Thursday, 8 September 2016

How to Format Your Letter?

The simple answer is: There is no one correct way to format your letter. The good news is you don't have to worry.  As long you are being respectful, and follow some basic advice it is hard to go wrong.

We are going to look at different royal letters from across Europe, as inspiration, and guides on how we should format our own letters. The Royals are after all a standard of proper modern etiquette, and style. It is hard to go wrong if you are imitating them.

You will notice that all these royal letters are different. And that is okay. We will point out some of the differences between the letters, and also some things you really should do in your letter.  Feel free to pick and choose the things you like, get creative and be yourself.

A few important things to keep in mind as we look through the letters:

Very important, obviously. Different countries around the world write the date differently. Any style is fine. However, you do write out the month, instead of using a number. The day and month can easily be confused if both written as numbers.

The secret is you really don't need this on the letter. The person you are writing to knows their address. Putting the address on the letter is mostly for the writer's benefit. It makes it easier to address the envelope, especially if someone else is doing the addressing. Or if the computer automatically creates an envelope.

You don't need it. But it can be a great tool to use when you don't have a lot to say and want to fill up the page.

Return Address: 
This is a must, but it can be anywhere on the page. In your letter, you want to write your full address. This way it is easier for them when replying. That way they don't have to keep the letter and envelope together.

You will notice, all of the royal letters say where they are from. Although most don't have a full return address. They usually have the name of the Palace.

What to put on the "Dear ____, " line

As long as you are being respectful, there is no wrong answer. What you use is going to depend on how formal your letter is:
  • Dear [Style],
    • Your Majesty 
    • Your Royal Highness 
    • Your Royal Highnesses
  • Dear [person's title],
    • Queen of the Netherlands
    • Duke of Cambridge 
      • Earl of Strathearn
  • Dear Sir/Madam,
  • Dear [Person's name]
    • Queen Máxima
    • Prince William
    • William
These are just a few possibilities. You can refer to the royal in any way, or by any title they are commonly referred to. A good rule of thumb is to address the royal like you are talking to them. With some royals you will be more formal, with others informal. 

Note: The Name/Country above the letters are linked to the original blog post for the letter. (Sarah's letter doesn't have a blog post, because I didn't have a blog back then).

  • This is a simple letter, with not a lot of extra stuff. You will notice the first lines of the paragraphs are indented and "Yours Sincerely" is over on the right side of the page.
  • The top of the letter has the Queen's Coat of Arms, and partial address of where the letter was sent. In your letter, you could put a monogram, your initials, or name on the top of the letter, with your return address underneath. 
  • This letter does not have Mary Morrison's name printed on it. Which can make it a little hard to know who the letter is from if you aren't familiar with the Queen's Ladies-in-Waiting (L-I-W). 
    • My guess is the name is often intentionally left off, especially in form letters, so that any L-I-W can sign the letter. 
    • You want to make sure your name is printed someone on the letter. That will make it easier for them to address you because signatures can often be hard to read.
  • The name at the bottom "Miss G Daly" helps them remember who this letter is for when they are handwriting the "Dear ___,".
    • You likely won't need this, as you will remember who you are writing too. 
    • The name at the bottom can also help the person creating the envelope, pull up the right address in their database. Since that may not be done by the same person writing the letter.

  • Rebecca Deacon has her name printed at the top of the letter, so people know who it is from.  She also has her title, which is important because if you wrote to a royal, and the reply is from someone else, you want to know who sent the letter. And not everyone will automatically know Rebecca is Kate's Private Secretary.  
    • If you're writing a personal letter, you don't need to put a title. 
    • However, if you are writing on behalf of a company, charity, or organization, you do want to have your title. That way they know who in the organization sent the letter, and who they are replying to. 
  • The letter says, Miss Rebecca Deacon. You will notice that a lot of the other letters leave off the Mr., Mrs., etc. in the person's name.
    • You can either include it or not. 
    • You will also notice Rebecca uses Miss, not Ms. A lot of archaic etiquette guides say that an unmarried woman is Miss until she is 18 years old, and then becomes Ms. This stems from a time where women over 18 were expected to be married. But today unmarried women in their 20s, 30s etc. can still use Miss. (e.g. Pippa Middleton, Duchess Kate's sister, while unmarried and in her 30's, was referred to by the Palace as Miss Pippa Middleton).

