The Writing Center

Letter Writing


Before you write a letter, ask yourself the following questions—they are designed to help you select the appropriate language and amount of information your reader needs.

  1. Describe your reader:
    1. how much does your reader know about your subject?
    2. what values does your reader hold about your subject in his or her professional role?
    3. what attitude does your reader have about this subject?
    4. what attitude (if any) does your reader have about you?
    5. imagine the circumstances under which your reader is reading the letter (i.e. is he or she very busy?  traveling?  is there a great deal of competition for what you are requesting or suggesting?)
  1. Based on the above information, think about the following:
    1. how much information should your letter contain?
    2. what kind of style do you want to use (informal, formal, technical)?
    3. do you need to appeal to the reader’s values or not?
    4. what kind of appeal might be successful?
    5. exactly what do you want the reader to do when he or she finishes the letter—include that in the last paragraph
  1. Consider the following regarding letter formatting:
    1. the first paragraph tells the reader what the letter is about
    2. the second paragraph explains the request without getting too wordy
    3. subsequent body paragraphs explain further (if needed)
    4. one page letters are preferred to longer ones
    5. the last paragraph usually contains a polite request
    6. be sure your grammar and spelling are correct before sending the letter


You can go over your letter and have a tutor check it for correctness at the Writing Center.


When you need to write a letter, you should use the proper format. Here is a model letter with the parts marked.

Your address
goes on these two lines (then space either 5 or 2 spaces after)

Date (then space either 5 or 2 lines after)

Salutation (e.g. Dear XXXXX),  (then space 2 lines)

Begin with a request—most business people want to know what the letter is about.  For instance, “I’m writing to ask your permission to conduct some research at your hospital as part of my Master’s thesis at Cleveland State University.” (single space your paragraphs and double space between them)

The middle paragraph explains your subject, but it does so very succinctly.  Respect the audience’s knowledge of your subject and keep the information directed at your reader.

The third paragraph is usually a polite close and a request to do something specific.   Check that your letter is centered on the page before you print.  (space 2 lines)

Closing (e.g. Sincerely, or, Kind regards, or Yours truly), (space 4 times)

(your signature goes here as legibly as you can write it)

Your name typed