A letter of condolence should be sent promptly after the death announcement. It should be well thought out and appropriate to the relationship with the deceased or their family.
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Letters are written to the individual closest to the deceased; this is usually a spouse, partner, parent or sibling.
The letter should be always be handwritten and never be typed.
Email should not be used, except in international circumstances.
It is best to opt for classic stationery such as good quality writing paper or a neutral blank greetings card; special condolence cards can seem less thoughtful.
See also: Stationery
Tone and style
The tone should not be too heavy; an eloquent yet direct approach is best.
Make sure that the content of the letter is directed to the bereaved, not the deceased.
The letter is usually personalised by mentioning something relating to the deceased, for example special memories, personal recollections, distinguishing characteristics or great achievements.
Gushing emotion or false promises of help and support will seem insincere.
See Forms of Address
A response to letters of sympathy and condolence is not necessary and should never be expected. However, it is a thoughtful gesture if the time is taken to reply.
It also provides the chance for the bereaved to thank any individuals who have been especially supportive or helpful.