Writing Letters in French: Tips and Tricks for Beginners

Elly Kim7 min
Created: Nov 28, 2023Last updated: Nov 28, 2023
How to Write Letters in French

The digital era of emails and messengers significantly simplifies communication through countries and continents. However, paper letters are still an important part of life in France. First, such popularity is connected with the country’s bureaucracy. On the other hand, many locals still enjoy old-fashioned writing, preferring it to modern ways of communication. Therefore, learners should master this skill, especially if they plan to move to the state. The first question they usually ask is how to write an address in French.

On this page, we want to reveal all the secrets and give students essential tips for forming a comprehensive letter. Even though they have become a thing of the past for many people in the modern world, you never know when this skill will come in handy. Learn the details on this page and practice writing perfect letters.

How to Write Letters in French: Basic Etiquette Rules

First of all, you should write the addressee’s name on the envelope. However, remember that simply mentioning the surname and initials is not enough. French residents usually add “madame” [madˈam], “monsieur” [məsjˈø], or “mademoiselle” [mademoizˈɛlle]. These words can be abbreviated as “Mme,” “M,” and “Mlle,” respectively. It’s a polite way to address a person, so try to comply with this requirement when writing a letter. 

In addition, the surname is often written in capital letters to avoid misconceptions. Indicating the company’s name on the envelope is critical for writing a business message, so pay special attention to this point. In this case, it would be easier for the postal service to bring your letter to the correct addressee and avoid mistakes during the delivery. You want it to reach the recipient as soon as possible, right? 

It’s worth noting that all these rules are not so necessary in online communication, and it’s often allowed to skip them. However, formal communication still requires people to comply with appropriate letter etiquette, so remember the primary rules when applying for a job or communicating with colleagues.

France Address Format: Tips for Your Letter to Get to Recipient

Even though online communication is more prevalent in the 21st century, millions of letters are still sent annually. Postal services are not secured against mistakes like bringing the paper to the wrong recipient or confusing the final destination. Therefore, it’s important to consider some basic rules for writing the address:

  1. The address should be put in the middle of the front of the envelope (remember to leave space for special postcodes that will be added by postal services).
  2. One line shouldn’t exceed 38 characters, so you should better divide information into separate fields if the words are too long.
  3. The address must be written in such form: house number, street name, postal code, and recipient’s city of residence (the latter two points are usually indicated on a separate line).
  4. Putting a comma between the house number and the street name is not required.
  5. It’s recommended to write the town or city’s name in capital letters to eliminate possible misconceptions.

Starting a letter in French with the recipient’s name and address is essential so that your message reaches the necessary destination. Be attentive to this point and double-check all the details before sending.

French Business Letter: Rules and Peculiarities

While it’s easy to come up with what to write to friends and relatives, business communication usually raises more questions. However, there’s no need to worry about it, as there are not so many requirements. Politeness and accuracy are the main principles you should stick to. 

The standard salutations in business letters include options like “Madame” [madˈam], “Monsieur” [məsjˈø], “Mademoiselle” [mademoizˈɛlle], “Monsieur le Directeur” [məsjˈø lˈe direkteˈur] (dear director), “Chers Collègues” [kˈɛrs kollˈɛɡwes] (dear colleagues), and so on. 

After that, think about proper French letter opening. It should be laconic and express your respect to the recipient. Some basic expressions that are suitable in multiple instances are the following: 

  1. Je vous serais très reconnaissant(e) de... [d͡ʒˈe vˈoʊs serˈaːɪs trˈɛs rekonnˈa͡ɪs͡sant(ˈeː) dˈe] – I would be very grateful if you…
  2. Bien vouloir m'envoyer des renseignements plus complets sur le poste de... [bjˈɛn voʊlˈɔir menvojˈɛr dˈes renseiɲˈements plˈus kˈɔmplets sˈur lˈe pˈɔste dˈe] – Please send me more complete information about the position of...
  3. Je vous écris concernant... [d͡ʒˈe vˈoʊs ˈekris kont͡ʃˈɛrnant] – I am writing to you concerning…

The main tips for writing a business letter include using a professional tone, being laconic, and showing respect to the addressee. Don’t write too many details, especially when applying for a job in France. Highlight the most important factors, while further information will be discussed in the interview.

