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How to Write a Letter in French: A Simple Guide


BY Frederic Bibard

Last Updated:  August 29, 2022

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Writing letters can be stressful to a lot of people…. and even more so when you have to do it in French! Today we will make writing letters in French a lot easier with this simple guide on how to write a letter in French. 

In this lesson, you'll learn the words, phrases, and expressions for starting and ending your letter plus tips and examples.

You get an extra lesson on how to write emails in French, too! 

letter in french

I. Greetings/ Salutations for French Letters

To start writing a letter in French, you need the proper salutation and the correct title of the person you are writing to.

Salutations for French Personal Letters

For personal correspondence, you can choose between the following scenarios and salutations.

If you know the person, you can use the following:

For personal correspondence where you do not know the person you are writing to, you can choose from the following:

Salutations for French Formal Letters

For business letters, salutations are very formal and include the recipient’s title as needed. You may use the following salutations:

Quick reminder

Take note of proper spacing when writing punctuations in French . When writing a sentence with a question mark or an exclamation point, there should be a space before and after it. For example: Bonjour !  Ça va ?

The same applies to writing colons and semi-colons, as well as quotation marks. 

II. How to close your letter

Just like the salutations, you will also need to use the correct closing at the end of your letter.

Closing Expressions for French Personal letters

For personal letters to acquaintances or friends that still require a level of formality, you may end it using the following French  email closings:

Please note that the translations are not exactly the same, but they more or less express the same thought.

For informal letters to close friends and family, you may be very liberal in showing your fondness to the person by using the following informal closing:

Take note that the above closing expressions are similar to saying "hugs and kisses" or "XOXO" in English. You simply cannot use it to close a letter to, let's say, your boss or the hiring manager in the job you're eyeing. 

See also: French text slang and instant messaging shortcuts

Closing Expressions for French Formal or Business Letters

*These two are not too formal, and could be used for less formal situations.

Again, please take note that the above translations are more or less the equivalent expressions in English.

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how to write a formal address in french

III. Some example French letters

how to write a letter in French

Let’s take a look at two sample letters below. The first one is a personal letter and the second is a business letter.

Example 1: Personal Letter

Chère Mademoiselle,

C’est avec plaisir que je vous écris. L’envie me prend soudainement de vous conter l’une de mes nombreuses aventures...

Je vous envoie mes bien amicales pensées. À bientôt !

It is with pleasure that I’m writing to you. The urge suddenly takes me to tell you of one of my many adventures …

Best wishes. See you soon!

Example 2: Business Letter

Je me permets de vous écrire concernant l’offre de poste...

Je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.

Allow me to write you about the job offer...

Please accept, sir, the expression of my highest consideration.

IV. Additional Tips in Letter-Writing

Of course, starting and ending a letter written in French is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are more tips in writing letters in French.

See also: The ultimate guide to using tu vs. vous in French

Bonus: How to write an email in French

Let's face it, writing an email in French is another hurdle you must surpass. Whether you're writing an email to your boss, a colleague, or someone you barely know, you gotta make sure everything's in place before you hit the send button.

No worries to you because we're going to discuss here how to write emails, too!

Did you know?

La nétiquette refers to the French practice of writing good online correspondence especially emails.  

How to end formal emails

Like in English, there are also a set of email phrases and expressions commonly used when signing off in formal emails. Aside from the usual "merci" or "merci beaucoup", here are some ways on how to sign off an email in French:

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Letter-writing is still a necessary skill despite the many new forms of communication available today. I hope this short guide will help solve your woes on how to write letters in French. Hopefully, you learned something about writing emails in French, too!

For the complete lesson on French letters including audio guides and exercises, grab your copy of My French Routine, a complete learning series that you could use to learn French independently from beginner level to advanced.

This particular lesson is part of the course Complete Advanced French Course. Check it out now on the Talk in French Store!

Here are some FAQs about Letter in French

How to close a letter in french.

1. Je vous envoie mes amicales pensées. – This means “best wishes” but the literal translation is “sending my friendly thoughts to you.” 2. Recevez, je vous prie, mes meilleures amitiés, – Yours sincerely, 3. “Meilleures salutations,” – Best regards, 4. À bientôt! – See you later 5. Bisous – Kisses

How to address a letter in French

To address a letter in French, The first line will be the recipient’s full name. Do not forget to add Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle before the name. 

The second line will be the recipient’s street address and next is the city or town, followed by the state name and zip code in the third line.

How to write a formal letter in French

Sender First is to write down the sender’s details at the top left of the letter. Start with your name or a company name and include your address, with the country name in French under the postal code. 

Addressee Second is the addressee information. This is where you will write the name and address of the recipient. Remember to write place names with capital letters.

Subject In French, instead of writing ‘Subject’,  ‘Objet’ or ‘Concerne’ are used. This is where you indicate the purpose of the letter.

Place and date After the subject in the upper right corner of the letter, write down the place and date and separate them with a comma. The name of the month is written with  lowercase letters.

Example: Los Angeles, le 1er février 2021 Florida, le 5 juin 2020

Salutation French letter salutations do not mention the name of the addressee. You will only write, ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’. Do not forget to the salutation with a comma.

Example: Monsieur,

Message The body of your letter consists of three parts: Opening paragraph The reason why you are writing the letter Closing paragraph

Your Signature Sign your letter above your printed name on the right hand side. Also, add your job position or department in the line below your full name.