Duchess Sarah 

  • Sarah's letter has the First initial/Crown monogram we see with a lot of British Royals, but with no palace name underneath. 
    • This is because she doesn't have a Palace office anymore, letters sent to her via the Duke of York's office are forwarded to Sarah.
  • You will notice this letter has the day of the week in the date. The dates on all these letters are slightly different. Different orders of information, different things included, different comma or period placements, etc. Any way is fine, just write out the month. 
  • This letter has my address (covered by Pink Box) at the bottom of the letter.
  • You will notice this refers to me as Gertrude, not Miss Daly, Miss Gertrude Alexandra Daly, etc. It's informal and more personal. Which sometimes you want to be. 
    • You don't always have to use the formal Your Majesty, or Your Royal Highness. You can call the royals by their names. Different royals have different preferences.
    • A good rule of thumb is to address the royal like you are talking to them. You would always be very formal with The Queen, but for other royals, you might be a lot more informal.  
    • But in short, as long as you are being respectful, there is no wrong answer.
  • What I've always loved about Sarah's letters is the quote at the bottom. It's very lovely. 
    • If you do a quote, keep it short and interesting. 
    • She also centred and italicized it, to make it stand out. But being tucked away at the bottom gives the reader the chance to skip over it if they want. 
  • This letter is on smaller stationary. It's nice because you don't have to write a lot to fill up the page. I have two sizes of paper (normal and half-sized like this) which I use depending on how much I have to say. But do note how the royals often don't write a lot in their letters, but they take up a lot of the page regardless of what size paper they use. 
    • Feel free to put the body of your letter in the middle of the page. 
  • You will notice here the partial Royal address is on the right side of the page. 
  • Again we have the "Dear ___," & "Yours Sincerely" handwritten. 
    • Amanda's name and title are written below, centred.

  • This letter has my address at the top of the page, but it is below the partial royal address and the date.
  • This letter has everything is lined up very nicely. Nothing is indented; it's all aligned to the left.
  • The letter is also nicely centred on the page. So you don't have too much white space at the top or bottom.
  • Here Söderlind writes out the full "Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine of Sweden," it a long. You will notice a lot of letters don't write out the full HRH + Name + Country. 

  • This letter has my address at the top of the page on the left, above the date, and the full Royal address at the bottom, along with other contact details. 
  • This letter doesn't have the day, just the month and year. This is very common for form letter where you are sending out a bunch, but not on the same day.
  • You will notice here the closing and signature, is centered.
  • The abbreviated "Her Majesty" has periods between the letters. Some Royals like to style it with periods, others don't. You don't need to learn who does what. It would be perfectly fine to write a letter to Queen Sonja of Norway and use HM with no periods.

  • This letter has my address at the top right, and the full royal address at the bottom, along with other contact details. 
    • This letter came in a windowed envelope, so the address on the letter was the address for the envelope. 
  • The signature is on the right side of the page, with F.L. Manche's name printed and his job title (broken into 3 lines to make it easy to read)
  • This letter has a very interesting number thing on the left of the page "No 15/jbg Onderwerp." No idea what it means, but I'm sure it means something (about the topic??). Be sure whatever you include in your letter the reader can understand. You don't want them to be puzzled over something like I puzzled over what this number thing ment. 

  • You will notice that the pronoun "His" in "His enthronement" & "His most sincere thanks" are capitalized. With royals, there is an old tradition of capitalizing any pronoun that refers to the Monarch or Royal (His, Her, Their, You, Your, etc.) whenever it appears, not just in His Majesty, Their Royal Highnesses.
    • Most of the Royal letters don't capitalize every pronoun, it's a little awkward. I usually just stick to capitalizing things like His Serene Highness, Prince Albert, etc.
  • You will notice that the closing here is on the right side of the page. Some royals do it on the left, others the center. 
    • Also, they wrote "With all my best regards," instead of the usual "Yours Sincerely." Don't be afraid to mix it up. I always notice when the message has something other than the usual "Yours Sincerely." It's a very lovely touch, which I think people who read lots and lots of letters will appreciate. 
  • Christeine Sprile's title is at the top of the page in red (in French). 

  • This one has both my address and full royal address at the top of the page. 
  • The body of the letter is justified (meaning it the lines are aligned to both the left and right margin).
  • Here, Ingelise Riedel's title is nicely italicized, it was also broken into 2 lines, so it didn't stretch too long across. 
  • This also is a half size letter.

  • The paragraphs here are very interesting because they are indented a lot more than normal. You also have the Dear line and "Yours sincerely" indented as well.
    • The writer's name and signature are on the right side of the letter. 
    • They also left a bit of extra space between the paragraphs to help fill out the page. 
  • You probably noticed there are some Letters and Numbers at the top of the page. I'm sure they mean something, however, I have no idea what that is.  
Now that you've looked though all these letters, I hope you have gotten some ideas about how to format your own letter. If you have any questions feel free to ask. You can also check out our "Replies" tab for more royal letters.


  1. If you were writing to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, would you begin the letter with
    Dear Duke and Duchess of Cambridge,
    Dear Your Royal Highnesses,
    Dear Prince William and Duchess Catherine,
    or something else? Would any of the above be more or less preferable?

    1. Any of those is fine. It is really up to personal preference. As long as you aren't doing something like calling her "Kate Middleton," your fine. Personally, I write Duke & Duchess of Cambridge on the Envelope and in my letter write Dear Your Royal Highnesses,

  2. do we need to give the letter a signature or not? thank you