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Signing a Letter in French: Don’t Remain Anonymous

Overall, writing is not complicated when you memorize the above rules. However, it’s important to remember to sign the letter. A recipient would like to know who has been writing to them and get the chance to reply. Signing a letter is another way to demonstrate your respect and warm feelings, so grab some ideas: 

  1. Recevez, je vous prie, mes meilleures amitiés [ret͡ʃˈevet͡s, d͡ʒˈe vˈoʊs priˈe, mˈɛs meilleˈures amitˈies] – Please receive my best regards.
  2. Salutations distinguées [salʊtˈatjons distiŋɡwˈees] – Kind regards.
  3. Je vous prie d’agréer l’expression de mes meilleures salutations [d͡ʒˈe vˈoʊs priˈe d̪ˈiː’aɡrˈeer ˈɛlle’eksprˈes͡sjon dˈe mˈɛs meilleˈures salʊtˈatjons] – Please accept the expression of my best regards.
  4. Bien à vous [bjˈɛn ˈa vˈoʊs] – Yours sincerely.
  5. Votre ami dévoué(e) [vˈɔtre ˈamɪ dˈevoʊˈe(ˈeː)] – Your devoted friend.
  6. Chaleureusement [t͡ʃaleʊreʊzˈement] – Warmly.

You can choose the letter closing from the list above or add another phrase you like. Don’t forget to add your name and surname at the end so the addressee can know who sent it. Sticking to the etiquette requirements is crucial in formal and informal letters; don’t skip this to expand your writing skills.

Reasons to Write a Letter in French

For many people, letters remain a favorite means of communication, and it’s not without reason. These authentic messages are filled with the romantic spirit, so why not try them yourself? Grab some ideas on why you should write at least one letter: 

  1. An excellent way to practice your skills.
  2. A possibility to find new friends and keep in touch with them.
  3. A chance to dip into the country’s culture and traditions.
  4. An opportunity to replenish your vocabulary.

Handwritten letters are more personal; while emails don’t require much time and effort, paper messages are more complicated. Therefore, it’s a way to demonstrate your warm feelings to a close person. On the other hand, business letters are a necessity for many. A lot of companies have already switched to digital communication channels, but some still stick to old-fashioned means. In any case, you never know when the skill of writing letters will be useful, so it’s better to master it in advance.

Explore French Letter Writing and Other Topics with Assistance from Promova

Numerous online resources for every user provide multiple opportunities to learn French without additional help. However, engaging in guided courses is a fun and effective way to master the language. The Promova platform offers to join it in a downloadable French learning app or use the web version to enjoy lessons developed by highly experienced tutors. 

New words every day and exciting quizzes for students are an indispensable part of interactive learning with Promova. You can enjoy the free version or buy a Premium subscription to get even more benefits. Mastering French with Promova is exciting; moreover, you can always take courses with you wherever you are.

Conclusion

Many people in the modern world might not have touched a pen for years, but it’s not the case with French residents. Locals often write letters, both formal and informal. The tradition is still kept in the country, which is why students need to learn the basics. Memorize the main aspects and get some practice in writing to implement this skill when necessary.

FAQ

Which materials should I use to replenish my French vocabulary?

Reading books is the best idea for language learners, as they can dip into exciting stories and memorize new wordings and collocations. In this case, you cannot deal without online dictionaries, which will help you translate unknown expressions with one click and find examples of their usage. The most popular tools for students include the Collins-Robert French Dictionary and Merriam-Webster’s French-English Dictionary. Use them regularly to replenish your lexicon and strengthen your skills as frequently as possible.

What is the best way to practice in writing letters?

Find a penfriend in a French-speaking country and offer them to keep in touch using written letters. Many people miss this old-fashioned communication style. In France, writing letters is still widespread, so you can take them as an example and get more practice. However, you can also do it for yourself; use the guide on this page and write regularly to strengthen your skills.

What is the French address example for writing a letter?

French people usually write the house number, street name, postal code, and city. The order always remains the same, which makes it easier for learners to memorize the rules. Grab an example to understand everything: 27 Rue De Grenell 75304 Lille. In most cases, the code and city are added as a separate line so that the postal service can sort all the letters faster and deliver them to their addressee.

What tips should students use to master French faster?

It’s important to remember that regularity is the primary point when learning any language. Therefore, experienced tutors recommend memorizing at least a few words and expressions daily. Moreover, you can implement French into your routine: read books, listen to songs, watch movies with English subtitles, and enjoy exciting podcasts. In addition, practicing speaking skills is essential. Find like-minded people who also develop their skills, and talk to them to boost your knowledge.

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