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About the author 

Frederic Bibard

Frederic Bibard is the founder of Talk in French, a company that helps french learners to practice and improve their french. Macaron addict. Jacques Audiard fan. You can contact him on Instagram

how to write a formal address in french

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How to Write Letters and Emails in French 📨

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Today, I’m going to tell you about writing letters in French. Everything written in French tends to be more formal than in English; business letters, emails… and there are some quite archaic formulas that are still very much used nowadays.

In this “French letter guide”, I will focus on how to start and end your French letter: we use very precise salutations and closings in French letters, and some archaic expressions are still common for business letters.

French people will be forgiving if you make mistakes in the core of the text, but for example writing “ma chérie” to a friend could send the wrong message.

And choosing an inappropriate letter closing like “je vous embrasse” for a business partner would be a big faux-pas!

So let’s study how to write letters in French.

5 Common French Salutations in Letters

Before you even start writing your French letter, you need to select the correct French salutation or greeting.

When you don’t know who you are writing to

If you don’t know who you are writing to, start your letters by “Messieurs”.

Other French salutations

About “cher” in French

In the context of a salutation to start a French letter, “cher” means dear.

“Cher” can be followed by “Monsieur/ Madame / Mademoiselle” Cher Monsieur, or with “Monsieur/ Madame / Mademoiselle ” + a last name Cher Monsieur Dupont

However, I suggest you don’t write “Cher Monsieur Pierre”. This would be frowned upon in higher social classes.

Be careful with “Chéri” ❤️

“Chéri(e)” (do say the final “i”), is a common French love nickname for sweetie.

So, if you write “Pierre chéri”, or “mon chéri”, Pierre is going to think you are in love with him.

It’s rare nowadays to use “chéri(e)” with friends, although it was common about 50 years ago. But it has changed.

write letter in French

How to Close Your French Letter

A typical way to close a french business letter is “dans l’attente de vous lire, je vous….” and then you add the French closing expression.

French Business Letters Closing Expressions

These common closings will work for French business letters or very formal letters.

Best regards in French?

To translate ‘best regards’ in French, write:

note these expressions end with a comma.

Warm regards in French?

To say warm regards in French, write “Cordialement”. I use this one all the time.

Yours truly in French?

Yours truly is “Bien à vous” or “bien à toi” if you are saying “tu” to the person.

Check out French Today’s audiobook about French greetings and politeness .

how to write a formal address in french

Master French politeness without hesitation and avoid embarrassing faux-pas.

More Details & Audio Samples

Personal Letters

When you are writing a pesonnal letter in French to acquaintances, or friends who are quite formal – or maybe older friends – write:  “Amicalement,” or “Je vous adresse toute mon amitié,” both closings meaning kind of like “warmest regards”.

What is Bisous at the end of a French letter ?

Many foreigners have been confused with a French friend ending a letter or email with bisous… Did you miss a romantic signal?

No you didn’t. Ending a French letter to a friend with “bisou” or “je t’embrasse” is very common, and not necessarily romantic!

With closer friends and family you may close your letter with:

Note that for all these expressions, the “vous” can also be used as a plural, and in this case may, or may not be as formal.

Don’t use XOXO in French

In American English, it’s very common to end a text with XOXO – meaning hugs and kisses.

The French don’t hug, and don’t know this symbol nor would they understand it.

How to Write the Name on the French Envelop?

You’ll write the address in the front of the envelop, pretty much the same way you’d do anywhere in the US or Europe.

For the name, you have plenty of options: so let’s take my name for example.

So you could write:

How to Label the Envelop to France?

Once you’ve taken care of the name on the envelop, write the info from the smallest to the biggest entity:

Camille Chevalier-Karfis French Today 63 rue de Goas Plat 22500 Paimpol France

It’s my actual address: feel free to write me a letter, a postcard, or lavish me with gifts 🤣

Where to Write Your Return Address?

In France, the return address is written in the back of the letter, at the very top, across the width of the letter.

However that can be confusing for your home country.

So, as a precaution, when sending a letter internationally, I always write “from” and then cross the return address, just in case (as shown on the picture of the envelope featured above)

This “from” in French would be – “de: X”, or “de la part de: X”, – or “expéditeur: X”

💌 How to Write a French Love Letter

If you are writing to your loved one, you may start with a French love nickname . “Ma chérie” when writing to a woman, “mon chéri” for a man are the norm.

At the end, you’ll probably say I love you in French : “je t’aime”, “je t’aime de tout mon coeur”. Click on the link to see variations.

Then you’ll probably end with some kind of kiss: here again, there are many ways to send kisses in French . “Je t’embrasse amoureusement” is a safe one on the formal side. “Mille bisous d’amour” is a cuter way to send kisses to your loved one.

How to Write a Condoleance Letter in French

I hope you won’t have to write a condoleance letter in French.

To express your sympathy in French, the most used phrase would be:

Je vous adresse mes (sincères) condoléances Please receive my (sincere) condolences/my sympathy.

Here are other typical examples – I won’t translate them : the words don’t translate well literally but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

Be careful to choose the appropriate politeness formula: choosing vous or tu, and conjugating the French verbs accordingly. To start and finish your letter, you’d use the regular French letter writing expressions.

