Laying Out the Letter
The student writes his name without title above his address on the left hand side of the page. He must be made aware that punctuation at the end of lines in the heading is not the norm in France. The addressee’s title should never be abbreviated. For formal letters in French, the full forms of Monsieur, Madame and Mademoiselle should be used. Abbreviations can be made on the envelope if necessary. These are M. for Monsieur, Mme for Madame and Mlle for Mademoiselle The abbreviation M. for Monsieur is the only one which has a period or full stop after the M.
The students should place the place and date below the addressee’s name on the right hand side of the sheet. They should take care to place le before the date and write the name of the month in lower case, for example: Paris, le 12 février 2014
If the student is writing to a woman and does not know if she is married, it is safer to use Madame instead of Mademoiselle. The greeting should be followed by a comma. When it is not known to whom the letter will be addressed; for example, an official certificate, or an attestation of employment, the equivalent to the English ‘To Whom It may Concern’ is 'À qui de droit.’
In slightly less formal letters, the student can invent a name and write for example: ‘Cher monsieur Laval’ or ‘Cher madame Pierre’ It is appropriate in French, to follow the style of the informal letter and address the person by first name after a good relationship with the addressee has been established. For example ‘Cher Georges’ or Chère Marie’.