Those of us who live in France will be used to receiving letters. The country seems to revolve around a mountain of paper and it’s lucky there are plenty of forests to supply the demand. But it may be a bit daunting to receive your first French business letter, or have to write one if you are living abroad, so we decided to write a brief guide to setting out business letters in French.
Starting the letter
Write your name without title above your address on the left.
Below on the right put the addressee’s name and address, placing the full form of the title after the name eg Monsieur and not M.
Write the date below the addressee’s name also on the right eg le 13 avril 2007.
In formal letters there is no “Dear” as in England and the name of the person is also omitted. The letter starts with a simple Monsieur, if to a man, or Madame, if to a woman. If you don’t know who’s going to be reading your letter, put Madame, Monsieur, Messieurs to be on the safe side, while anyone in the legal profession should be addressed as Maître.
Ending the Letter
It’s much easier in English! The French don’t seem to be able to do it quickly. Is it because they are excessively polite? Take your pick from the following examples, and then end with your signature. Don’t forget to match the Monsieur, Madame etc to the addressee in the greeting.
Veuillez agréer, Monsieur l’expression de mes salutations les plus distinguées.
Veuillez recevoir, Monsieur mes salutations les plus distinguées.
Je vous prie d’agréer, Madame, mes sentiments respectueux.
Veuillez agréer, Madame, l’expression de mes sentiments dévoués.
Dans l’attente de vous lire, je vous prie d’agréer, Messieurs, mes sentiments distingués.