Expressing your sympathy in a little bit less formal way:

How to Write a Thank you Note in French

Since I lived both in France and in the US, I can tell you that writing thank you notes is less frequent in France than it is in the US.

We also have a much smaller market for greeting/special occasion cards and don’t send out these too often.

In very posh families, it’s not uncommon to have a special pad made out with your name at the top, and you use that to answer invitations or send thank you notes. But it’s disappearing nowadays.

The norm would be to start your thank you note with “merci pour”… or “j’écris pour te/vous remercier pour….”. More ways of saying Thank you in French .

⚠️ Punctuation When Typing a French Letter

Some rules of punctuation used when typing out a text are different in French than in English.

French Letter Vocabulary

Let me just list the common French letter vocabulary

Voilà, I hope this article will help you next time you write a letter in French. 

I post new articles every week, so make sure you subscribe to the French Today newsletter – or follow me on  Facebook , Twitter  and  Pinterest .

Good luck with your French studies.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 23+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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Recorded at 3 different speeds + Study Guide + Q&A + Full Transcript

Copyright - French Today 2023

Can You Understand Today’s Spoken French?

It’s not just slang. The French everybody speaks in France today is NOT the overly enunciated, extremely formal French usually taught to foreigners.


how to write a formal address in french

French Letter Writing

In our world of instant messaging, texting, tweeting and social media, letter writing may seem hopelessly old-fashioned. As American comedian Steven Wright puts it, “I stayed in a really old hotel last night. They sent me a wake-up letter.”

For centuries, though, letter writing was an art form and an intrinsic part of life, in all literate societies including France. To quote the writer Anatole Broyard, “In an age like ours, which is not given to letter-writing, we forget what an important part it used to play in people’s lives.”

Over the years, French letter writing protocols and formats were developed that are still used today.

French formal letters

Letters are still standard tools for correspondence in business and administrative communication, for product or service requests or complaints, to accompany job applications and other formalities.

French Formal Letter

Putting everything in its proper place is a good start. The return address belongs at the top left of the page and the recipient’s address starts below it to the right side. Below that, the town or city from which the letter is being sent is included along with the date.

The golden rule

“Vous” is always used for a formal letter, never “tu”.

French salutations

The salutation is also very formal and includes the recipient’s title when appropriate, as in Monsieur le Directeur. Alternately, use Monsieur, Cher Monsieur, Messieurs or Madame, Chère Madame or Mesdames.

The body of the letter should be concise, to the point and formally polite.

Signing off

You might end with, “Dans l’attente de votre réponse …”, then sign off with one of these phrases, which sound much more formal than the accepted “Yours sincerely” in English but are de rigueur in a French formal letter:

French personal letters

French personal letters are much more informal. Your return address sits at the top right of the page and below it your location and the date, but the recipient’s address is not required.

French Informal Letter

Some useful phrases to start with include:

Or, if you’re a procrastinator:

The body of the letter can be as chatty and friendly as if you were talking to the person.

Sign off affectionately with:

Or more simply with:

To include other friends or family in the letter, you might add:

Addressing the envelope

If you’re mailing your letter, here are guidelines for addressing the envelope, line by line:

1 – Recipient’s name

Begin with Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle followed by the recipient’s full name, as in Monsieur Jacques Untel. This is polite form for both formal and informal letters. For a married couple, use Monsieur et Madame Untel.

On a business letter envelope, you can use the person’s title instead, for example, Madame la directrice.

2 – Recipient’s title

If you’ve used the person’s name in the first line, use the second line for his or her title, for example, Directrice, Service à la clientele.

3. – Company or organization

Use the full name or accepted abbreviation, as in Hôtel Au Bon Accueil and SNCF.

4 – Number, name and type of street

Full street names can be abbreviated, e.g. av for avenue, as in 45 av de la République, or bd for boulevard, as in 15 bd de Beaumanoir. If there’s no street address, this is where you put the post box number. 5 – Postcode and town or city

The postcode comes before the name of the town, as in 75010 Paris.

Return addresses should be written on the back of the envelope with the abbreviation “Exp.” (short for Expéditeur/-trice).

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How to write a formal letter in French

How to write a formal letter in French

Updated November 9, 2022

Do you want to accompany your  CV with a letter , or claim a refund for a product and you don’t know how to write a letter in French? Yes, you will have to go through the delicate task of writing a formal letter. And when it comes to administration and formal written contacts, the French have very strict (and somewhat rigid) rules. Here are the codes to respect, to make sure your letter will be read all the way through!

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The format of a formal french letter.

The mail you write should have the shape of an official letter with a French format. That is, even from a distance or blurred, you should be able to recognise the different parts of the formal letter. At the top left, you will write your first name, last name, then your address below and finally your telephone number and email address. Then, at the top right, you should write the name and contact details of the addressee. When you’ve finished this, you’ll still have two things to do to get that formal silhouette: below your contact details, you’ll have to write “ objet ” (subject) and summarise in a non-verbal sentence the reason why you want to write. And finally, you will only have to write on the next line, but on the right: the place and date you write, like this:

french letter example

Starting your French letter

The first thing you need to know is how to address the letter in French. This part is called the “ formule d’appel ” (calling card). If you know the name of the person you are addressing, you can begin your letter by writing in the centre: M. Dupont or Mme Martin. So, “ Monsieur ” or “ Madame ” followed by the last name of the person you are writing to.

