Class Ideas ~ Writing a Letter

Homeschooling parents are always looking for things to teach their children. I thought I would write an article for every skill not always taught in public schools any more, yet still are very important tools in the real world.



This article: LETTER WRITING


Writing a letter nowadays seems to be a lost art. People text, message, of email, all of which are more informal forms of communication. This has left generations of people unable to connect with their counterpart of communication with complete direction, a strong connection and of course a completed goal.


One of the things that is set aside, is a clear-cut path to use. Meaning the formats have a tendency to not meet their various goals.


So, what is the intent of a letter in the first place?


It is a connection with content intended to accomplish a specific goal.


The various title lines in a letter give out information that might seem to be useless, when in fact they are the beginning of a communication with line of thought.


The Date, for example, that is at the top of the page. This lets you know, it’s now or before, late or timely. This can be the catalyzer to a behavior detailed in the letter.


Then there is the Name, clearly, the writer will want the letter to go to its intended reader.


Traditional letters next had the recipients address. Historically, this was to make sure the letter although opened still go to the right person. It also helped to keep a person’s address book filled out appropriately.


Next is the salutation. This is probably one of the most important parts of the letter next to the actually body/theme of the letter.

Believe it or not, it was once completely rude to address a person without the Mr. Mrs. or Ms., attached to their name. Whenever possible it is important to use the more formal address in the salutation. The best way to have that information before writing the letter is to call the prospective recipients and ask them their preferred address. Yes, it takes just a little more time but the effort is worth the respect you offer your letter recipient. Plus, in the social circles you/they may be in, it could be disadvantageous if you do not use their preferred titles. Formalities dictate to a professional atmosphere and give your readers clear direction. Upsetting them at the beginning of a letter can only be a detriment to its content. I prefer Mrs. before my name. Quite often I get called Mr. I usually think, “Well, this person is unwilling to spend just a few minutes getting to know who they are talking too.”, This leads to my belief that the person is disinterested, rude or heaven forbid, uneducated enough to know it is bad-mannered to not know the person they are trying to communicate with. If it continues even after they have been enlightened, I personally rethink my communication as well as my interest in dealing with them.


Secondary salutations. When in doubt, if you just cannot get the appropriate title from your letters intended, Sir, Sir (s) and Ma’am (s) when appropriate, or To Whom It May Concern, are the next salutations before the body of the letter. Again, I want to press my belief that the effort to find the persons preferred salutation gives you a leg up on your communication with that person, but when in unconfirmable doubt, the last two options listed above, are the best.


Then you have the body of the letter. Spelling is an important part of writing a letter. If you do not know how to spell something, one of the best things about Word, or any other app that is intended for written communication, has a spell check included. Always, spell check anything you write. Next is an easy to read sentence. Keep your sentences short but descriptive. Try not to use extraordinary words unless they are specific to your subject matter. If you talk over the persons head you only do two things, one, they ignore you because they did not understand you, two, they will feel belittled if they aren’t as schooled as you are in descriptive language.


Here is an example. Both sentences mean the same thing, but one of them seems to feel emotionally like you believe you are better than the letter reader. Plus, that sentence has a secondary meaning which could confuse the reader if they are indeed lesser read than you are. If your goal is to achieve an outcome, confusing the reader will not help you one bit.


1. That effervescent cybernetic consistency that you had put on the exterior concrete ramparts is not an effective imagery.

2. That reflective texture covering that you had painted on the outside cement walls is not attractive.


Those sentences are both the same subject, they mean the same thing, but unless your reader writes just like you, they will go…HUH?!? That is not effective communication. The behavior, is called talking over another’s head. It also basically means; you really do not want to communicate effectively to your reader. Because you are choosing to seem more intelligent than they by using words they might not actually understand.

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Although letters are less and less common, they are still used for very formal conversations in business as well as schooling. There is never enough education on these types of seemingly insignificant tasks but they are an important form to know how to write if indeed a person is headed into a work environment or is a leader of an organization.


Plus of course, grandparents love old-fashioned letters as well. They are tactile and savable.


OK, another teaching moment finished.

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