Elements of a Good French Business Letter

Formulas and Formats for Writing Effective French Business Correspondence

Executive writing letter by hand
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Writing a good French business letter depends on one thing: knowing the correct formulas. Here they are in one table: lists of the various formulas needed for effective French commercial correspondence or correspondance commerciale

First, let's sketch out broad brush what components are in all commercial correspondence, from top to bottom.

Components of a French Business Letter

  • The date of writing
  • The address of the recipient
  • The salutation or greeting
  • The body of the letter, always written in the more formal plural you (vous)
  • A polite pre-close (optional)
  • The close and the signature

In French business letters, it's best to be as polite and formal as possible. This means you will choose language that sounds professional, that is polite and formal and that suits the subject at hand—whether you're initiating a business transaction or accepting a job offer. These qualities should hold true for the entire letter.

If the writer is writing on his or her own behalf, then the letter can be written in the first person singular (je). If the writer is composing the letter on behalf of a company, everything should be expressed in the first person plural (nous). Of course, verb conjugations should match the pronoun that's used. Whether a woman or man is writing, the adjectives should agree in gender and number.

In the table below, click on the topics that apply to the kind of letter you want to write, then take a look at the very helpful sample letter at the bottom of the table to get an idea of how to pull it all together correctly.

We're looking at two main types of commercial correspondence in this table: business letters and job-related letters. Each has its own requirements.

Everything You Need to Write
a Good French Business Letter

Business Letters

Job-Related Letters

Choosing a salutation
Opening a letterOpening a job letter
Making a requestReasons for applying
Expressing pleasureExperience
Expressing regretAccepting/refusing offers
Expressing surpriseAvailability + contact info
Confirming receipt 
Miscellaneous 
Pre-closing a letter + Closing a letter
SAMPLE LETTER

Tips

  • Remember to always vouvoie. That is absolutely essential.
  • The more formal and polite you are, the better.
  • The job-related formulas can be used in conjunction with the appropriate business letter formulas such as expressing pleasure or regret.
  • When you're done, if at all possible, ask a native speaker to proofread your letter before you send it.