If you don’t know, as is often the case when you send your CV or a complaint to an after-sales service, just write, still in the centre of the letter: “ Madame, Monsieur, ”.

But if you are addressing a person with a high professional position, it is absolutely necessary to mention this and write: “ Monsieur le Ministre ”, “ Madame la Présidente ”.

Then, in what is called le corps de la lettre (“the body of the letter”), you must explain in the first paragraph the context of your letter or your claim, for example, what happened in order for you to write this letter.

After you have explained why you want to write, you can skip a line and start a new paragraph by clearly stating your request.

As you will have noticed, it is unthinkable to write a letter in  French  and to use anything other than “ vous ”. We will keep the “ tu ” for   texting  family or friends, and the “ vous ” remains the only way to address your recipient in a letter.

If you have a problem with a product or service (such as a telephone service) that doesn’t conform to what was sold, you can even make threats, such as:

Ending your French letter

This is the part that is called the formule de politesse (“greeting”). Yes, it’s a bit weird, even if you just threatened them, you have to end with a polite greeting!

Before you do that, you have to be open to dialogue and you can add a sentence such as:

And then you must absolutely end with an extremely long but coded polite sentence:

All that remains is for you to sign at the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet, possibly with your initials or the initial of your first name and your surname in full. Ideally, your letter should not exceed one side of paper.

You are now ready to write letters in French! But don’t torture yourself too much while writing this letter. They say that your addressee will only give it an average of 6 seconds of attention! Oh la la!

Audrey has been a French teacher for more than ten years now, and a cheese-lover all her life. She comes from the west of France, and after living 2 years in Spain and 4 years in Oxford in England, she has just settled in the heart of France, in Auvergne, a land of cheese, rugby, Michelin tyres and ancient volcanoes. Audrey definitely prefers the first one. She speaks French, Spanish and English, and just started German, nothing better to understand her students who tremble at the French grammar! When she is not teaching, she tries to find time to cook or sing in a choir. She loves to invite people to her house to feed them and trap them with musical blind tests designed and adapted to her guests! Find out more about her on her website and LinkedIn .

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How to Write Letters and emails in French For Any Occasion

If you’re looking to learn how to write letters and emails in French, you’ll need to learn a few key components: a proper salutation, a polite introduction, and a formal closing sentence. Everything else in your letter will depend on the reason you’re writing it.

how to write a formal address in french

And if you’re wondering if the French are really writing letters anymore. They are! Even though you might be looking to learn cool slang words or how to order a delicious French meal as a new French learner, you’ll be surprised by how much learning how to write letters and emails in French will come in handy–especially if you plan to live here.  

Become an expert in French letter writing! Our good friend, Camille, at and the creator of the À Moi Paris audio course, does also excellent job teaching how to write letters in French. This post on her site offers is a wonderful compliment to this page !

Why to Learn How to Write Letters and Emails in French

For a quick example, I’m currently in the process of applying for a new visa here in France. When I was applying from the United States for past visas, the visa department had a phone helpline, an email address, and an easy online messaging system for questions and concerns. 

But here in France, things are a little bit more complicated. When I was applying last month, there was no phone number (or even email!) so I had to physically go into the office to ask a question and apply for my visa. When I got to the prefecture they told me I couldn’t turn in my application there, but I instead had to mail it to them.

I didn’t understand why I had to physically mail them my application when I could’ve quite literally reached my hand across the table and given it right to them at my appointment. But, I digress. 

But it’s not just the French government that loves letters. When canceling a French phone line, you have to mail a letter to the phone carrier. When you want to move out of your apartment, you have to mail a letter to your landlord. And when you close a bank account, you have to send your bank a letter in order to do so. 

In the United States, all of these things could be done with either a quick trip to the physical location or just with a phone call. Here in France, it’s letters only. Hopefully, now you’re convinced of the importance of learning letter (and occasionally email) writing in France so let’s dive into exactly how to do it. 

Letter Writing Pen

Writing a French Letterhead

If you’ve ever written a formal letter, it’s likely you’ve included a letterhead ( un en-tête in French) in the top left corner. A letterhead usually includes important details like where and when the letter was written. 

In French, there are a few different formatting options, but usually, you’ll write your name and address on the top left and then the name of your recipient underneath it on the right like this:

Your name Your address Your phone number/email

Recipient’s name Recipient’s address

For an email, you don’t have to worry about this since the time and destination are known automatically. 

Learning How to write letters and emails in French: A Proper Salutation

As you know, when writing any letter or email, it’s important to start off with who you’re addressing. In English, we almost exclusively say “dear” before the name of whoever we’re writing to, but in French you’ll usually only use “dear” or “very dear” for people you know.

If you’re writing to somewhere you don’t know, you’ll usually just start off with their title like Madame (Mrs.), Monsieur (Mr.), Docteur (Dr.), etc. When I received a letter back from the French visa office saying I was missing a few papers for my application they simply addressed the letter, “ Madame .” 

Learning How to write letters and emails in French: A Polite Introduction

Now that you’ve chosen the right salutation, it’s time to start off with a polite introduction. You don’t want to dive into the letter without introducing the subject first, so here are a few ways to do so.

