How to Cite a Letter

When writing letters and other academic writings that need referencing, you can use citation formats such as American Psychological Association and the Modern Language Association. So, here is how you cite a letter using these formats. 

Citing a Letter 

Citation styles have a defined order that guides you on how to cite a letter. You should learn the right order in a reference such as author, author affiliation, connective phrase, recipient, recipient affiliation, date, pagination, language. If you choose MLA or APA as your citation style, you should memorize their requirements to avoid any confusion. 

How to Cite a Letter in MLA 

To reference your paper, use the MLA style template and follow the structure: author’s last name, then first name. The letter’s “title/subject” or a general description. You should mention the receiver’s name, usually their first name and followed by the last name. Include the letter’s date next.

Structure Author’s Last Name, First Name. Title or Subject, Name of Receiver. Date.

Example #1

  • Scott, Ashley. “Annual General Meeting.” Received by Bradley J. Bird, 5 June 2020.

Example #2 (no subject, using generic description)

  • Scott, Ashley. Letter to Bradley J. Bird, 5 June 2020.

Example #3 (location information) 

  • Scott, Ashley. Letter to Bradley J. Bird, 5 June 2020. West Hollywood Library, West Hollywood, CA.

1. Write the Author’s Name

Always type the author’s last name, a comma and specify their first name and middle initial where necessary. You should end this section with a period.

2. Add the Letter’s Title or Subject

The title or subject appears after the author’s name. When it comes to how to cite a letter in MLA, you should include the subject in title-case. Remember to place a period within the quotation marks at the title section’s end.

3. If There Isn’t a Title or Topic, Use a Generic Description

Some letters, especially historical ones, will not have a title or subject. In this case, mention that the source is a letter, and the recipient in this situation. Put a period at the end of your description.

4. If There Isn’t a Title or Topic, Indicate the Recipient, and the Date Received

First, write their first name, middle name, an initial (if any), and finally their last name. Next, provide the date they received the letter, separate that with a comma. Use the date on the letter itself if you do not recall when you received the letter.

5. If Applicable, Include Location Information

When referencing a letter from a library, for example, it may be necessary to cite it in this manner. After the library’s name, add a comma. Then, put the name and location of the institution that houses the collection, and conclude your citation in the letter’s style.

How to Cite a Letter in APA

When writing your paper, this is how you cite a letter in APA. Begin the process with the last name of the author, a comma and the first initial. Next, include the date in a parenthesis. Proceed to put in the title. Finally, close with the URL if accessed online, or location if archived.

APA Structure

Author’s Last Name, (Date), Title or subject, URL/Location

Example #1 (letter is online)

  • Kent, C. (2019, May 23). Clerk Kent top Louis Lane, May 23, 2019 [Letter]. Retrieved from http://www.rec.edu/portal/magpipe00420 

Example #2 (location information)

  • Kent, C. (2019, May 23). Clerk Kent top Louis Lane, May 23, 2019 [Letter]. Arcadia Public Library, Arcadia, CA.

Example #3 (author-year parenthetical citations)

  • Was a successful endeavor, (Jones 2012).

1. Provide Author’s Name

First, type their last name, then a comma. After that, put their first name, and if their middle initial is available, use it too. From the information so far, the author’s name is arguably the most important aspect of how to cite a letter.

2. Include the Date

If the letter has a date, include it after the writer’s name in your citation. If the letter contains a month and a day, use a comma after the year, then type the date and the month. After the closing parenthesis, add a period.  

3. Provide a Title

Always include the author and receiver of the letter, as well as the date in the letter’s title. If the letter is a stand-alone document, use italics for the title. Next, use the term “[Letter]” to identify the document’s format. You should place a period after closing the bracket in any citation.

4. Close With Location Information or URL

Provide the location in the citation if you studied the print letter rather than a copy online. If it’s an online copy, use the URL and precede the URL link with “Retrieved from.”

5. Add Citations in the Body

Always direct the reader to the complete citation in your reference list if you use parenthetical citations. The list also includes the last name of the author, followed by the letter’s publication year. To identify numerous letters written in the same year, use lowercase letters after the year.

Conclusion

Giving credit where credit is due is what citation is all about. The MLA citation method allows one to quote books, anthologies, and literary works, and it includes the author’s last name and the publication’s location. The APA style includes the author’s last name, and the resource’s publication year. You can use APA for scientific writing. Always consider the above to succeed on how to cite a letter.

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