How to Write a Letter to Someone You Haven't Seen in Awhile

A letter can help you re-establish contact with an old friend.
... Allan Danahar/Photodisc/Getty Images

Writing a letter to someone with whom you've lost contact doesn't have to be awkward. Quickly acknowledge the distance, explain why you're choosing to get in touch and share details relevant to your message. Reaching out via email or letter helps you avoid potential uncomfortable feelings you'd experience calling the person on the phone and gives the letter recipient the choice of responding to you when ready.

1 Communication Lapse

Begin your letter with a greeting, such as, "Dear Mike," and then get right to acknowledging the amount of time that has passed since you were last in touch. Use a phrase such as, "I can't believe it's been 10 years since we graduated, but I was looking through my yearbook the other day and thought of you." Truthfully share the reason for your lapse in communication, whether you've been busy with work and family or just negligent in keeping up with your old contacts. Although acknowledging the void in communication might require you to share an uncomfortable truth, it's poor etiquette to simply ignore it.

2 Reason for Writing

It's possible that the letter recipient is wondering why you've chosen to write after a lapse, so make this information clear after you acknowledge the time since you've last been in touch. The reason could be cheerful, such as you're hoping to have a reunion of old work colleagues, or sad, such as you're writing to say that a friend or family member has passed away. Or, you might simply miss the person. It could also address geographical distances; for example, "I know you got transferred to Miami, and I'll actually be visiting Miami next month for work. I wondered if you'd have a chance to get together."

3 Offer Some Help

If you're writing with the hope of receiving something, Jodi Glickman in Harvard Business Review advocates including an offer of help if you're writing to someone with a specific request. For example, if you're a new entrepreneur and are writing to someone to get his advice about running a small business, offer to send him a product you sell for free. Taking this approach, when necessary, can prevent you from sounding self-serving.

4 Social Chit Chat

Use the remainder of the letter to share details about your life, ask questions about the other person's life and pledge to do a better job of keeping in touch. The specific content of the correspondence can range greatly, depending on your objective. Wrap up your letter with a sentiment appropriate to the message, such as, "I regret that we've fallen out of touch, but I hope we can rekindle our friendship." Although "sincerely" and "best" are suitable ways to close your letter, "as always" is appropriate for a letter to someone with whom you've lost touch. Sign the letter with your first name and add your last name if you believe it's necessary to provide context.

Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.