Writing a letter
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Writing a letter


Paragraph Plan for Letters

Letters are divided into two categories, formal and informal. There are various types of formal and informal letters, for example: letters asking for or giving information, letters asking for or offering advice, letters of invitation, letters accepting or refusing an invitation, letters of complaint, letters of apology, letters expressing thanks/regrets/congratulations, letters giving or asking for directions, letters of application, narrative/descriptive letters, transactional letters, letters telling the news etc.

It is important to think about the person who you are writing to before you begin writing a letter. If the wrong style is used, the letter will look impolite, silly or odd. For example, if you used formal language to write to a close friend, the letter would look odd, or if you used informal language to write a letter to a company, the letter would look impolite.

There are certain characteristics whose allow us to distinguish between formal and informal letters. These are:

• The salutation (e.g. Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Bill);

• The style or language (e.g. use of formal language for formal letters, or the use of slang and idioms for informal letters);

• The closing remarks (e.g. Yours faithfully, Lucy Cohen/Yours sincerely, Lucy Cohen/Love Lucy);

In formal letters your address and the date as well as the recipient’s address are included in the letter. When you do not know the name of the recipient, you should include their title in the address, e.g. The director of Studies, St. Michael’s School, 15, Pine St., London. You should begin the letter with Dear Sir/Madam, and end with Yours faithfully, Peter Jones. When the name of the recipient is known, their name and title should be included in their address, e.g. Mr Vitkins, Accounts Manager, Rockdell Financial services, 15 Stockdale Ave., London. The letter should begin with Dear Mr Vitkins, and end with Yours sincerely, John Smith.

In semi-formal and informal letters the recipient’s address is not included in the letter. In semi-formal letter showing respect for the recipient with whom you are on friendly terms, begin the letter with Dear Mr/Mrs Smith and end with Love/Regards/Best wishes/Yours Anna.

In an informal letter, begin with Dear John and end with Love/Regards/Best wishes/Yours, Mike.

Style in formal and informal letters

Formal letters Informal letters

Greeting: Dear Sir/Madam/Mr. Dobbins,

• Impersonal style

• Complex sentence structure – frequent use of Passive voice – single word verbs – non – colloquial English – formal language

• Each paragraph develops one specific topic

• Only facts, infrequent use of descriptive adjectives

• No use of short forms

Yours faithfully/Yours sincerely,

Name: Steven Hill Greeting: Dear Julie,

• Personal, short, zappy style

• Use of slang or colloquial English – use of idioms/phrasal verbs

• Pronouns are often omitted

• Chatty, wide use of descriptive adjectives

• Use of short forms

Best wishes/Love/Yours/Regards,

Name: Steve

EXAMPLE (formal):

Dear Madam,

I am writing on behalf of “World Travel” in response to your request for information on holidaying in the Caribbean.

A two-week package to the peaceful island of St. Kitts is being offered by your agency for only £3,000. This island satisfies all your requirements, as it is quiet and has little tourism.

In addition, transport is available should you wish to explore other islands in the Caribbean. All travel plans can be arranged through our office.

Please contact our agency immediately should you require more information.

Yours faithfully,

Jane Douglas

EXAMPLE (informal):

Dear Jane,

A quick note to help you decide where to hang out over the holydays.

Bill and I went to ST. Kitts last summer and it was great. It’s a small, quiet island that hasn’t been overrun by tourism yet, so you can really get a feel for the local culture. You can hop over to other islands too, because there are boats leaving St. Kitts every few hours. If St. Kitts is too quiet, you can go and party in St. Martin. Happy to give you the number of my travel agent if you’re interested.

Give me a ring so we can have a chat about it.



Paragraph plan for letter of complaint

The purpose of a letter of complaint is to complain about a specific problem. The style is normally formal and the letter should be written with a dignified (=orus) tone. The reason for the complaint is stated in the first sentence. The language used depends upon whether you want to complain in a mild or strong manner, e.g. mild – I am writing to complaint about the fridge I purchased from your shop last June. Strong – I was shocked by the interrior quality of the fridge which was sold to me at your shop last June. Linkin words are used to give reason(s) for a complaint, e.g. even thought the control switch is at its highest setting, the freezer does not keep food frozen. A suggestion or request (which can be mild or strong) is included in the conclusion, e.g. mild – I hope this matter will be resolved. Strong – I insist that you replace the item at once.

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