Je vous contacte pour = I’m contacting you to…

Le but de cette lettre est de = The goal of this letter is to…

Je vous informe par la présente que = I hereby let you know.. 

If you’re sending you letter after a specific event you can also start your letter with some context like this:

Suite à notre conversation téléphonique du = After our phone conversation…

À la suite de notre dernière rencontre … = After our last meeting…

Je vous remercie de votre courrier du … = Thank you for your letter…

Writing Letters

Learning How to Write Letters and Emails in French: A Formal Conclusion 

Once you’ve added your en-tête , written your polite introduction, and explained why you’re writing your letter or email, it’s time to start writing. The content of this part of the letter/email will be totally dependent on your subject and there aren’t any specific rules to be aware of (besides using formal language if you’re writing to someone you don’t know). 

But, there are a few rules when it comes to the conclusion. The difficult thing about choosing a concluding sentence is that depending on where you fall in the hierarchy of the relationship and the customs of the organization/business, the conclusion might differ.

If I’m responding to a letter or email, I’ll usually just use the same conclusion they use since that’s usually the safest choice. But here I’ll list a few formal conclusions, which will always be the last sentence of your letter, from most formal to least formal. 

Very Formal:

Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur, l’assurance de ma considération distinguée. 

Please accept, Sir, the assurance of my distinguished consideration. 

Je vous prie de croire, Madame, en l’assurance de mes sentiments les meilleurs.

Please believe, Madame, the guarantee of my best intentions. 

Veuillez recevoir, Madame/Monsieur, l’expression de mes sentiments distingués.

Please accept, Madame/Sir, the exprespression of my distinguished intentions. 

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur, l’assurance de mes sentiments respectueux.

Please accept, Sir, the assurance of my respectful intentions. 

Croyez, chère Madame, à mes sentiments les meilleurs.

Believe, dear madam, my best intentions. 

Least Formal:


Bien amicalement.

Bien à vous.

Sincères salutations.


Bien sincèrement.


Bien cordialement.

These can all be used to replace “Yours,” “Best wishes,” “Kind regards,” “Regards,” and “Best,”. 

Now that your letter is complete you can sign your name. For really formal emails and letters, especially those used for administrative purposes, you can add the date and the place you wrote the letter/email underneath your name like this:


Fait le [date] à [location]

And that’s it! You’ve learned all of the basics of writing a French letter. Happy writing!

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Calli Zarpas, blogger, producer, and content creator, is a lover of all things travel, wellness, and French. Having begun traveling in her teens, Calli visited 30 countries before settling down in France post-college. When she's not writing French-language content for French Learner or traveling the world, you can find Calli creating content for herself and others on  Instagram ,  Tiktok , and her blog,  Wooish .

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What You Really Need to Know About Writing French Letters and Emails

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When I was learning French in school, writing letters was one of the most intimidating things we covered. There were so many formules de politesse (polite phrases and salutations) and all of them seemed absolutely required to be included in any formal or business correspondence.

Then, I came to France and found that letter (and now email) writing in French was actually a lot simpler than I’d been led to believe.  I just had to be familiar with some key phrases and remember the purpose of letters and emails in the first place: to communicate.

Let’s look at what you really need to know about writing letters and emails in French.

The two rules of writing letters and emails in French

I could describe what it was like to come to France and have to write and read letters and emails of all sorts, entirely in French. I could talk about the way emails began to influence letter-writing in several ways. But that would make this a veeeery long article. 

So, let’s break it down to two simple things you must remember:

1. Email and text messaging have influenced the rules of French business and formal correspondence

There will still be some situations where you will have to compose an old-fashioned, super-stuffy letter in French, maybe. But these situations are very rare.

Instead, over the past twenty years or so, I’ve seen an evolution of most French formal and business correspondence. While there will always be at least a few formules de politesse that French people will include (and expect) in professional and formal letters and emails, things have become a lot less formal in general.

Nowadays, for instance, that clunky ending formula Veuillez agr éer… à mes salutations distingu ées   has become somewhat of a rarity. Additionally, some companies have opted to eschew formal salutations like Madame, Monsieur, (To Whom It May Concern) for the much more relaxed Bonjour , to seem more approachable.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be polite – French people are notoriously polite. But you can do it in a more relaxed way. So don’t worry if you don’t include a ton of formules de politesse in your email or letter, and don’t expect to receive correspondence peppered with them. (Although in my experience, you should ALWAYS include Cordialement as a sign-off, even in only somewhat formal situations.)

Again, there are exceptions and it’s never a bad thing to veer on the side of caution. But overall, French correspondence is a bit more relaxed than you might expect.

2. Remember your intention

The main goal of a letter or email is to communicate. Whether that’s asking a question, sharing information, or requesting a service, the most important thing is to convey what you mean in a clear way. The formules de politesse won’t let you do this; they’re just there to show your respect and politeness.

So make sure, first and foremost, that your French letter or email is easy for your correspondent to understand. Then check to make sure of the politeness basics:

If you’ve done all these things, in most cases that’s all you need to worry about. Always focus on making sure your correspondent understands what you need to get across. A letter full of empty, polite phrases and no information is of no use to anyone.

Essential phrases for writing a formal or business French letter or email

A man's hands on a computer keyboard, seen from above. His smartphone sits beside the computer.

