Writing in German: How to write a letter in German

Razvan Stroie - Fotolia.com
Razvan Stroie – Fotolia.com

Modern communication relies on letters and emails. The way we write letters and emails may vary from country to country. This post shows you how to write a German letter. The structure of the letter is acceptable in all German-speaking countries. A post about German emails will follow.

The picture below shows the structure of a German letter as explained in the post. Click on the picture to view the whole letter.

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An official letter has the following components:

1. Sender (Absender) – Who Writes The Letter?

The „Absender“ has the contact dates of the writer: first name and surname of the sender, street and house number, postal code and city, (only in letters from abroad: the country), phone number and email address.

Keep in mind that the number of the house follows the name of the street.

2. Recipient (Empfänger) – Who Gets The Letter?

The „Empfänger“ has the contact dates of the recipient:first name and the recipient’s surname or the name of the company, street and house number, postcode and town, (in letters from abroad the country).

If you write to a company and know the name of the person who will read your letter, write the name in the line below the company name.

3. Date (Datum) – Where And When Do You Write The Letter?

Although you can just write the date it is common use to add the name of the town.

Keep in mind that the order is day before month. 07.03. means 07. March.

4. Subject (Betreff) – Why Do You Write The Letter?

In official letters you give a very short reason for your letter. If you have a member number or respond to an invoice, you specify this number.

5. Form Of Adress (Anrede) – Who Do You Appeal To?

If you don’t know who will read your letter you adress your letter „Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren„. If you know the recipent’s name you use „Sehr geehrte Frau + Namen“ or „Sehr geehrter Herr + Namen„.

You only use „Liebe/Lieber“ when you know the recipient well on a less formal level. Do not use this form of adress in official letters.

The adress is followed by a comma. Begin your next sentence in a new paragraph and write the first word of the sentence with a small letter:

Sehr geehrte Frau Müller,

hiermit kündige ich meine Handy-Versicherung.

6. Text (Brieftext) –  What Do You Want To Say?

In the text of the letter you write what you want to say. It is useful to write a new paragraph for each new thought.

Keep in mind that the polite form of address for adults is „Sie„. „Sie“ is always capitalized to highlight the difference to the personal pronoun „sie„.

7. Signing Off – How Do You Finish The Letter?

At the end of your letter you use a formula for signing off. „Mit freundlichen Grüßen“ is acceptable in all formal letters and even in personal letters.

Write the signing off formula in a new paragraph. „Mit freundlichen Grüßen“ is never followed by punctuation. Add two lines below for your signature.

8. Name Of The Sender – Who Are You?

Type your name in the third line below the signing off formula. When you have printed your letter you write your signature between the signing off formula and your typed name. When you insert your signature as a graphic, insert the graphic between the signing off formula and your typed name.

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