How to Send a Letter: The Ultimate Guide
You may have noticed that handwritten mail seems to be making a slight comeback after years of being overshadowed by the speed and ease of email. However, despite this slow return to the communication forefront, sixty percent of adults have sent fewer than five handwritten letters in the past decade. So, if you’re part of that statistic, you may be wondering how to send a letter, or need a reminder of the details, or may just want to learn a little bit more about the process. If so, this step-by-step guide is just the tool for you.
Unlike the early days of the postal service, when envelopes and stamps did not yet exist, these days you need to choose what envelope to put your letter in. Gone are the days when you could simply fold the paper and seal it shut; now you need an extra piece of paper to hold and protect your mail.
So, first thing’s first: you need to get the letter ready to send. While this may seem like the most straightforward thing you can do, there are (maybe surprisingly) multiple factors you need to consider. For instance:
- Durability: The envelope needs to be strong enough to hold whatever contents are inside. A thin envelope could be destroyed in transit if what it contains is fairly heavy in comparison to the envelope itself. Ever put a bunch of printed photographs into an envelope which wasn’t quite big enough for the stack of pictures? You don’t want these photos scattered all over the sidewalk just because you didn’t choose the right envelope for the job.
- Size: The envelope’s size should match that of its contents. If a letter can be folded into thirds and mailed in a business-size envelope, perfect! If it can’t be folded, you’ll need a bigger envelope, and contrarily, if the paper or note is smaller, choose a little envelope.
- Purpose: Why are you mailing this letter? If it is for business reasons, such as mailing a resume and/or cover letter, you won’t want to send it in a colourful envelope with decorations; you will want a professional-looking envelope. Alternatively, if you’re sending a personal birthday card to a friend, you wouldn’t want it in a white commercial envelope. Pick the envelope style which suits your intended recipient.
- Destination: Where is the letter going? If it isn’t traveling far, there is less need to worry about how tough it is; whereas if it is headed overseas, you’ll want a sturdier envelope to ensure it won’t be damaged en route.
- Cost: Keep in mind that postage cost depends on the size, shape, and weight of your item. You can save money by sending mail which fits through letter slots; envelopes larger than letter-size will be charged package rates.
- Shape: In order for your envelope to fit through the automated mail-processing machines, they must be flat. If they don’t fit, they are considered non-machinable and will cost extra to send. This includes any envelopes with clasps, strings, or buttons, as well as lumpy, unusually shaped square or vertical envelopes.
The Premier Paper Group has this handy Essential Guide to Envelopes to give you even more advice on the matter. For more information on envelope requirements, including size and weight, check your country’s postal service website.
Side Note: Postcards
If you are mailing a postcard, they can be written on directly and posted without an envelope. That is, unless you have glued an attachment onto it, or added any projecting parts, which will then require the postcard to be enclosed in an envelope and mailed as a letter.
While on the topic of postcards, it may be worthwhile to mention that I have personally been told by a postal worker that I am better off mailing postcards as a letter, as postcards quite frequently get lost in the mail; in fact, lost items remain the most common cause of complaint Royal Mail receives. Letters are more likely to be successfully delivered than postcards, according to the lovely postal worker I spoke with.
While this may be due to factors such as (a) people writing their message first, not taking into account how small postcards are, thus running their message into the area where the recipient address is supposed to go, and not having enough space to neatly write the address down… or (b) the postcard getting a bit wet and blurring the ink to an undistinguishable state… or (c) postcards being non-machine-readable, thus requiring manual processing… putting a postcard into an envelope sort of negates the point of sending one, no?
Enclose the Letter and Seal the Envelope
Start by writing the name and address of the recipient on the front of the envelope, right in the middle. Be sure to include their full name or company name, apartment or house number and street name, city, state/province, and zip/post code, with each deserving their own line – there should typically be just three lines. For example:
However, every country seems to have their own little unique address traits. For instance, US zip codes may be 5 or 9 digits. If it’s 9 digits, you need to add a hyphen to separate the 5th and 6th digits. Conversely, don’t ever use a hyphen for a Canadian postal code, it’ll cause delays. Again, best to confirm with your country’s postal service guidelines.
Address Writing Tips
If you aren’t sure of the post code, many countries have free online tools to help you, such as Royal Mail’s in the UK (you may find our How to mail a letter: UK guide helpful), or Canada Post’s page, or the USPS tool, or Australia Post’s, or… you get the point.
You are welcome to use the two-letter post code for the province if you prefer. Or, if you’d rather take up more space and use more ink, write it all out. For example, in Canada, you may use NS instead of Nova Scotia. If this seems lazy to you, you clearly don’t live in a province like Prince Edward Island (PEI) or Saskatchewan (SK).
Adversely, for US addresses, you should always use the 2-character state symbol rather than the full state name. I suppose the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” is a bit wordy in comparison to “RI”.
In order to ensure it reaches its destination, use clear, printed writing in dark ink. You don’t want the postal employee as confused as a patient trying to read a doctor’s handwriting. You may even want to use a label with the address printed on it, just to be clear.
Why does this matter so much? Well, do you want to cause a delay in delivery (Royal Mail received nearly 70,000 complaints for delays in 2018/19), or do you want to help make the postal worker’s life easier and reduce the risk of your letter getting lost (Royal Mail received over 237,000 loss complaints in 2018/19)?
How to Send a Follow-Up Email After an Interview
You want to keep the follow-up email relatively brief. This isn’t the time to ramble on about all the reasons you should get the job, or answer a bunch of questions you wish they had asked during the interview. It’s also not the time to simply state “thank you!” and sign off. Your follow-up email should be a few brief paragraphs, 3-4 sentences each, and stay focused on the topic at hand.
This is a small but mighty detail. Make sure you spell their name correctly in your email and get their title right. A small mistake like this could make you seem careless and hasty, neither of which are descriptors you want. Spend an extra 10 seconds after you draft the email ensuring these details are correct.
We’ve included a template below, but make sure you personalize it to your interviewer, the job you want, you and your specific conversation. It shouldn’t read like a generic message you’re sending to 10 different interviewers for a variety of other positions (even if you are).
Julia Pollack, Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter notes that you should “Always emal interviewers and thank them for their time” and that a “winning move is to show your interviewers you were engaged in the conversation by noting something they said and mentioning why it has increased you enthusiasm for the role and for the mission of the company.”
If you’re in the interview process and still aren’t sold on the job prospects ahead of you, there are plenty of resources for finding your next great opportunity on ZipRecruiter‘s website. Follow the link below for more details.