There are many formules de politesse – and variations of them – that you might find if you look up “How to write a letter in French” online. But in my experience, the ones I’m including here are the ones you really need to know, either because you’ll use them a lot or because you’ll come across them often.

But first off, make sure you know how to write the date in French .  If you’re writing a formal or business letter (not email), don’t forget to include the date, on the top right of the page above the body of the letter.

One more thing: The exact way to say and spell “email” in French is incredibly varied. The strictly Francophone word is un courriel , but this is rarely used. You will also see the Anglophone-influenced un e-mail or sometimes un é-mail from time to time. But the two most frequent ways I see this word in most formal, professional, and informal correspondence is either un mail or un mél.

Okay, now onto the list….

Essential phrases to start a formal letter in French

Madame, Monsieur – To Whom It May Concern.

As in English, this is used if you don’t know the gender(s) or name(s) of the person or people you’re writing to.  Otherwise, use one of these:

These formal greetings are used in lieu of Madame, Monsieur if you are absolutely certain of the gender, number, and/or last name of the person or people you’re writing to.

For example, when I write an email or note to my son’s school principal, because I know her gender and last name, I would begin my message: Madame Dupont ,  

Other important phrases to include in a business letter

Je vous écris pour.

I’m writing to/I’m writing in order to

Example: Je vous écris pour résilier mon abonnement. (I’m writing to cancel my subscription.)

Suite à votre lettre/votre message/notre dernière conversation/votre courriel/votre mél

Following up on/Regarding your letter/message/our last conversation/your email

This could also be translated as “As per”, although to my knowledge it doesn’t have the subtly rude connotation that it’s sometimes given in English.

Example: Suite à votre lettre, je vous confirme la résiliation de votre abonnement.   (Following your letter, I confirm that your subscription has been cancelled.)

Je vous prie de…

I humbly request that you… 

Although you may write this phrase, it’s more commonly used by companies or anyone who would be making a demand or request. It’s often used with the phrase bien vouloir  to form the ultra-polite mega phrase Je vous prie de bien vouloir… , which roughly translates to “I humbly request that you kindly oblige by…”

Example: Je vous prie de lire le contrat ci-joint. (I humbly request that you read the enclosed contract.)


enclosed or attached. (Note that this must agree with the word it’s referring to.)

You may also see something like:

Veuillez trouver-ci-joint(e)(s)

Please find attached/enclosed…

Example: Veuillez trouver ci-jointe une photocopie de mon passeport. (Please find attached a photocopy of my passport.)

Merci de bien vouloir

Please have the kindness to…/Please be so kind as to…

This is another ultra-polite phrase, but there is a sense of authority behind it. There really isn’t a choice here; you have to do what’s asked.

Example: Merci de bien vouloir remplir les documents ci-joints. (Please be so kind as to fill out the enclosed documents.)

Je vous remercie de/Merci pour…

I thank you for/Thank you for…. 

These phrases, especially the first one, are formal to general register. You can write Merci pour in a message to a friend as well as in a somewhat formal email or letter.  Je vous remercie is a bit more formal.

Example : Je vous remercie de votre lettre. (I thank you for your letter.)

Merci de ta compréhension/Merci de votre compréhension

Thank you for understanding./I appreciate your understanding.

This can be used for personal matters, or in a more general way, a bit like “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Example: Nous vous informons que notre bureau sera ferme la semaine prochaine. Merci de votre compréhension. (We kindly inform you that our office will be closed next week. We appreciate your understanding.)

donner suite à (dans les plus brefs délais)

to respond/to follow up on something (as quickly as possible)

Example: Merci pour votre message. Nous y donnerons suite dans les plus brefs délais. (Thank you for your message. We will reply to it as quickly as possible.)

N’hésitez pas à me contacter pour tout renseignement complémentaire

If you need additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

This is an extremely common statement to make towards the end of a formal or business letter or email (depending on the context, of course).

This is an extremely polite way to ask someone to do something and is commonly found in business correspondence or instructions.

Example: Veuillez trouver ci-joints les documents demand é s. (Please find attached the documents you requested.)

You’ll also see it tied to an extremely formal sign-off….

Veuillez agréer, ___, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées

Please accept my sincerest salutations.

This very formal closing statement or sign-off has many, many variations.

The phrase has to be completed with the title you used in the greeting of your letter. So for instance, if I addressed the person I was writing to as “Madame Dupont” at the start of the letter, I would write:

Veuillez agréer, Madame Dupont, l’expression de mes salutations distinguées

Most French letters and emails today won’t use this formula, opting to simply go to the all-purpose closing Cordialement instead.  But you will still find it or one of its variants from time to time, and you’ll need to write it if you’re being ultra-polite/groveling/applying for a job in French.

Merci par avance

Thanks in advance.

This is a bit of a loaded phrase because it implies certainty that whatever is being requested will get done.  Personally, I use it for things like routine procedures that the person I’m writing to would be expected to do.

Example: Veuillez trouver ci-joint la confirmation de ma demande de renouvellement d’abonnement. Merci par avance. (Please find attached the confirmation of my renewal request. Thanks in advance.)

How to end a formal French letter

Cordialement – Sincerely/Regards/Best Regards/Respectfully

This is the formal and business French letter or email sign-off par excellence. Even extremely formal correspondence may include it (after an extremely formal closing statement). And on the other hand, it’s often used in friendly yet somewhat formal correspondence between people in everyday life matters, as well.

