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Letter writing in Spanish is both an art and a science. Like any type of writing, a certain level of creativity is required to express yourself, your thoughts, your needs and your desires in letter form. At the same time, letters commonly use a number of set formulas, like the equivalent English words “Hi” and “Dear,” according to such variables as the level of formality required and the circumstances to be written about. But the opening of a letter in Spanish, those words used to greet the person and start the letter, are easy to learn.
Determine who you are writing the letter to. Are you writing to a friend? A manager at a company?
Determine the purpose of your letter: Why you are writing the letter to them? Are you writing a nice long letter home to your family while you are away on business? Are you addressing a human resources manager at a company where you would like to be employed?
Determine the right level of formality to use in your letter. As a rule of thumb, formal letters are reserved for business correspondence and people whom you don’t know very well while informal letters are for reserved for close friends and family.
Write the address of the company addressed in the top right-hand corner and below it, the date you are writing the letter. This is for formal business correspondence only and is not necessary if you are writing an email or writing an informal letter.
Open a formal letter with a phrase like “Estimado Sr. Fulano” (Dear Mr. Fulano) or “Estimada Sra. Blanco” (Dear Ms. Blanco). Use “Distinguido Sr. Fulano” (Dear Mr. Fulano) and “Distinguida Sra. Blanco” (Dear Ms. Blanco) if you want to be especially respectful. Like the words “Miss” and “Mrs.” in the English language, “Señorita” is no longer used in a business context; “Señora” is used exclusively instead.
Open an informal letter with a phrase like “Querido Javi” (Dear Javi) and “Querida Ana” (Dear Ana). You can also just say, “Hola Javi” (Hi Javi) or “Hola Ana” (Hi Ana).
Business correspondence among certain sectors in Spanish-speaking countries has become slightly more relaxed over the years, but it is always better to err on the side of being too formal rather than committing the mistake of being too informal.
If you don’t know the person’s name and cannot find out, simply open the letter with “Señor” (Sir), “Señora” (Madam) or “Señores” (Sirs).
- “Writing Letters in Spanish”; Enrique Pastor; 2006
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