Though much communication is done by email in today's business world, you still may have occasion to write a formal letter. When writing a business letter in Spanish, be sure to use formal Spanish salutations and farewells, along with the more formal form of "you" in the body of your letter.
It is customary in English to open both personal and business letters with "Dear –". In Spanish, you must make the distinction between a casual greeting and a more formal one used for business. In personal correspondence, use Querido (male), Querida (female) or Queridos/Queridas (plural). For business, use Estimado (male) or Estimada (female), which translates literally as "Esteemed" but is understood in this context as "Dear". Follow the greeting with a colon, rather than a comma.
Here are some examples:
- Estimado Sr. Lopez: Dear Mr. Lopez
- Estimada Sra. Ruiz: Dear Mrs. Ruiz
- Estimada Srta. Hernandez: Dear Miss Hernandez
Note that in Spanish, the distinction between Señora and Señorita is one of age rather than marital status. When writing a business letter, use Señora (abbreviated "Sra.") unless you know for certain that the recipient prefers Señorita (Srta.)
When you don't know the name of the person you're writing to, the following formats can be used:
- Estimado señor: (Dear sir,)
- Estimada señora: (Dear madam,)
- Estimados señores: (Dear sirs, Dear sirs/madams,)
- A quien corresponda: (To whom it may concern; translates literally as "to the one responsible")
Be sure to use the correct form of "you" in the body of your letter. Unlike the English language, some foreign languages, including Spanish, have different forms for the word "you". There's a casual form used with children and people you know well, and one or more forms used to show respect, to communicate with someone you don't know well or if you're addressing more than one person.
Spanish also has a different form for "you" depending on if the person is the subject, direct object or indirect object. In English, "you" is used in all three cases, as follows:
- You are a valued customer.
- The receipt is for you.
- I will give you a discount on the purchase.
Compare how "you" is used in the same sentences in Spanish.
- Usted es un cliente valioso.
- Este recibo es para ti.
- Te dare un descuento en la compra.
In English, business letters are typically closed with the word "Sincerely" followed by a comma. There are several acceptable closings when ending a business letter in Spanish. Most common is Atentamente, which is the literal translation of "Sincerely" in a Spanish letter.
You can also use Le saluda atentamente (if writing to one person) or Les saluda atentamenta (if writing to more than one person). Both translate literally as "Yours sincerely". You can also close with Esperando su respuesta ("Waiting for your response") if you expect a reply from the person you're writing to.
Email endings in Spanish should be consistent with the type of communication being sent. If you're sending business correspondence via email, it's still appropriate to use a formal closing, such as any of the ones above.
There are a number of web-based translators and translator apps that you can use to help you write a letter in Spanish. Google Translate is probably best known. It's quick, easy and free. Other translation websites include SpanishDict, Reverso, Linguee and The Free Dictionary. Free and paid translation apps include Google Translate, iTranslate, SayHi and GrittySpanish.
The translation programs mentioned have all garnered good ratings from users, but be aware that translation software is not foolproof. If possible, it's a good idea to get some help from a native Spanish speaker or someone who knows the language well enough to understand its subtle nuances.