For instance, if you’re contacting someone about something they’re selling online, you’ll use it and they’ll use it to close at least your initial messages. It’s also used in text messages of this kind, often abbreviated as Cdlmt or sometimes cdlt or cdt . It’s so common that there’s even some backlash against it .  

If you or your correspondent really want(s) to emphasize your good will, Bien can be added to the beginning: Bien Cordialement,

Three real-life examples of French formal letters and emails

Here are a few short formal or professional French letters and emails I’ve received recently (with specific names and references removed or replaced).

You’ll notice that none of them contain every single essential or word or phrase I’ve listed above. To me, this is the best way to show you not to panic. A letter or email in French is the same as it is in any other language; its primary goal is to communicate. It’s not just a patchwork of typical phrases, although you will still come across several of them in each example.

See which ones you find in these three messages:

I. An email regarding school registration

(Note: All names and other personal information have been removed/replaced):

Madame, Monsieur, Je vous envoie un message de la part de Mme Dupont concernant l’inscription pour le CP. Cordialement, Laure Martin

II. An email from my son’s school principal

Madame, Monsieur, Votre enfant ira au CP l’an prochain et vous avez reçu de la Mairie  le certificat d’inscription  pour les écoles de secteur. Je vous prie de bien vouloir remettre ce document à la maternelle 8, rue du Louvre où j’assurerai une  permanence lundi 20 avril et mercredi 22 avril de 10h à 11h.   Prenez soin de vous et vos proches. N DUPONT

III. A registered letter from our building management company

This is a letter sent to my husband by our building management company ( Syndic ), calling for an annual meeting of our building board (again, all names and personal information have been removed or replaced):

Monsieur Nous avons l’honneur de vous convoquer à l’Assemblée Générale de votre immeuble, qui se tiendra le :                                                                                 VENDREDI 2 OCTOBRE 2020 à 18H00 Nous vous prions d’agréer, Monsieur, l’expression de nos sincères salutations.                                                                                                            LE SYNDIC

Tips to write a formal French letter or email

Overhead view of half a laptop computer, a smartphone, some pens and a block of sticky notes.

I hope that this list of phrases and the idea that the most essential thing is to clearly communicate will make it easier for you to write a formal or business French letter or email.

If you still don’t feel confident, you may be able to find templates for certain letters by doing an online search for the phrase mod èle de , followed by the type of letter or email you have to write – for instance: mod èle de lettre de motivation (cover/job application letter template).

You can also ask Francophone friends or use online forums to see if your letter or email is written correctly. If you’re using a forum or talking to someone you don’t know well, of course be sure to leave out any specific personal information.

Keep in mind that in many cases — for instance if you’re sending a message to request information — the person on the other end just needs to understand you and understand that you’re being polite and respectful; if you make a few small errors, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t let your fear hold you back from asking for something important.

If it is holding you back, one thing I used to do was to start my letter or email with an explanation like:

Je m’excuse par avance pour d’éventuelles erreurs dans cette lettre/ce m é l, le français n’est pas ma langue maternelle.   (I apologize in advance for any possible errors in this letter/this email; French isn’t my native language.)

Informal French letter closings and openings

Writing a friendly email, card, or letter in French is a lot easier than writing a formal or professional one – after all, you’re communicating with people you know and probably are close to, so there’s less pressure and less formality required.  Still, there are a few common things you may want to know how to say, and a few that should probably be included in your message, as well.

Here are the essential words and phrases for opening and closing informal French letters:

Cher(s)/Chère(s) – Dear

Keep in mind that this should agree with the number and gender of the person/people you’re writing to. Although this is a standard way to start a friendly letter or email in French, I’ve personally found that it’s a bit old-fashioned. People of older generations use it in cards or letters, but younger people tend to use greetings like Bonjour , Salut , or Coucou .

Bonjour/Salut/Coucou – Hello, Hi, Hi there

These greetings are more commonly used by French people in informal or friendly correspondence, especially people of younger generations. Check out our article on French greetings to learn more about the specific uses and connotations of each one.

Je vous/te remercie de/pour OR Merci pour (I thank you for/Thank you for).  

As you might have guessed, Merci pour is the more informal, general way to thank someone, while Je te remercie de/pour is a bit more formal. I would use the latter, for instance, with a very old French acquaintance or relative.

Example: Merci pour ta carte. (Thanks for your card.) -I would write this to a friend. Or Je te remercie pour ta carte. (Thank you for your card.) – I would write this to an older French friend or acquaintance.

Passe le bonjour de ma part à – Say hi to ___ for me. 

You may also see this written as Passe le bonjour or Passe-lui le bonjour , where the de ma part is understood.

Example: Passe le bonjour à toute ta famille.

Amitiés – Warm Regards/Kind Regards

This is a friendly yet still somewhat formal way to sign off in non-professional correspondence. You can use it with acquaintances or a group of friends, for example.

Bien à vous – Sincerely yours/Best Wishes

The literal translation of this sign-off is “Good [things] to you.” You can also use it in some friendly business correspondence. Apparently, it’s even more common in Belgian French than in the French spoken in France. Still, I encounter it quite a lot here in letters and emails from people who are quite fond of me and/or my family, but who don’t know us extremely well.

Bisous (à tous) – Love (to you all)

As in English, this is a sign-off that’s used with people you’re very close to, like family and good friends.

