Writing Letters in German
The following information about writing letters in German is not
exhaustive, but should be regarded as helping to make your letters
more "German" and, very importantly, to avoid misunderstanding or
misinterpretation. Being familiar with some of the conventions of
German letter-writing will also be useful when you receive letters
in German or English from German native-speakers.
Laying out the letter: Formal letters
If you are writing on plain paper, you should either put your
name and address at the top left and the date on the right, or put
the address on the right with the date underneath. A letterhead is
usually positioned in the middle, in which case you can put the
date on the right-hand side beneath it.
Write your name without title; on the next line comes the street
followed by the house number; then comes the postcode (die
Postleitzahl) followed by the name of the town. There is no
Always put the recipient's address on the left-hand side of the
page. Leave a few line spaces between it and your address. The
addressed person's title appears on the first line, in the
Frau (Mrs/ Ms)
Rank and professional titles (Major, Professor,
Studienrätin, etc.) are usually included on this
Exceptions to this rule are the abbreviations
Dr. and Dipl.Ing
(Diplomingenieur), which go with the name on the second line.
On line two, write the recipient's first name (if you know it),
followed by the surname. On line three, put the street followed by
the house number. Leave a line space and on line five, write the
name of the town preceded by the postcode.
Dr. Ilse Wolf
When writing to a couple:
Herrn und Frau
Hans Schmidt und Elke Schmidt
If they have different surnames:
Herrn und Frau
Hans Schmidt und Elke Voss
Note that in German all women are addressed as
Frau (the equivalent of both Mrs and Ms) in formal
and business letters.
If you are writing to a company, write the name of the
organization on the first line. An individual recipient's title and
name follow on the next line. This may be preceded by
z.H. (zu Händen, 'for the attention of'):
z.H. Herrn Hans Sirges
Kurze Straße 7-10
In business letters it is usual to refer to any previous
correspondence. This reference usually includes the date of the
last letter and possibly a reference number.
Ihr Schreiben vom 28. April 2002
Laying out the letter: Informal letters
When writing an informal letter, it is customary not to include
either your own or the recipient's address. On most personal
letters and postcards, it is sufficient to put the name of the
place and the date in the top right-hand corner. With letters, the
sender's full address should be recorded either on the back of the
envelope or on the front, top left.
Dates are always written in the same way in German-day/ month/
Hamburg, (den) 30. Juni 2002
In business letters, or when you are using headed paper, the
date is usually written in numbers: 30. 6.
In a formal business letter, when you know the recipient's
Sehr geehrter Herr Schwarz
Sehr geehrte Frau Kühn
To a couple:
Sehr geehrte Frau Voss,
Sehr geehrter Herr Voss
When you do not know the person to whom you are writing:
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren
(= Dear Sir or Madam)
When writing to someone with a title there is no need to use
Sehr geehrte Frau Professor
(= Dear Professor)
However, when writing to someone who holds the academic title of
Doctor but is not a doctor of medicine, the abbreviation Dr.
precedes the name:
Sehr geehrte Frau Dr. Kunze
Less formal, to someone you have established a good relationship
Lieber Herr Braun
Liebe Frau Fischer
In informal letters or to someone you know well, write:
If you are writing to more than one person:
Liebe Natalie, lieber Peter
All these greetings can either be followed by a comma, with the
first line then starting with a small letter, or by an exclamation
mark, with the first line starting with a capital. Most
correspondence now uses the comma after the greeting.
vielen Dank für deinen Brief.
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren!
Wie ich Ihnen bereits mitgeteilt habe,
In the letter itself the formal "you" (Sie, Ihr,
Ihre) is written with a capital.
Use this standard ending when the person is known to you but the
relationship is not very close:
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
You could also finish the letter with:
Es grüßt Sie
Mit besten Grüßen
(followed by your signature)
In a formal business letter:
Mit freundlichen Empfehlungen
To someone you know well:
Mit herzlichen Grüßen
Or, more affectionately:
Es grüßt recht herzlich
Note that if more than one person signs a letter, the pronoun
has to be repeated:
deine Oma und dein Opa
eure Steffi und euer Rolf
dein Peter, dein Hans
There is no punctuation after the ending.
Addressing the envelope
Line 1: the person's basic title Herrn, Frau.
Line 2: the recipient's name.
Line 3: the street followed by house number.
Line 4: the postcode, followed by the town, which is often written
in capitals. The German postcode refers to a town or to part of a
larger town or city.
Line 5: for international letters, the country.
In typed or printed business mail there is a blank line before
the town or place.
The postcode may be preceded by D for Germany,
joined to the code with a hyphen.
If you are writing to someone staying with a family or friend, use
bei (= c/o) plus the surname,
e.g. bei Müller
Begin your return address on the envelope with the word
Abs. (short for Absender - from).
Abs. Karin Klein
Applying for a job
When applying for a job, it is usual to send a letter of
application along with your CV. This letter should follow the
general letter-writing conventions. Applications should be written
or printed on A4 paper. If you know the name of the recipient from
the advertisement, address your letter to him or her and quote
where you saw the job advertised. When applying for a job in
Germany, photocopies of certificates and diplomas for
qualifications gained must accompany the application. A letter of
recommendation is especially useful if you are applying for a
position as a trainee and have no other professional
Attach a photograph of yourself to the top right-hand corner of
your CV. Make sure that your name and address are on the back of
You could finish your letter of application on a positive note,
In der Hoffnung auf eine positive Antwort verbleibe ich
mit freundlichen Grüßen
The CV itself should be one or two pages long. It should present
all the information in a clear and accessible manner. Your name,
address and contact details should come first. Personal information
such as marital status are optional, although date of birth is
Most CVs are organized in chronological order, either starting
from the earliest date to the present day or vice versa. Avoid gaps
and give a brief description of your education, professional
qualifications, experience and positions held. You could add a
further section for other types of information such as hobbies and
Before sending your application off, make sure you have enclosed
all the certificates mentioned in the advertisement.
examples of formal and informal correspondence