Letter-Writing: Congratulatory Letters

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Getting mail is a ton of fun, but in an increasingly digital world, writing it can sometimes be hard. This blog post series about Letter Writing aims to make it easier. 

Congratulations, For Your- fill in the blank. Life is full of changes and happy occasions, ones you might want to write congratulatory letters about. Here are just a few reasons you might be writing to congratulate a person- that person graduated or completed some sort of certification, they had a baby, got married, moved to a new home, are celebrating an anniversary of some sort. You might write if they got a promotion, an award, a scholarship, or if they completed some especial task like having a book published. The list could go on. And just as the reasons are varied, so will what you write vary to suit the occasion.

No matter the reason for writing a congratulatory letter though, one can assume the tone of the letter will be a joyous one, and the content focussed on the other person's event or achievement, rather than catching up on news. The formality will also vary depending on the capacity you are writing in, and level of intimacy you enjoy with the person. A boss will write in a different tone than a grandfather might, for example. In general though, this is one letter where you might strive for a more formal, and eloquent style. In fact, it is not uncommon for congratulatory letters to include quotes or poems. The trick is to keep the balance between eloquent and sincere. These are the type of letters people will keep and look back on in posterity  so make your words count!

The format of your congratulatory letter will usually follow this general guideline: After the date and standard greeting, start right off by expressing your happiness over their good fortune and follow that up by telling the recipient congratulations for whatever milestones you are commemorating. You might add a few lines about the work they had put in to get to this moment, or the bright future that lies ahead, or even, when appropriate, add a bit of advice to help them with the new tasks ahead. In some cases, such as with moving into a new home or having a new baby, an offer of help might be appropriate. Even if you have gone through a similar event, refrain from using those anecdotes as it is their moment not yours. As with all letters, it is quality over quantity. For the most part, this type of letter will be on the shorter side. Most will range from a few sentences to a couple of paragraphs.

In closing, here's a helpful hint- the exception-to-every-rule about writing congratulatory letters. Despite being called "Congratulatory letters" there are some cases where it is inappropriate to say the actually word "Congratulations." When you are writing to a woman on the occasion of their engagement or marriage, it is considered politer to say "Best Wishes" to the woman. To say "Congratulations," has the connotation you are implying the woman has finally caught herself a man; rather, you congratulate the man on getting an affirmative answer! Of course, in today's society, no one might notice if you phrase your well-wishing one way or another, but it never hurts to be safe from injuring a person's feeling with careless syntax!

Still wondering about writing a congratulatory letter? More reading here:

Letter Writing Series: Thank You Notes | Personal Correspondence | Love Letters | Sympathy Letters | Congratulatory Letters | Postcards | Letters of Appreciation | Correspondence Chess | Get Well Cards | Invitations | Holiday Letters | Letters of Recommendation | Letters to the Editor | Letters to Politicians | Penpal Letters | Fan Mail | Cover Letters | Letters of Complaint


  1. This was such a fascinating read, I never even thought of the whole Best Wishes vs. Congratulations to the newly engaged or married. Interesting info, thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. It is an interesting tid-bit, right? I only found out researching for this. Thanks for reading!

  2. this is awesome! I am always so bad at writing letters like this!

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  3. Your final comment about syntax is so true! So many people don't think about the things they write-they just hastily put down anything they think sounds appropriate. Great tips again girl :)

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