How to Start a Good Letter

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Writing a letter, whether by hand, typed or via email, can be difficult to do well. The key to starting a good letter is knowing the exact purpose and intent of the letter and attempting to convey that to the recipient in a polite tone. Whether you're writing a thank you letter, a cover letter for a job or a letter of condolence, taking the time to create a good opening will help to hone your writing skills.

Address the letter to the recipient; avoid generic salutations, such as "Dear Sir or Madam". If the letter is professional in nature, use the recipient's last name and the appropriate prefix or honorific, such as "Dear Mr. Ackroyd". If the letter is more casual, such as an invitation or a thank you letter, use the recipient's first name so long as you are comfortable doing so.

Write the first paragraph, which is typically two or three sentences long. If the letter is more informal, it is appropriate to begin with a general inquiry or comment, such as "I hope this letter finds you well". If the letter is more formal, it's best to get straight to the point. In either case, the reason for you writing the letter must be established in this paragraph.

Read the paragraph out loud, taking note of the tone. Even if you are writing a letter of complaint or requesting financial aid, the tone of your letter should be polite. Informal letters can be more casual in tone, while business letters should use a formal language.


  • Proofread your letter several times before sending. No matter what the intent, a letter filled with typos and poor grammar will not make the best impression.