Learning how to write a formal letter in Chinese is an important skill for anyone doing business or communicating officially in China. While informal messaging and social media have become the norm for daily communication, more formal letters are still used in many professional situations.
Knowing the proper format, style, and customs for Chinese letters sets you apart as someone who understands proper etiquette and shows respect. It also makes your communications more clear and effective.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to write a polished, professional letter in Chinese.
Why Writing Letters in Chinese is Different
Correspondence in Chinese follows formats, structures, and rules that are specific to the language and culture. While letters in Western languages place the sender’s information at the top, Chinese letters place it at the bottom. Date formats, salutations, and vocabulary are also different.
Understanding these conventions is key for writing appropriate Chinese letters for:
- Business correspondence
- Official or government communications
- Formal invitations or announcements
- Thank you letters
- Letters of introduction
- And more…
By learning proper Chinese letter writing etiquette, you’ll gain respect and build stronger relationships.
Components of a Formal Chinese Letter
While less strict than in the past, formal Chinese letters still follow certain conventions. Here are the key components:
- Sender’s address – Placed at the bottom left, written in Chinese. Includes name, company, address.
- Date – At the top right, written in Chinese year/month/day format.
- Inside address – Name and address of the recipient, on the left side below the date.
- Salutation – Formal greeting, aligned left, below inside address.
- Body – Main message paragraphs, aligned left and split into clear sections.
- Closing – Expression of politeness, aligned right.
- Signature – Your name and title, aligned right, below closing.
- Postscript – Optional notes after signature, aligned left.
- Copy notation – If sending copies, indicated at the bottom left.
Let’s look at each of these letter elements in more detail.
Sender’s Address in a Chinese Letter
In English letters, the return address is placed at the top right. But in Chinese letters, it appears at the bottom left.
This section includes:
- Your full name
- Company or organization
- Full address
Written in Chinese characters from large elements to small. For example:
For personal letters, omit the company name. The order is:
- Detailed address
- Postal code
This identifies the sender and where to send replies.
Date in a Chinese Letter
The date is written at the top right of the page. Use the Chinese format of year/month/day from large to small units.
Write out the month and do not abbreviate the year. This makes it more formal.
Inside Address in a Chinese Letter
The inside address shows the name and address of the recipient. It is placed on the left side below the date.
The order is:
- Full name
- Detailed address
This should be accurate and complete, formatted with Chinese characters from large to small units.
Or for personal recipients:
Having the full inside address shows respect and care.
Salutations in Chinese Letters
The salutation comes after the inside address and opens the letter.
Salutations should be:
- Placed on the left side
- Followed by a comma
- Formal but not overly complex
Common Chinese salutations include:
- 尊敬的王先生: (Dear Mr. Wang)
- 亲爱的王小明: (Dear Xiaoming Wang)
- 尊敬的王总经理: (Dear General Manager Wang)
- 各位来宾: (Esteemed Guests)
- 女士们,先生们: (Ladies and Gentlemen)
Match the formality and politeness to your relationship. Simple is better for most professional situations.
Body of a Chinese Letter
The main message of your letter follows the salutation. Here are some tips for writing the body text:
- Paragraphs – Split text into clear paragraphs of 5-7 sentences.
- Topic sentences – Begin paragraphs with topic sentences that summarize the key points.
- Transition words – Use transition words like 首先 (first), 然后 (then), 最後 (finally) to connect ideas.
- Clear sections – Separate into logical sections using subheadings if needed.
- Formal language – Use formal vocabulary and avoid slang or casual speech.
- Polite tone – Maintain an appropriate polite, humble tone.
The body should directly convey your purpose, request, or message. Stick to one purpose per letter.
Closing a Chinese Letter
The closing provides a final note of politeness to end the letter. It is aligned to the right side below the last body paragraph.
Common formal Chinese letter closings:
- 顺颂商祺 (Best regards)
- 礼节用好 (Yours respectfully)
- 祝安好 (Wishing you well)
- 祝商祺 (Wishing you business success)
- 顺颂时祺 (Kindest regards)
- 祝身体健康 (Wishing you good health)
Choose closings that suit your relationship and purpose. Simple is generally better for formal letters.
Signature in a Chinese Letter
Your signature in Chinese letters includes:
- Your full name
- Your title
It should be aligned to the right, below the closing line, and provides your final endorsement.
Type out your name even if you physically sign the printed letter. This completes the formal letter composition.
Postscript in Chinese Letters
A postscript can optionally be added after your signature for any last notes or addendums.
- Be aligned left
- Appear in the bottom left section
- Open with “附註” (P.S.)
Keep postscripts brief and concise. Use them sparingly in formal letters.
Examples of Formal Letters in Chinese
Let’s look at some examples of formal Chinese letters for common business situations:
Thank You Letter
Job Application Cover Letter
Key Takeaways for Writing Formal Chinese Letters
To summarize the key points:
- Use standard formats – sender’s address, date, inside address, salutation, body, closing, signature.
- Formal polite language shows respect.
- Be clear, concise, and well organized.
- Match tone and style to the relationship and purpose.
- Follow Chinese conventions like date format, address placement, and vocabulary.
With practice writing Chinese letters for different situations, you’ll master professional correspondence and stand out for your etiquette.
I hope this comprehensive guide supports you in improving your Chinese formal writing abilities. Please let me know if you have any other questions!