How to Write a Letter in English Page 2


It is better to finish formal letters without any such qualifying remarks. If you are writing to Mr. Ryan to tell him that you have a house for sale, after describing the house and stating the terms simply sign yourself

Your obedient Servant
Yours very truly,
Yours with respect,
James Wilson.

Don’t say you have the honor to be anything or ask him to believe anything, all you want to tell him is that you have a house for sale and that you are sincere, or hold him in respect as a prospective customer.

Don’t abbreviate the signature as: Y’rs Resp’fly and always make your sex obvious. Write plainly
Yours truly,
John Field

and not J. Field, so that the person to whom you send it may not take you for Jane Field.

It is always best to write the first name in full. Married women should prefix Mrs. to their names, as
Very sincerely yours,
Mrs. Theodore Watson.

If you are sending a letter acknowledging a compliment or some kindness done you may say, Yours gratefully, or Yours very gratefully, in proportion to the act of kindness received.

It is not customary to sign letters of degrees or titles after your name, except you are a lord, earl or duke and only known by the title, but as we have no such titles in America it is unnecessary to bring this matter into consideration. Don’t sign yourself,

Sincerely yours,
Obadiah Jackson, M.A. or L.L. D.

If you’re an M. A. or an L.L. D. people generally know it without your sounding your own trumpet. Many people, and especially clergymen, are fond of flaunting after their names degrees they have received honoris causa, that is, degrees as a mark of honor, without examination. Such degrees should be kept in the background. Many a deadhead has these degrees which he could never have earned by brain work.

Married women whose husbands are alive may sign the husband’s name with the prefix Mrs: thus,
Yours sincerely,
Mrs. William Southey.

but when the husband is dead the signature should be—
Yours sincerely,
Mrs. Sarah Southey.

So when we receive a letter from a woman we are enabled to tell whether she has a husband living or is a widow. A woman separated from her husband but not a divorcee should not sign his name.


The address of a letter consists of the name, the title and the residence.

Mr. Hugh Black,
112 Southgate Street,

Intimate friends have often familiar names for each other, such as pet names, nicknames, etc., which they use in the freedom of conversation, but such names should never, under any circumstances, appear on the envelope. The subscription on the envelope should be always written with propriety and correctness and as if penned by an entire stranger. The only difficulty in the envelope inscription is the title. Every man is entitled to Mr. and every lady to Mrs. and every unmarried lady to Miss. Even a boy is entitled to Master. When more than one is addressed the title is Messrs. Mesdames is sometimes written of women. If the person addressed has a title it is courteous to use it, but titles never must be duplicated. Thus, we can write

Robert Stitt, M. D., but never
Dr. Robert Stitt, M. D, or
Mr. Robert Stitt, M. D.

In writing to a medical doctor it is well to indicate his profession by the letters M. D. so as to differentiate him from a D. D. It is better to write Robert Stitt, M. D., than Dr. Robert Stitt.

In the case of clergymen the prefix Rev. is retained even when they have other titles; as

Rev. Tracy Tooke, LL. D.

When a person has more titles than one it is customary to only give him the leading one. Thus instead of writing Rev. Samuel MacComb, B. A., M. A., B. Sc., Ph. D., LL. D., D. D. the form employed is Rev. Samuel MacComb, LL. D. LL. D. is appended in preference to D. D. because in most cases the “Rev.” implies a “D. D.” while comparatively few with the prefix “Rev.” are entitled to “LL. D.”

In the case of Honorables such as Governors, Judges, Members of Congress, and others of the Civil Government the prefix “Hon.” does away with Mr. and Esq. Thus we write Hon. Josiah Snifkins, not Hon. Mr. Josiah Snifkins or Hon. Josiah Snifkins, Esq. Though this prefix Hon. is also often applied to Governors they should be addressed as Excellency. For instance:

His Excellency,
Charles E. Hughes,
N. Y.

In writing to the President the superscription on the envelope should be

To the President,
Executive Mansion,
Washington, D. C.

Professional men such as doctors and lawyers as well as those having legitimately earned College Degrees may be addressed on the envelopes by their titles, as

Jonathan Janeway, M. D.
Hubert Houston, B. L.
Matthew Marks, M. A., etc.

The residence of the person addressed should be plainly written out in full. The street and numbers should be given and the city or town written very legibly. If the abbreviation of the State is liable to be confounded or confused with that of another then the full name of the State should be written. In writing the residence on the envelope, instead of putting it all in one line as is done at the head of a letter, each item of the residence forms a separate line. Thus,

Sullivan County,
New York.

