Whether you’re searching for a new job, applying for grad school, or something equally as important, writing and formatting is only half the battle.

You don’t want to just write any old letter: you want to know how to write effective letters that increase your chances of success.

Luckily, this post has exactly what you need.

Uncapped calligraphy pen on a sheet of paper with some handwritten text.
Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Here’s a quick table of contents to help you get to what you need faster:

Page 1: History of Letter Writing
Page 2: Cover Letters
Page 3: Business Letters
Page 4: Letters of Introduction
Page 5: Letters of Recommendation
Page 6: Letters of Resignation
Page 7: Letters of Complaint
Page 8: Letters to the Government
Page 9: Letters to Save a Life

Does the thought of writing a formal letter make you break out in a cold sweat? If so, you’re not alone.

Most of us don’t spend our days crafting handwritten correspondences like our forebears did. In this modern world of instant communication and bite-sized exchanges, letter writing is a skill that no longer comes naturally to most of us.

But there are several instances where we are required to compose a formal letter in order to achieve the desired result. Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the history.

The History of Letter Writing

If you want to learn how to write effective letters, it may help to understand a little about the practice and how it has evolved over time.

Though the origins of written correspondence is a bit murky, ThoughtCo. cites 2400 B.C.E. as the first mail service for which we have historical proof. This was in Egypt, and many developed cultures also utilized messengers before the Common Era. As for the first handwritten letter, Handwrittenletters.com claims it’s an epistle written in 500 B.C.E. by Queen Atossa of Persia (now Iran). But ThoughtCo. states the oldest surviving piece of mail wasn’t written until 255 B.C.E. in Egypt.

And honestly, they could both be right.

Perhaps the Persian letter was hand-delivered and not mailed. Maybe the Egyptian letter was stamped instead of handwritten.

Either way, one thing stands out: people have been writing letters for a long time.

Bonus: This post by Buzzfeed on letters from history is fascinating. And if you’d like to read historical letters with a more romantic slant, read this post by Co. Design.

On the next page, we’ll tackle the type of letter most of us will face at least once in our lives: the cover letter.

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