Letter: Opening -The best way to begin a letter to a friend

Discussion in 'English Only' started by SandroIlSardo, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. SandroIlSardo Member

    Italy Italian
    Hi WR,
    I'm wondering which is the best way to begin a letter to a friend.


    Dear name,
    which could be the best way to start with? I mean, shall I say something like How are you? I hope everything is alright or shall I start in a different way?

  2. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    This really is a strange question, Alessandro. Are you sure the intended recipient is really a friend? Are you writing because you want to, or do you just feel you have to?

    When children have been told by their parents to write to their grandparents (a fairly common occurrence), they usually begin with "How are you? I'm fine." Then they sit for an hour trying to think of something else to write.

    I would thing that if you're writing to a friend, it's because you want to and you have something to say. So say it.

    There is no "standard" way to start a letter to a friend in English.
  3. SandroIlSardo Member

    Italy Italian
    thanks lexiphile,
    I thought about something to begin with because sounds rude to me to start asking something or telling my friend about myself without ask how is it going with him first.
  4. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    I understand your point, but I doubt if starting with something so banal as "How are you?" is going to help much.

    Certainly, if there is something specific you can ask about ("How was your holiday in Spitzbergen?) that might be better than filling the first five pages with egomaniacal verbiage and then asking "how are you, by the way?"

    But doesn't this problem arise in Italian as well? It doesn't seem to me to be a problem of language.
  5. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    You should also be aware that many people still regard the spelling "alright" to be non-standard and incorrect. Since no one would object to the traditional spelling "all right", you should use that in all cases and forget about "alright".
  6. Wobby Senior Member

    English [England]
    I don't know - perhaps it depends on the person. I would probably still start a letter with "How are you doing/How are things going" with the addition of 'down/up/over there' [EDIT: Only goes with 'How are things going...'] if they happen to live particularly far away, even if I don't necessarily expect a response... It is just a pleasant introduction. :)
  7. SandroIlSardo Member

    Italy Italian
    Thanks everyone,
    All right ;) What Wobby said is what I meant in my first post.
    I just wanted to know what you guys use as an introduction when writing to a friend. Although I don't write many letters, when I have to (either in Italian or in English) I like to start with something that breaks the ice.

    Imagine to get a letter or a mail from a friend of yours who you haven't heard from for ages and he want you to lend him some money; how would he start? With Can you lend me a grand? or with a sentence that seems he cares about you and he wrote because he also wanted to make sure you were still alive?

    Sorry if I've made some mistakes,
  8. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    Perhaps that's what I had in mind when I asked if this person is really a friend. :)
    With my close friends I don't need to break any ice. And I don't generally try to borrow money from them either. But rich casual acquaintences -- that's a different matter. Then yes, you should start by being as smarmy as you possible can.
  9. SandroIlSardo Member

    Italy Italian
    Don't get me wrong lexiphile! I'm not going to beg anyone for money!:)
    It was just the first useful example which came up to my mind!

    Thanks anyway!
  10. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    It seems to me that if you ask "how are you?" in a written missive delivered through the postal service, it's the height of insincerity since you're not going to get an answer in any meaningful time frame.

    I you must use some throwaway words, you might at least make them rational, e.g. "I hope things are going well with you."
  11. SandroIlSardo Member

    Italy Italian

    So you mean that I should say something like this:

    How are you doing downthere? I hope things are going well with you

    Am I right?
  12. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    I think the well-wishes suffice.
  13. AngelEyes

    AngelEyes Senior Member

    English - United States
    Lexi's correct. If you're writing to a friend, all you have to do is write from your heart.

    "Dear name" is almost too formal for a friend.

    So it all depends on your true relationship. If you're close, I would start it out with:

    "Hi, ________. How are you? I miss you! I hope you're happy and doing well. It feels wonderful to write to you..."

    This is how I would approach it.

    Write as if they're sitting there in front of you and you're just talking to them like the good friend you are.


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