215 Minna St.,
San Francisco,

There should be left a space for the postage stamp in the upper right hand corner. The name and title should occupy a line that is about central between the top of the envelope and the bottom. The name should neither be too much to right or left but located in the centre, the beginning and end at equal distances from either end.

In writing to large business concerns which are well known or to public or city officials it is sometimes customary to leave out number and street. Thus,

Messrs. Seigel, Cooper Co.,
New York City,

Hon. William J. Gaynor,
New York City.


Notes may be regarded as letters in miniature confined chiefly to invitations, acceptances, regrets and introductions, and modern etiquette tends towards informality in their composition. Card etiquette, in fact, has taken the place of ceremonious correspondence and informal notes are now the rule. Invitations to dinner and receptions are now mostly written on cards. “Regrets” are sent back on visiting cards with just the one word “Regrets” plainly written thereon. Often on cards and notes of invitation we find the letters R. S. V. P. at the bottom. These letters stand for the French repondez s’il vous plait, which means “Reply, if you please,” but there is no necessity to put this on an invitation card as every well-bred person knows that a reply is expected. In writing notes to young ladies of the same family it should be noted that the eldest daughter of the house is entitled to the designation Miss without any Christian name, only the surname appended. Thus if there are three daughters in the Thompson family Martha, the eldest, Susan and Jemina, Martha is addressed as Miss Thompson and the other two as Miss Susan Thompson and Miss Jemina Thompson respectively.

Don’t write the word addressed on the envelope of a note.

Don’t seal a note delivered by a friend.

Don’t write a note on a postal card.

Here are a few common forms:—


Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wagstaff request the
honor of Mr. McAdoo’s presence on Friday
evening, June 15th, at 8 o’clock to meet the
Governor of the Fort.
19 Woodbine Terrace
June 8th, 1910.

This is an invitation to a formal reception calling for evening dress. Here is Mr. McAdoo’s reply in the third person:—

Mr. McAdoo presents his compliments to
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wagstaff and accepts with
great pleasure their invitation to meet the
Governor of the Fort on the evening of June
215 Beacon Street,
June 10th, 1910.

Here is how Mr. McAdoo might decline the invitation:—

Mr. McAdoo regrets that owing to a prior
engagement he must forego the honor of paying
his respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wagstaff and the
Governor of the Fort on the evening of June
215 Beacon St.,
June 10th, 1910.

Here is a note addressed, say to Mr. Jeremiah Reynolds.

Mr. and Mrs. Oldham at home on Wednesday
evening October ninth from seven to eleven.
21 Ashland Avenue,
October 5th.

Mr. Reynolds makes reply:—

Mr. Reynolds accepts with high appreciation
the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Oldham’s invitation
for Wednesday evening October ninth.
Windsor Hotel
October 7th


Mr. Reynolds regrets that his duties render
it impossible for him to accept Mr. and Mrs.
Oldham’s kind invitation for the evening of
October ninth.
Windsor Hotel,
October 7th,

Sometimes less informal invitations are sent on small specially designed note paper in which the first person takes the place of the third. Thus

360 Pine St.,
Dec. 11th, 1910.
Dear Mr. Saintsbury:
Mr. Johnson and I should be much pleased to
have you dine with us and a few friends next
Thursday, the fifteenth, at half past seven.
Yours sincerely,
Emma Burnside.

Mr. Saintsbury’s reply:

57 Carlyle Strand
Dec. 13th, 1910.
Dear Mrs. Burnside:
Let me accept very appreciatively your
invitation to dine with Mr. Burnside and you
on next Thursday, the fifteenth, at half past
Yours sincerely,
Henry Saintsbury.
Mrs. Alexander Burnside.


Notes of introduction should be very circumspect as the writers are in reality vouching for those whom they introduce. Here is a specimen of such a note.

603 Lexington Ave.,
New York City,
June 15th, 1910.

Rev. Cyrus C. Wiley, D. D.,
Newark, N. J.
My dear Dr. Wiley:
I take the liberty of
presenting to you my friend, Stacy Redfern,
M. D., a young practitioner, who is anxious
to locate in Newark. I have known him many
years and can vouch for his integrity and
professional standing. Any courtesy and
kindness which you may show him will be very
much appreciated by me.
Very sincerely yours,
Franklin Jewett.

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