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Writing Letters: The Letter Format

Congratulation Letters

The congratulation letter is one of the easiest and happiest of letters to write. It is also the sort of letter that a family may keep for years.

Dear Mark:

Congratulations on receiving the fellowship and study grant from Princeton. It is not only a tribute to your brilliance and hard work, but it will give you the opportunity to explore some of the avenues of investigation we have been talking about so wistfully. All of us here at the lab share the joy of this moment with you. We will miss you during the term of your studies and look forward to welcoming you back.

With best wishes,
Jerry

Apology Letters

If you've offended someone and are sorry about it, the best thing to do is apologize in person and follow up with a letter. In any case the letter must say clearly and humbly that you are sorry. If there is some way in which you can make amends, promise to do so.

Dear Mrs. Fitzhugh:

Please accept my sincere apology for having failed to attend your dinner party after assuring you that I would be there. I know how the unexpected absence of a guest can upset the plans of a hostess and am deeply sorry for any distress I may have caused.

My guilt is even greater because I do not have the excuse of a family emergency or other crisis. I simply got the date wrong, and forgot to check to make sure.

Once again, I most humbly apologize and hope that you will forgive my carelessness.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth

Dear John
Faux Pas

Printed thank-you notes from a gift shop are not acceptable as tokens of gratitude. Gratitude does not come prepackaged. And, no, a telephone call is not good enough.

The overriding objective in this case is to end a romantic relationship with as little pain to the other person as possible.

  • You have to start with a straightforward statement giving the reason for the letter.
  • Apologize and offer an explanation that does not blame the other person, something—if possible—that is beyond the control of either of you.
  • If there is blame involved, blame yourself.
  • Don't lie.
  • Don't leave the door open—not even by a crack.

Dear Robert:

After a lot of thought and soul searching, I have come to the realization that it is time to bring our relationship to an end.

Our personalities, interests, and backgrounds are so different that conflicts and unhappiness are inevitable for both of us. I am firmly convinced that I will never be the sort of woman who would fit into your world. I am sure that you will come to realize that as well. I recognize that the reason for this is a lack of flexibility on my part, but I can't seem to help it.

I think we should make a clean break and not try to contact each other again. I wish you nothing but success and happiness.

Sincerely,
Mary



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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