How to write a formal letter in Spanish
Whether you’re looking for a job in a Spanish-speaking country or already have one, writing formal letters in Spanish is a task that every businessperson has to tackle at one point or another. I used to have a hard time with anything formal because my work has mostly been on the creative side of things. I can’t even wear a tie without feeling like I’m being strangled by a very weak yet determined man! However, I had to learn how to be formal if I wanted to advance in my career. Some people prefer formalities, others don’t really mind, but having this skill is important if you want to sound serious about what you’re doing and convince others of the quality work you’re showing. So today I’ll give you formal words and phrases so that you can write those important letters without worry!
Titles and job descriptions
People in Latin America’s business world take titles very seriously. Some might even get offended if you don’t address them properly! So before you find out if they’d rather be called by their first name it’s always a good idea to call them by their title. Here’s a list of the most common titles, greetings, and relevant job descriptions:
- Lic.: Short for Licenciado. This title is given to people who have graduated from college in most of Latin America and Spain. Licenciaturas are different than an undergraduate degree, though. They last longer (about 4-6 years) and they stand between undergraduate and graduate school in terms of information given. This one is commonly used for lawyers too.
- Dr.: You can probably figure this one out. Doctores are highly regarded in most if not all of the globe, and they tend to be proud of their title – with good reason. Becoming a doctor sure is difficult!
- Sr./Sra.: Short for Señor y Señora. These are used for formal events like weddings, graduations, religious ceremonies, etc.; however, they also work for business if you don’t know the recipient’s specific title. Their English counterparts are Mr. and Mrs.
- Srta.: Short for Señorita. Much like its English counterpart Miss, this applies to unmarried women. It’s kind of old fashioned if you ask me, but it’s still widely used in Latin America. Fun fact: we do have a neutral word to address women in Spanish – Seño! This applies to all women, but it’s very informal and not suitable for a letter.
- Ing.: Short for Ingeniero. Engineering jobs are highly esteemed in Latin America, and while you can call them Sr. or Sra., it’s respectful to call them Ing. instead.
- Prof.: Short for Profesor. This refers to college professors and it’s useful to know if you’re going to be working in a university abroad.
Additionally, when addressing someone on the envelope of the letter, remember to add the word presente after the title and name, since this is how we usually address someone in formal letters. A made-up example would be: Dr. Raúl Morataya, presente.
Greetings and Salutations
English is a language that has beauty in its simplicity. Instead of having three different formality levels, there’s only ‘you,’ and instead of having lots of ways to greet someone in a letter or email, there’s simply ‘Dear,’ which is simpler if you ask me.
- Estimado: In Spanish, there are two levels of formality when writing a letter: Querido / Estimado. These translate literally to Loved / Esteemed, but they serve the same function as the English ‘Dear.’ Querido is informal while Estimado is formal.
- A quien interese: Translates to ‘to whom it may concern’.
- Al departamento de: Translates to ‘to the department of:’ (and you put the type of department afterward – marketing, accountability, etc.).
Now that you’ve properly addressed the recipient, it’s time to say hi! These are some ways to greet someone in a formal letter:
- Reciba usted un cordial saludo: ‘I give you a warm greeting’
- Espero se encuentre gozando de buena salud: ‘I hope you’re in good health’
- Espero esta carta le encuentre bien: ‘I hope this letter finds you well’
- Mediante la presente, quisiéramos comunicarle que: ‘Through this medium we’d like to tell you’
- El motivo de la carta es: ‘The purpose of this letter is’
- Por la presente, quisiéramos hacerle llegar nuestra invitación: ‘Through this medium, we’d like to extend our invitation’
- Quisiera solicitar el puesto de: ‘I would like to apply for the job of’
- Le escribo para consultar acerca de: ‘I am writing to inquire about’
- Lamento informarle: ‘I regret to inform you that’
- Estamos felices de informarle: ‘We’re pleased to inform you that’
Farewell and sign off
Now that you’ve successfully expressed yourself, it’s time to say goodbye. These are some useful phrases to end a formal letter
- Atentamente: ‘Sincerely’
- Le agradezco de antemano: ‘Thank you in advance’
- Cordialmente: ‘Cordially’
- Se despide, Atentamente: ‘I take my leave, sincerely’
- Un cordial saludo: ‘Cordial greetings’
- Cuento con usted, atentamente: ‘I count on you, sincerely’
- Quedo a la espera de su respuesta: ‘I await your response’
- Sin otro particular, se despide atentamente: ‘Without further ado, sincere farewell’
You may have noticed the word Atentamente shows up quite a lot. While it’s letter-writing parallel is ‘Sincerely’, its literal translation means ‘attentively.’ Both words have the same use in a letter but carry different meanings, so keep that in mind!
Here’s an example letter to guide you through the motions of writing a letter:
Estimado Ing. Pérez,
Espero se encuentre gozando de buena salud. Mediante la presente, quiero comunicarle mi agradecimiento por dar de su tiempo para reunirse con la junta directiva la semana antepasada. Estamos felices de informarle que su propuesta de asesoría al personal mantenimiento de maquinaria pesada nos ha parecido de interés, por lo que cordialmente lo invitamos a la planta para negociar los honorarios que recibirá en caso desee aceptar trabajar con nosotros.
Un cordial saludo,
And here’s the example translated:
Dear Mr. Pérez,
I hope you’re in good health. Through this letter I would like to thank you for your time spent at the meeting with the board two weeks ago. We’re glad to inform you that your proposal regarding the consulting services you offered to provide to our heavy machinery maintenance personnel seems to be of interest to us. We cordially invite you to our central plant to negotiate the payment you’ll receive in case you choose to accept working with us.
And there you have it! This info will help you show Spanish speakers you mean business. If you want to blow your Spanish-speaking clients away, why not take a free class at Homeschool Spanish Academy to drastically improve your language skills?