Snail mail is dead. Right?
Although emails are our favorite way to communicate nowadays, there are still a ton of reasons to write letters in Spanish: from responding to an invitation to your friend’s wedding in Seville, to writing an official letter to a new Mexican client.
And when you write, you want your Spanish to sound as native and natural as possible.
Let’s learn how to do that!
Writing Letters in Spanish Made Easy: How to Snail Mail Like a Native
When writing letters in Spanish, there are heaps of greetings you can use, depending on the level of your letter’s formality.
So, the first task is to figure out the purpose of your letter. Are you writing to someone you know personally? Or are they a professional contact? Your answer determines which kind of letter you’ll write: informal or formal.
Writing Informal Letters in Spanish
These are letters you’d write to someone you know, and usually someone who you’d call tu (informal version of “you”). Informal letters are casual communication, so you can use relaxed language.
Beginning an Informal Spanish Letter
To start an informal letter, you’d normally use the form of address, Querido (dear). For example:
- Querido Juan: (Dear Juan)
- Querida Ana: (Dear Ana)
The word querido/a works like a normal Spanish adjective, so it has to agree with the gender of the person you are writing to. It also works in the plural: mis queridos amigos (my dear friends). For very close friends, you can use queridísimo/a (My very dear)!
Did you notice another interesting thing in the examples? They were followed by a colon, not a comma. This is the standard in Spanish. Don’t use a comma as you would in English, as it looks obviously Anglicized. And we’re aiming to write like native Spanish speakers!
Useful Phrases for Informal Spanish Letters
Once you’ve addressed the person you’re writing to, go ahead and write whatever it is you want to tell them! Here are some common phrases that might help with constructing your letter:
- Salúdame a tu familia (Say hello to your family)
- Recuerdos de parte de mi madre (My mom sends her wishes)
- Me alegró mucho recibir noticias tuyas (It was lovely to hear from you)
- Perdona que no te haya escrito antes pero… (Forgive me for not having written to you sooner, but…)
- Te agradezco mucho… (I am very grateful to you for…)
Other than these phrases, you can put your Spanish communication skills to use and write as you’d speak to a friend.
If you’re not sure how to write casually, you can mine FluentU’s authentic videos for ideas.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It’s a fun and effective way to immerse yourself in Spanish as it’s used in real life and learn plenty of natural phrases, expressions and vocabulary.
Closing Your Informal Spanish Letter
Once you’ve written your message, you need to sign off using a friendly greeting. Some examples are below. They may seem overly affectionate compared to English, but this is normal! (Remember, people often greet each other in person with a kiss on the cheek!)
- Abrazos (Hugs)
- Abrazos y besos (Hugs and kisses)
- Afectuosamente (Yours affectionately)
Or, for people you aren’t too close to, such as a colleague, use:
- Saludos (Greetings)
- Cariños (Kindest regards)
P.S. One More Thing…
Need to add something to your letter after you’ve signed off? Spanish speakers use the initials P.D., which stands for posdata, from the Latin post data. This is the equivalent to P.S. in English and is mostly used in casual letters.
And that’s it! Here you have all you need to write letters to friends and family. No more putting off writing to the friends you made while backpacking South America!
Let’s crank it up a notch and look at more formal communications.
Writing a Formal Letter in Spanish
Formal letters are… well, a much more formal affair!
There are conventions on how to write formal letters in Spanish, and it’s important to follow them to look professional and make a good impression.
But the great news is, once you know the guidelines and a few stock phrases, writing business and other formal letters in Spanish becomes a breeze!
Handy Hints for Formal Spanish Letters
The first rule is to use the personal pronouns usted/ustedes (formal version of you). Just like in spoken Spanish, when writing in Spanish, you use usted to demonstrate respect for the recipient. This is especially important in business communication.
Secondly, the tone and vocabulary in formal Spanish letters can feel exaggerated to a native English speaker. But it’s completely normal for the language to feel a bit “flowery.” Lean into it: this is how to write like a native!
Beginning Your Formal Spanish Letter
Querido/a is too casual for a business letter.
Formal letters have many possible openings, covering a variety of writer/recipient relationships. Let’s look at some.
- Use Estimado/a (Dear) for when you know the person by name, but would address them as Señor (Mr.) or Señora (Mrs.)
e.g. Estimado Sr. García (Dear Mr. García)
Note: Always use Sra. for a formal letter to a lady, unless you’re 100% certain she prefers to be called Señorita (Miss), which is abbreviated to Srta. It can be disrespectful to get it wrong!
- If you don’t know the exact person you’re writing to, use Muy señor(a) mío/a (My dear Sir/Madam)
- For writing to an institution, use Muy señores míos (Dear Sirs)
- The most formal opener is Distinguido/a Señor(a) (Distinguished Mr./Mrs.), followed by the person’s surname if you know it.
Just like with informal letters, the opening greeting must agree in number and gender, and end with a colon.
Let’s say you’re hunting for a job in Spain. You may not know which person or department to send your résumé to, so instead use A quién corresponda (To whom it may concern).
Body of a Formal Letter
So now that you’ve addressed your reader respectfully, let’s get to the good stuff: the bulk of your letter.
While the subject and content of the letter are up to you, there are some common phrases that can help build your message. Here are a few:
- Adjunto encontrará (Enclosed you will find)
- Les escribo para informarles… (I am writing to you to inform you…)
- Le agradezco… (Thank you for…)
- Me dirijo a ustedes para solicitar mayor información sobre… (I am writing to ask for further information on…)
- Les ruego que me envíen… (Please send me…)
- Quedo a la espera de sus noticias (I look forward to hearing from you)
- Muchas gracias de antemano por su colaboración (Thank you in advance for your help)
- Le agradecería que me informara (I’d be grateful if you would let me know if)
Remember, the most important thing is to use the usted (formal version of “you”) form. Watch out for any tus (informal version of “you”) that might sneak in by accident!
Closing Your Letter
Just as with the openers, there are a bunch of options for closing your business letter. Try to match the level of formality of your opening greeting.
Here are some examples, from least to most formal:
- Saludos (Greetings)
- Un saludo cordial/Saludos cordiales (Best wishes)
- Sinceramente (Sincerely)
- Muy atentamente/Muy cordialmente (Yours sincerely)
These endings are followed by a comma, as in English. Then sign your name, and your letter is complete!
With the tools in this post, you should feel comfortable writing to anyone about any topic.
The best way to learn, though, is to practice. Why not find someone to write to on a regular basis? There are many websites dedicated to helping language students find a partner for a pen pal arrangement.
For practice at formal communication, try writing a cover letter for a job application or writing a letter of invitation to a pretend business contact for an upcoming business trip. The options are endless!
Siobhan Wood is a professional business writer with 10 years’ experience in export. She helps small businesses to increase sales and expand into overseas markets by creating kick-ass content and communications. Fluent in Spanish and French, she has studied languages for over 20 years. Read more about her business here.