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How to Write a Formal Letter in Italian Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Italian Language

Writing a formal letter is never an easy task unless you’re a trained professional, and it’s even more difficult of course if you have to do it in Italian. In a formal letter it’s important to use the correct opening and closing formulas, and to use the appropriate formal language. Here’s a formulary that you can use for a wide range of formal letters. We’ll take it one step at a time and gradually build it up into a complete sample letter.

1. The City or Town from which you are sending the letter should be at the top right, followed by a comma, then the day of the month (in numerals), the name of the month (preferably in letters with NO capital at the beginning), and the year (in numerals):

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013

2. The recipient of the letter is the destinatario and traditionally goes on the right hand side, beneath the date. This is because Italian business envelopes have the transparent window on the bottom right corner. It’s important to start with a formal adjective such as Spettabile (Respectable), Gentile (Gentle), Egregio/a (Dear). Spettabile, often shortened as Spett.le, is probably the most common one and can be used with either a person or with the name of a business, e.g. Spettabile WIND Telecomunicazioni SpA. Egregio/a, on the other hand, is only used with people and should be followed by a title such as Sig. (Mr), Sig.ra (Mrs), Dott. (Doctor), and so on, e.g. Egregio Sig. Rossi:

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013
 
Spettabile Villa Albicocca Via Francigena, 9
55100 Pontetetto (LU)

3. The Subject of the letter is called the oggetto. It goes on the left side of the letter, without any indent, and is often underlined, e.g. Oggetto: Prenotazione (Booking):

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013
 
Spettabile Villa Albicocca Via Francigena, 9
55100 Pontetetto (LU)

Oggetto: Prenotazione
 

4. The opening is called formula d’apertura. If you don’t know the name or title of the person you are writing to, NEVER use a generic opening such as Dear Sir/Madam, simply don’t put anything. If you are writing to a hotel you can safely assume that there’s a manager, so you can start with Gentile Direttore (Dear Manager). N.B. The adjective Caro/a (Dear) is only used in informal letters with friends and family!:

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013
 
Spettabile Villa Albicocca
Via Francigena, 9
55100 Pontetetto (LU)

Oggetto: Prenotazione
 

Gentile Direttore,
 

5. The content of the letter is called il corpo della lettera. Here’s where the problems really start: the language changes a lot depending on the subject of the letter and the recipient. If you are writing a letter of complaint to a firm or you want to begin or withdraw from a contract the language would be extremely bureaucratic (in Italian we call it burocratese). If you want to book an hotel, on the other hand, you’ll need to use a lot of conditionals, e.g. vorrei prenotare (I would like to book), vorrei sapere se (I would like to know if):

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013
 
Spettabile Villa Albicocca
Via Francigena, 9
55110 Pontetetto (LU)

Oggetto: Prenotazione
 

Gentile Direttore
,
 

Vorrei prenotare una camera matrimoniale …….

6. The ending is known as the formula di chiusura and there are several set formulas for ending letters, the simplest ones being Distinti saluti, and the slightly more friendly Cordiali saluti, both equivalent to Yours sincerely / Yours faithfully. If you expect a reply then it would be better to write a classic formula such as: In attesa di una Sua pronta risposta, La saluto cordialmente (Waiting for your reply I’m sending my regards). Note the use of the formal personal pronouns written with a capital letter to show respect (Sua = your, and La = you). N.B. If your letter is addressed to a company/business in general and not to a specific person, you’ll need to use the plural Voi (you plural), e.g. In attesa di una Vostra pronta risposta, Vi porgo i miei più cordiali saluti (Waiting for your reply, I offer you my regards):

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013
 
Spettabile Villa Albicocca
Via Francigena, 9
55100 Pontetetto (LU)

Oggetto: Prenotazione
 

Gentile Direttore
,
 

Vorrei prenotare una camera matrimoniale …….

In attesa di una Sua pronta risposta, La saluto cordialmente

7. The signature is called la firma. It goes either in the centre or on the right hand side of the letter. If you are not using una carta intestata (a headed letter), you can put your address, telephone number and e.mail underneath the printed signature:

  Pontremoli, 9 aprile 2013
 
Spettabile Villa Albicocca
Via Francigena, 9
55100 Pontetetto (LU)

Oggetto: Prenotazione
 

Gentile Direttore
,
 

Vorrei prenotare una camera matrimoniale …….

In attesa di una Sua pronta risposta, La saluto cordialmente

 
Sig.ra S Cricorian
Piazza Giulio Cesare, 12
54027 Pontremoli (MS)
Tel. 0123 4567890

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Comments:

  1. Allan Mahnke:

    Many thanks! This is most helpful!

  2. Vito P.:

    Sirena & Geoff, great item and very helpful in underpinning some of the everyday “polite formal” Lai/La construction. Thanks a bunch!

    Buona Pasqua,
    Vito P.
    (Seattle)

  3. c. moses:

    thanks for the info. not have been fortunate with real time detailed explanation.The princiles upholding formal writting style particularly appreciated. Many thanks

  4. Jeremy:

    Thanks for helping me with my homework !

    • Serena:

      @Jeremy Salve Jeremy, non c’è di che!
      Saluti da Serena

  5. Gillian Noero:

    Thank you for this – you have been such a help to me – I needed a clear guide to writing a formal business letter to an Italian company. I barely speak any Italian but I can see that, compared to google translate and to other web sites, your versions of the needed business phrases are, as we say in Afrikaans, “suiwer”, which literally means “pure” but connotes a highly educated level of expression. Thanks again!

    • Serena:

      @Gillian Noero Salve Gillian, sono contenta che il nostro blog ti è utile.
      Saluti da Serena

  6. Colin:

    Molto utile. Grazie.

  7. Umi:

    Grazie Mille.
    Your site helps me a lot!!

  8. William:

    Thank you very much Mille.

  9. Simon:

    Is it standard to capitalise the first word after the salutation, eg.:

    Dear Mr X,

    How is Z?

    rather than:

    Dear Mr X,

    how is Z?

    I believe the former is standard in German, but the latter is standard in British English…

    • Serena:

      @Simon Salve Simon! No, In Italian it’s not standard to capitalise the first word after the salutation, but it’s more formal, so it’s preferred in formal letters.
      Saluti da Serena

  10. jane buttigieg:

    please can you teach me how to write a very simple composition for beginners level l or 2. best wishe

    • Geoff:

      @jane buttigieg Salve Jane, potresti cominciare scrivendoci un commento in italiano.

      A presto, Geoff


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