Writing a letter

Posted on 20. Feb, 2009 by in Dutch Language

Even in this current computer age, lot’s of letters are still written on paper… Either handwritten or printed. Professional letters, personal letters… letters all over the world still manage to find their way.

So, I would like to give you a little information on what to pay attention to when writing a letter in Dutch.

The business letter.

A business letter usually addresses a person like this: ‘Geachte’, which means you hold the addressee in high esteem. It shows respect.

Now, if you know this person to be male and you also know his name, for example Bruinsma, you would start the letter:

‘Geachte heer Bruinsma’ (or Geachte mevrouw Bruinsma in the case of a woman).

Now, there are also names with additives like: van, van de, van der, van den… etc.

For example: Gerrit van de Berg, Gerrit van Heukelom, Gerrit van den Berg…

As you can see, all the extra words are written with lowercases, but as soon as the first name is left away, look what happens… The first letter becomes an uppercase.

Geachte heer Van den Berg

Geachte mevrouw Van den Berg

Old fashioned language is still very common amongst lawyers and governmental institutes like ‘de Belastingdienst’(IRS).

It’s very common they start a letter addressing the person as ‘weledelgestrenge heer’ or ‘weledelgestrenge mevrouw’. And, there’s not really a good translation I think, that would capture the overblown meaning of the word ‘weledelgestrenge’.

To end a business letter in a professional and respectful way, you end with ‘hoogachtend,’ which can be translated with ‘with the highest regards’ or something like that.

The personal letter.

A personal letter is very different in lay out and tone. No need for overblown greetings and titles, just affectionate language to express your appreciation for the other person.

You can start the letter with ‘Beste …’ or ‘Lieve …’ depending on how close you are to this person (‘lieve’ is more affectionate than ‘beste’).

Of course, you only use the first name, or maybe even an affectionate pet name, but in a personal letter you leave out the family name.

You can then end the letter with ‘groetjes,’ or ‘met vriendelijke groet,’ again depending on how close you are to this person (‘groetjes’ is more affectionate than ‘met vriendelijke groet’).

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3 Responses to “Writing a letter”

  1. Stuart Ashworth 2 March 2009 at 4:13 am #

    Hi
    i find your blogs really usefull as an englishman living in amsterdam and really find the language hard. Allthough i understand many words i find the grammar difficult.

  2. Mathieu 2 March 2009 at 8:35 am #

    I really sparked some chuckles years ago … meant to write “groeten” at the end of an email, and wrote “groenten” instead.

    Imagine receiving a mail that read like

    Hi Jack,

    Hope you are well!

    Vegetables!
    Mathieu

  3. Jane Rochelle 22 March 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    I’ve just started a project to write 30 Notes in 30 Days. I’m on Day 6, and am amazed that I’ve enjoyed it so much! Being intentional about writing…taking the time to think about someone and write a hand-written note brings back memories of time with that person, and emotions I’d forgotten. It has been rewarding during this time of (sometimes) overwhelming social networking.
    Thanks for the great post, and the reminder that hand-written notes are not a lost art.
    Jane


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