Letters of Condolence
Different kinds of letters require different writing styles. A condolence letter—one written to comfort a person who is grieving a loss—has a very special purpose and audience and thus requires a special approach or writing style.
Writing a good condolence letter may be particularly challenging when writing to or about someone you do not know personally. Consider this excerpt from a condolence letter Lincoln wrote:
Washington, Nov 21, 1864
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously in the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
Read the remainder of the letter and answer these questions.
- What bereavement had the person receiving this letter experienced?
- Did the president know about Mrs. Bixby and her sons? How did this affect what he was able to say in his letter?
- Overall, how effecive do you think this was as a letter of condolence?
Use the same questions to analyze the letter of condolence from Queen Victoria to Mary Todd Lincoln.