I’m writing this “letter” to explain the conventions that we, Spanish speakers, employ (use) when we write letters. I hope this information is useful to you-- Spanish learners--for keeping in contact with Spanish speakers and friends from all over the world, and to do business with different companies from Spanish-speaking countries.
Letters are very interesting in language learning. The conventions and forms of letter-writing differ in every language, so they are a reflection of the way different cultures organize their messages. Besides, they provide learners of a second language with an opportunity to write with a real purpose in mind.. Nowadays, letters have been replaced mostly by e-mails, but the conventions and styles of letter-writing are very similar in both cases.
Before starting your letter, ask yourself the following questions:
● Why am I writing? Is it an obligation? For friendship?
● What is the purpose of my letter: to complain, to request something, to inform, to get a job interview, to keep in touch with an old friend, etc?
● Who is my audience? What is the relationship I want to establish with my readers?
● What do I want to say?
The answers may help you to generate (come up with) ideas and to make the right lexical (related to words) decisions when you address (communicate with) your readership. Moreover, having a clear idea on what you want to achieve is the key to success in communication. Through letters we express our personality, our desires and our knowledge of the other’s culture. If you don’t leave a good impression on these aspects, you may not reach your goals.
I have divided information about writing into three parts: the opening, body and the ending of the letter. Each one of these sections is divided into informal and informal forms. I hope you enjoy and learn a lot from this.
|Hola: / Hi,||Estimado Sr. Fierro: (man’s last name) / Dear Mr. Fierro,|
|Querido Pedro: (man’s name) / Dear Pedro,||Estimada Sra. Gómez: (woman’s last name) / Dear Mrs. Gómez,|
|Querida Jessica: (woman’s name) / Dear Jessica,||Estimado Sr. Director: / Dear Director,|
|Hola a todos: / Hello everybody,||A quien corresponda: / To whom it may concern,|
|Queridos amigos: / Dear friends,||
De mi consideración:It does not have an equivalent in English. It is used when you are addressing an institution and do not know who will receive your message.
● Note that in the opening section of the letter, we use a colon (:) and not the comma (,) as in English.
● Dear is translated as either Querido/a or Estimado/a. Querido/a is used to show affection in Spanish and is not, by any means, a formal form of address. Estimado/a is often used to show respect and is very common in business and professional fields.
The body of the letter will vary depending on the content of your message. Keep in mind that just as in English, in informal letters you can use colloquial words, whereas in formal ones your tone has to be serious and respectful. Here are some considerations:
● Include the reason why you are writing.
● Include Information about the topic you want to discuss.
● At the end, give a general conclusion of your overall letter.
In this section of the letter, also consider the use of the pronouns tú or usted. On the one hand, tú is used to address friends or people who you feel close to. On the other hand, usted is used to show respect to the company or people who are in a higher position at an institution.
|Cariños / Love,||Atentamente, / Sincerely yours,|
|Un saludo, / Best wishes,||Saludos cordiales, / Best regards,|
The recommendations here are not exhaustive (tired, all used up) but they are the most common in different forms of writing. A person in love, for example, may close a letter as Tuyo por siempre (I am yours forever). But, this is a special case.
This letter from me gives you some general ideas of the conventions employed in Spanish in everyday messages, and can be helpful if you don’t have any ideas on how to start or close a letter.
Additionally, be careful about translating literally from English into Spanish. English expressions such as sincerely yours can yield undesirable results in Spanish: Sinceramente tuyo sounds as if you are in love with your addressee. I’m sure you don’t want to give the wrong idea.
Now that you know how to write a letter, try to contact old pals and have fun with them. But, be careful not to express feelings of love unexpectedly to a commercial partner because you’ve forgotten or ignored the formal ways of letter-writing in Spanish!
Edited by Ilene Springer
Hero Image by Jeff Nelson (CC BY-SA 2.0)