Bises – Kisses

This is a bit less formal.

Je t’embrasse/Je vous embrasse/On t’embrasse/On vous embrasse/Nous t’embrassons/Nous vous embrassons – All our love/With love.

This phrase literally means “I/We kiss you”. It’s a bit more formal than the other closings on this list, but I sometimes find that even people close to us, or family members, use it. You’ll sometimes see bien fort added to the end, for instance: Je t’embrasse bien fort. This is the rough equivalent “Big kisses” or “Lots of Love”  and, to me, shows a bit more affection and familiarity.

If you want even more options, this article is a good source of additional openings, phrases, and closings for informal or friendly French letters and emails.

Three examples of informal or friendly French emails and letters

Here are three emails or letters that I’ve recently received from friends and family in France, as well as an example of an informal exchange about selling an item online.  

I. An email from a French friend

(Note: All personal information has been removed or replaced):

Bonjour Alysa, J’ai mis le temps, mais ça y est, j’ai enregistré nos photos de l’anniversaire d’Antoine dans un album Google. Et vous, comment ça va ? Avez-vous pris des vacances pour la Toussaint ? Antoine et moi sommes partis 4 jours au Portugal. Ça nous a fait un bien fou ! Nous vous faisons des bises et vous disons à bientôt, Carole & Antoine

II. A card from French relatives

Alysa, [my husband], [my son], Merci pour votre carte. Nous vous souhaitons de joyeuses fêtes de Noel. On vous embrasse très fort, Nadine et Charles

III. A reply from someone selling a bookshelf online

This is a reply to a message I left on famous French classifieds site Le Bon Coin, regarding some bookshelves I was interested in buying:

Bonjour, les bibliothèques ne sont plus disponibles. Merci pour votre message. Cdt

As you can see from the last message, informal correspondence, especially online, is often very influenced by French texting slang and abbreviations .

Still, the messages on these sites are almost always polite – French people typically take the time to at least end the first one with some form of Cordialement .

Essential French phrases for specific occasions

A woman's hands hold an open envelope from which a red paper heart emerges.

Here are a few French phrases you’ll commonly see or use for specific occasions and situations:

Meilleurs vœux shows goodwill for a specific event, for instance, if someone graduated school. But it’s also typically used during the winter holiday season to mean “Season’s greetings”.

I’ll end this guide to writing a French letter with a short, somewhat formal note:

Chers lecteurs,

J’espère que vous avez trouvé cet article utile, et que vous ne serez pas (ou ne serez plus) intimid é s quand vous devez é crire une lettre ou un m é l en français.

 Bonne continuation et bon courage !


Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn , a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here , or feel free to stop by her website .

Writing a Business Letter in French

Writing a job letter ( une lettre d'emploi)  in French can be a challenge. You need to be professional, but if you're still learning the language, this can be difficult to convey. At times, it is best to look at an example so you know where to begin.

When writing the letter, remember to be as polite as possible and follow the formula outlined in this sample. With a little attention to the details, like the salutation and opening of your letter, you will be constructing great correspondence in no time.

Sample Correspondance Commerciale

This sample business letter, or correspondance commerciale,  is to give you an outline for using  business letter formulas  in French. The various sections are notated using brackets and it is much easier if you construct the letter piece by piece.

You can use this sample as a template for your own letter. Simply replace the sentences as needed to fit your particular requirements. The formula works well for job applications as well as other types of formal business correspondence. 

New York, le 10 novembre 2012 Monsieur Georges UNTEL Entreprise fictive 46, rue Jenesaisquoi 12345 UNEVILLE Sonpays Monsieur Untel [salutation] , J'ai l'honneur de vous informer [open letter] que j'ai bien reçu votre lettre du 6 novembre 2000 [confirm receipt] . C'est avec plaisir [express pleasure] que j'accepte le poste de traductrice de votre site web que vous m'offrez [accept/refuse offer] . Je regrette vivement de ne pas pouvoir commencer immédiatement [express regret] . Je serais disponible à partir du 20 novembre [availability/contact info] . J'espère que vous voudrez bien me faire savoir si cette date vous conviendra [make request] . En vous remerciant de la confiance que vous me témoignez [pre-close] , je vous prie d'agréer, Monsieur Untel, l'assurance de ma considération distinguée. Laura K. Lawless mon adresse, mon numéro de téléphone et cetera

Salutations (Les saluts)

Just as it is in English, the salutation you use in the letter is extremely important. Your choice will leave an impression on the reader that may influence how they interpret the rest of the letter. Be sure to choose wisely and use the appropriate address.

It would be impossible to list every possible title, but this list should give you an idea of how to address your letter.

*In so-called "standard" French, the word  professeur  is always masculine. However in Québec and parts of Switzerland, there is a feminine version:  la professeure , so pay attention to the country of the person you are addressing.

Opening the Letter (Pour commencer la lettre)

As important as the salutation, your opening sentence sets the tone for the letter. Compose this carefully or the reader may not bother reading the entire thing. 

The following phrases are good choices when your letter's intent is to inquire about employment. They cover most job application situations, from responding to an advertisement to inquiring about open positions at a company.

Watch Now: "May I Use Your Telephone?" in French

how to write a formal address in french

how to write a formal address in french

how to write a formal address in french

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