Writing a letter is often a very well received and appreciated gesture, but there may be times that a letter is not the most appropriate method of communication. Whether or not writing a letter is the best course of action may depend upon many variables.
To help you determine if a letter is your best method of communication in a particular situation we have put together the following questionnaire. Answer "yes" or "no" to each question and then total your responses. Match your resulting totals to the explanations at the end to find out if it is appropriate to write a letter.
Take the "Should I Write a Letter" Questionnaire
Would you write about an issue you have some time to discuss?
Does the recipient receive regular post?
Would the recipient prefer a letter to hearing your news in person?
Will you be able to address each letter to a specific individual?
Do you know how best to format your proposed letter?
Do you feel you have an appropriate vocabulary to discuss the matter in a letter?
Can you personalise the content of the letter to the recipient?
Can you send your letter promptly following an event?
Have you seen examples of a letter of the kind you intend to send?
Do you feel comfortable asking for a written confirmation of receipt of a letter?
Do you know whether to handwrite or print your letter?
If you answered "yes" to between zero and four questions then it may not be appropriate to write a letter. Perhaps your intended recipient would prefer another method of communication or you don't feel comfortable discussing the matter in writing, but you might consider alternatives to a letter to make your point. Email, telephone and meeting in person may all be options better suited to this particular situation, each offering the benefit of speed though telephoning or meeting with someone won't necessarily provide you with proof of your communication. Review your "no" answers to find out why a letter might not be best suited to your specific situation and then use these answers to determine what other means of communication would be better.
"Yes" to 5 - 8 questions
If you answered "yes" to between five and eight questions then it may be appropriate to write a letter. Look over your answers to see if there are any patterns, such as that writing a letter would be the most efficient of communicating but that your intended recipient would not necessarily appreciate receiving a letter about a given subject, and then determine which is more important to you. If you are unable to determine if it is best to write a letter or use another means of communication then remember that you can always do both. Sending a letter as a follow-up to an email, telephone call or personal meeting is almost always appropriate and may make you feel more confident that you have taken the best course of action.
"Yes" to 9 or more questions
If you answered "yes" to nine or more questions then it is most likely appropriate to write a letter. It seems as though you would be confident in writing a good letter and your recipient would appreciate the gesture so don't hesitate to start writing. Look around for examples or templates of the particular type of letter you would like to write, or ask others who have written or received such letters for their advice. The examples found on this site are good starting points for writing excellent letters on a variety of topics.