Writing letters in French is a little different from writing them in English. Not only does the language difference cause a problem for some learners, as the difference between formal and informal verb and noun structures in French can be tricky, but there are several differences to the basic structure of the letter as well, including how a person is referred to at the start of the message and how the letter concludes. Learning how to write letters in French is necessary if you want to communicate effectively.
- Skill level:
Write your name and return address in the top-left corner of the page. Put the name and address of the recipient below your name and address but on the right side of the page. If the recipient has a title and you are writing to them in a formal capacity, such as "Directeur," this is written after their full name. Write the date below the recipient's address on the right-hand side of the page.
Choose the proper greeting. Begin the letter with "Cher" if you are writing an informal letter such as one to a friend. If you are writing to someone you do not know personally, or are writing in a more official capacity, begin the letter with "Monsieur," "Madame" or the title of the recipient.
Compose the body of your letter. Use a friendly, conversational tone with friends and other similar acquaintances, but remember to keep a more formal letter, such as business correspondence or other official letters, in a formal tone. End the letter with an appropriate salutation, such as "Amicalement" for a conversational letter, or "Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur, nos salutations distinguées." for a formal letter. "Cordialement" can be used for both.
Tips and warnings
- Although it is common to end each line of an address in English with a comma, in French this is considered incorrect and could even lead to your letter being misdirected if you add commas on the envelope itself. Using abbreviations is considered acceptable. So people will often write "boulevard" as simply "boul."
- Remember that in French the noun used for referring to the person you are speaking to changes depending on your level of familiarity with them. Using "tu" when you do not know the person well enough could be considered too forward or presumptuous. You should use "tu" for friendly letters to people you are close to, and "vous" for everything else, especially business letters.
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