handwritten. When you are typing your letter, you will need to use Times New Roman 12pt. font. Also, your letter should include one-inch margins on all sides.
Writing a Letter in MLA Format: Common Guidelines
The Modern Language Association has established some rules and standards that are widely used by scholars, academicians, and students. MLA formatting allows organizing the text in a visually appealing way, which makes it easy to read. Given the transparency and clear structure of this style, it is very popular in many educational institutions. Since this style allows to reach clarity and simplicity of the text, it is widely used in letter writing as well. MLA letter format requires using Times New Roman font. Also, you will need to use double-spacing and 12 pt. font. When you are supposed to write a letter in MLA letter format, you will need to use only one space at the end of a sentence, and indent all the paragraphs with the help of the tab key. Pay attention that these requirements are different from the typical business letter format, which requires using left-justified “block” style paragraphs and single-spacing. Nevertheless, if your recipient is an academic working in a literary or social sciences field, they will find it familiar and acceptable. Pay attention that you can find a lot of free samples of MLA formatted letters in online databases.
You should type your own address on the left-hand side about an inch from the top of the page. You do not need to include your name as you will sign in your e-mail later. All you need here is a two-line mailing address. Then, you will need to skip the line and include the standard United States format of the day, month, and year. If you are writing a business letter, you will need to include Mr., Mrs., or Dr., as well as the full job position title of your recipient.
202 Johnson Street New York, NY 12561
February 6, 2020
Dr. Mary Backer Chairman, Humanities Department 331 Mudhen Lane Bayville, MA 44265
Then, you will need to indent the first line of your paragraph and begin your letter with a brief greeting. In the next two sentences, you will need to get to your point. This means that you need to help your recipient understand the purpose of your letter. The next paragraphs of your letter should include more information on the subject. At the same time, you should keep in mind that your letter is a rather brief document, thus it should contain no irrelevant information. Whenever you need to quote someone in your letter, you will need to take their names into parentheses. No matter what kind of letter you are writing, a formal or informal one, you will need to make it maximally informative and detailed. Also, your arguments and ideas should be developed in a logical way.
Wrap Up Your Letter Properly
The closing paragraph of your letter should inform your reader about what you are expecting from them. Pay attention that your concluding paragraph should include a clear call to action, which should help your recipient figure out what to do with the information provided in your letter. Also, in the final paragraph, you may include specific contact information. For example, you may write “Do not hesitate to reach me by phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX during working hours or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
The final line of your letter should be “Sincerely” or “Best regards” followed by a comma and your handwritten signature.
As you can see, although writing a letter following MLA letter format is not that difficult, there are some rules that should be followed by every person, who wants to write accurate and high-quality letters.
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