Writing Good Letters

from friendsfirst’s Top Tips book

Writing a good letter to someone can be the make or break of starting and/or continuing a friendship/relationship. It’s becoming something less and less common these days – and if it’s a skill that you are not used to then you might find these principles and tips useful.

Presentation

  • When you write to someone for the first time, be aware that first impressions count for a lot and that the presentation of your letter is vital. If you write on good quality paper and use a good quality envelope, and include an interesting letter (more on this below) you are much more likely to generate interest and get a rely than if you write on a scrappy bit of lined paper (e.g. out of a cheap notebook) and use a cheap or even an already used envelope! Invest in some decent quality writing paper and envelopes – you’ll find it’s worth it in the end.
  • Think about the letters you get through the post from a variety of different organisations –what impressions do they create before you even open them? In the same way think about the impression your letter is going to give.
  • Is your handwriting legible? If so write by hand – it’s much more personal. However, if it’s not legible then consider typing your letter. There’s nothing more off-putting than having to strain to read someone’s unintelligible scribble, before you get the gist of what they are saying.
  • Put spaces between your paragraphs. It adds interest and makes your letter easier to read. One continuous blob of text is off-putting and may make the reader less inclined to finish your letter, let alone respond to it.

Content

  • Writing a letter to a stranger is no easy task for any of us – and even if you’ve got some knowledge of them from their profile, you still need to put some effort into writing to them. Sending a two line letter just saying you’ve had their profile isn’t going to motivate the reader to reply to you.
  • Again think about the impression your letter is going to create. A really good letter which makes the other person smile is worth its weight in gold. Your letter may also be the only nice thing that the person gets all day or week and that can have a huge impact.
  • Everyone likes other people to be interested in them, so it’s probably best to mention the things in their profile (or if they’ve written to you first, then the things in their letter) that have particularly caught your attention. You might want to say why they have caught your attention and demonstrate some genuine enthusiasm about them.
  • Demonstrating that you share particular interests, points of view, or beliefs is a great way to establish some common ground and that will attract the reader.
  • Although you want to tell the reader a bit about yourself, don’t go on endlessly. Do give something of yourself away – and don’t necessarily just repeat what’s in your profile. Since the person you are writing to won’t necessarily have had your profile, you might consider photocopying it, including it in your letter and then adding to it- perhaps enhancing some of the things you’re interested in, or adding other things which tell the reader a bit more about the real you. For example, if you like theatre, give a description of the types of theatre you like and why you like them. A description of your self as tall with brown hair and blue eyes is all very well but it doesn’t really tell the reader who you are as a person and that is ultimately what good friendships are about – getting to know the real you.
  • Don’t be too forward in your first couple of letters. Telling someone in your first letter that you think they are the person for you, is going to put most people off. Allow people to respond to you before you attempt to dive into a friendship/relationship. Remember that good friendships take time to grow, and although some are instantaneous, that’s not the norm for most people.
  • Above all, be honest – don’t try to be someone you’re not. It won’t work for very long – you’ll soon be found out and you will definitely lose any chances you had of making a good lasting friendship. Dishonesty only leads ultimately to pain, heartache, disappointment and rejection. Allow people to get to know the real you and like you for it.
  • Treat every person as an individual – you are very unlikely to get a positive response to your letter if you have a photocopies standard letter and simply fill in people’s names and send it off to them. It will make the recipient feel that you are not really interested in them at all, and will be quite a self defeating exercise.
  • End your letter with a good reason for the other person to contact you back. It may be that you ask them for more information about something in their profile or letter that has interested you, or you raise a topic for discussion.
  • Close your letter with good wishes to the other person. A closing statement which wishes the person well whether or not they respond to your letter, speaks volumes about you. It may be the one thing that will generate a response from them!
  • Consider your letter before you send it. Ask yourself if you would be interested enough to reply to it, if it had been sent to you. If you are not getting responses to your letters, reconsider how you might be coming across to people and try a different approach.
  • Think about the presentation and content of your letters – if you are not getting replies to the letters you are sending, is it because you’ve already given people enough reasons to think they wouldn’t want to contact you?
  • If you don’t want to give the person you are writing to your address (and this is fine), then don’t forget to include your ownfriendsfirst box number so that they are able to reply to you using our box number system.
  • Don’t be too impatient to get a reply. Although we encourage all our members to respond promptly to the letters they have received from other members, people do lead busy lives, go away on holiday, have unforeseen priorities come up etc, which may lead to a delay in replying. If you have waited for a few weeks and still haven’t had a reply, it is worth writing another short note to the person concerned, including the fact that you would really like to hear back from them. There is always the possibility your letter has got lost – it does happen.
  • You might also follow your letter up with a phone call (if you have the person’s number) as it can take a lot of time to respond to letters and some people just may not like writing letters at all.

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