The tone and language of a letter

The tone of a letter reflects the attitude of the writer to the addressee and the relationship between them. Using the appropriate words, sentences and set formulas are essential in setting the right tone.

Suitable salutations

Care should be taken regarding the use of the right form of salutation or greeting. A wrong salutation like 'My Dear Miss Sullivan' instead of 'Dear Miss Sullivan' to just an acquaintance or 'Dear Gupta' instead of 'Dear Mr Gupta' to a friend of your parent will give a wrong signal of over-familiarity or disrespect.

Requests for Reply

If you ask for a reply, make sure to frame your request courteously so that it will sound as a real request and not a demand. In an informal letter you can use one of the following expressions:

I will be glad to hear from you. Just drop a letter when you have time.
Please reply when you have got the time to spare.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

In a semi-formal letter, you can write any one of the following expressions.

I shall look forward to hearing from you as soon as you have the time to write.
I would be grateful if you could possibly send a reply at your convenience.
Could you please let me have your reply at your convenience?

In a formal letter you may write:

It would be much appreciated if you could inform me at the earliest.
I shall be grateful if you could let me have the information as soon as possible.

Whatever be the kind of letter, do not use expressions like 'Kindly reply immediately' or 'I expect your answer within a week'. These expressions sound like orders despite using the word kindly.


If you fail to carry out any promise, instruction or request you may want to apologize. In an informal letter, write: I am really/terribly/truly/so sorry that I could not come.

In a semi-formal letter you may use the following expressions:

I am very sorry that I did not come.
I must apologize for my failure to turn up.

In a formal letter write:

I very much regret my failure to attend.
I am writing to apologize for my failure to come.

Do not be excessively humble in your apologies. Also do not use such subscriptions as 'Yours Obediently', 'Yours Respectfully' or 'I remain your obedient servant'. These expressions are no longer used.

Sections in this article

What is an email
Subject line
Formats, grammar and spelling
Addresses and personal names
Courtesy and politeness
Privacy concerns
How to write a request letter?
Request letter sample 1
Request letter sample 2
Sample request letter asking for a raise
Resignation letter sample 1
Resignation letter sample 2

More formal letter samples

Recommendation letter
College recommendation letter sample
Business letter writing tips
How to Write an Apology Letter
Business Apology Letter Sample I
Personal Apology Letter Sample I
Email writing tips
Resume writing
How to write a cover letter
How to write a letter of enquiry
Standard phrases used in formal letters

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