How to Write a Letter in French: A Simple Guide - Talk in French
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How to Write a Letter in French: A Simple Guide

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letter in french

Writing letters can be stressful to a lot of people…. and even more so when you have to do it in French! Today we will make writing letters in French a lot easier with this simple guide on how to write a letter in French. 

In this lesson, you'll learn the words, phrases, and expressions for starting and ending your letter plus tips and examples.

You get an extra lesson on how to write emails in French, too! 

I. Greetings/ Salutations for French Letters

To start writing a letter in French, you need the proper salutation and the correct title of the person you are writing to.

Salutations for French Personal Letters

For personal correspondence, you can choose between the following scenarios and salutations.

If you know the person, you can use the following:

Cher Monsieur

Dear Sir

Cher Monsieur ______

Dear Mr. ______

Chère Madame

Dear Ma’am

Chère Madame ______

Dear Mrs. _______

Chère Mademoiselle

Dear Miss

Chers amis

Dear friends

Mon cher Pierre

My dear Pierre

Ma très chère Louise

My dearest Louise

For personal correspondence where you do not know the person you are writing to, you can choose from the following:

Monsieur

Sir

Monsieur ______

Mr. ______

Madame

Ma’am

Madame ______

Mrs. _______

Mademoiselle

Miss

Messieurs

Sirs

Salutations for French Formal Letters

For business letters, salutations are very formal and include the recipient’s title as needed. You may use the following salutations:

Monsieur, Madame

Sir, ma'am

Messieurs

Sirs

Monsieur

Sir

Madame

Ma'am

Mademoiselle

Miss

Monsieur le Directeur

Director

Monsieur le Ministre

Minister

Quick reminder

Take note of proper spacing when writing punctuations in French. When writing a sentence with a question mark or an exclamation point, there should be a space before and after it. For example: Bonjour ! Ça va ?

The same applies to writing colons and semi-colons, as well as quotation marks. 

 

II. How to close your letter

Just like the salutations, you will also need to use the correct closing at the end of your letter.

Closing Expressions for French Personal letters

For personal letters to acquaintances or friends that still require a level of formality, you may close it using the following expressions:

Je vous envoie mes amicales pensées.

Works like "Best wishes" but literally means "sending my friendly thoughts to you"

Recevez, je vous prie, mes meilleures amitiés. 

Yours sincerely.

Je vous adresse mon très amical souvenir.

Kindest regards.

Cordialement (à vous)

Cordially (yours)

Votre ami dévoué(e) 

Your devoted friend

Chaleureusement

With warm regards; Warmly

Bien amicalement

Sincerely; In friendship

Amitiés

Best wishes, All the best

Bien à vous, Bien à toi 

Best wishes

À bientôt !

See you soon!

Affectueusement

Fondly

affectueuses pensées

With fond thoughts

Please note that the translations are not exactly the same, but they more or less express the same thought.

For informal letters to close friends and family, you may be very liberal in showing your fondness to the person by using the following informal closing:

Bisous

Kisses

Grosses bises

Gros bisous

Je t’ embrasse (bien fort)

Big kisses

Bizoux

Kisses

Take note that the above closing expressions are similar to saying "hugs and kisses" or "XOXO" in English. You simply cannot use it to close a letter to, let's say, your boss or the hiring manager in the job you're eyeing. 

See also: French text slang and instant messaging shortcuts

Closing Expressions for French Formal or Business Letters


Cordialement*

Cordially

Bien à vous*

Yours truly

Meilleures salutations

Best regards

Salutations distinguées 

Sincerely

Je vous prie d’agréer, <insert the same title you used in your greetings> l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.

Please accept,______, the expression of my highest consideration. 

Je vous prie d’agréer, <insert the same title you used in your greetings> l’expression de mes meilleures salutations.

Please accept,______ , the expression of my best regards.

*These two are not too formal, and could be used for less formal situations.

Again, please take note that the above translations are more or less the equivalent expressions in English.

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III. Some example French letters

how to write a letter in French

Let’s take a look at two sample letters below. The first one is a personal letter and the second is a business letter.

Example 1: Personal Letter

Chère Mademoiselle,

C’est avec plaisir que je vous écris. L’envie me prend soudainement de vous conter l’une de mes nombreuses aventures...

Je vous envoie mes bien amicales pensées. À bientôt !

Dear Miss,

It is with pleasure that I’m writing to you. The urge suddenly takes me to tell you of one of my many adventures …

Best wishes. See you soon!

Example 2: Business Letter​

Monsieur,

Je me permets de vous écrire concernant l’offre de poste...

Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.

Sir,

Allow me to write you about the job offer...

Please accept, sir, the expression of my highest consideration.

IV. Additional Tips in Letter-Writing

Of course, starting and ending a letter written in French is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are more tips in writing letters in French.

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    In writing formal letters, always use “vous” and never “tu”.
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    For personal letters, you may use “tu” but only with people you are in tu terms with.
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    A properly worded and formatted letter will make your content sound credible. So take note of the correct form.
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    Write the return address at the top left of the page. Start with your name followed by your organization (for business letters) and then your address.
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    The recipient’s address will be placed below it to the right side.
  • Under it, place the town or city where the letter is being sent followed by the date.

Bonus: How to write an email in French

Let's face it, writing an email in French is another hurdle you must surpass. Whether you're writing an email to your boss, a colleague, or someone you barely know, you gotta make sure everything's in place before you hit the send button.

No worries to you because we're going to discuss here how to write emails, too!

  • Always start your email with a greeting such as "bonjour" or "bonsoir". Unlike letters, you don't need to use Cher / Chère, but if you know the person you're writing to and feel comfortable, go ahead and use it.
  • You can say, "Bonjour monsieur /madame" when emailing someone you're not yet acquainted with.
  • If you know the job title of the person you're writing to, you can include it in your salutation. For example, Monsieur le Directeur (Mr. Director) or Madame la Directrice (Madam Director).
  • When emailing someone you are in informal terms with, you can simply start your email with "Salut + the name" followed by some pleasantries. For example: Salut, Marianne ! J'espère que tu vas bien (Hello, Marianne! I hope you're doing well.)
  • Be mindful of the correct usage of tu and vous. 

Did you know?

La nétiquette refers to the French practice of writing good online correspondence especially emails. 

How to end formal emails

Like in English, there are also a set of email phrases and expressions commonly used when signing off in formal emails. Aside from the usual "merci" or "merci beaucoup", here are some ways to end an email in French:

Bien cordialement

kind regards

Cordialement

Cordially, used like "best regards"

Bien à vous

Yours truly, yours sincerely

Merci par avance

Thanks in advance

Merci par avance pour votre compréhension

Thanks in advance for your understanding

Je reste à votre disposition pour tout renseignement complémentaire

Feel free to contact me for any further information

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 Conclusion

Letter-writing is still a necessary skill despite the many new forms of communication available today. I hope this short guide will help solve your woes on how to write letters in French. Hopefully, you learned something about writing emails in French, too!

For the complete lesson on French letters including audio guides and exercises, grab your copy of My French Routine, a complete learning series that you could use to learn French independently from beginner level to advanced.

This particular lesson is part of My French Routine Volume 6: For Advanced Level. Check it out below.

About the Author Frederic Bibard

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Twitter and Google +

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