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Formal Letter Writing

Sep 6, 2022
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Formal Tone and Informal Tone and Register  

Write (informal)or (formal) against each expression given below. The first one is done as an example. 

  • Can’t wait (informal) 
  • With reference to …  
  • Would be able to tell….. 
  • Furthermore…….. 
  • May I bring to the notice of ……. 
  • In the first place….. 
  • Can please / would you 
  • Say/ tell 
  • Inform ………. 
  • Mention 
  • Also, would like to… 
  • Hope all is well. 
  • Look forward to…. 
  • Reply soon 

Before discussing the format and types of formal letters, let’s consider the following important features for writing formal letters. 

Important features of formal letters 

  • Mention precisely the purpose of writing letters 
  • Consider the organization of the information contained in the letter 
  • Pay attention to grammatical accuracy and proper expressions. 
  • Maintain appropriate register, i.e., FORMAL throughout the letter. 

Layout of formal letter 

FIRST is the SENDER’S ADDRESS 

After sender’s address write DATE 

Next write RECEIVER’S address 

parallel

Below receiver’s address is salutation  

(Start the letter by using an appropriate greeting.) 

After salutation write SUBJECT 

Opening paragraph should give a clear statement of your reason for writing (I am writing to inform? complain…..) 

Body of the letter: can contain 1-3 paragraphs. Here you describe your enquire/complaint/inform etc 

parallel

Arrange the information logically. Some useful phrases are: 

  • First of all….Secondly…..Thirdly….Finally… (Finally, and worst of all…) 
  • In addition … 
  • Apart from the above… 
  • Furthermore, I would also like to draw your attention to… 

Signaling the End:  

Say what action you want to be taken/information needed (refund / compensation / etc.) 

The signature 

Let’s us discuss each part of the letter in detail:  

The Greeting 

If you know the name of the person you are writing to, begin: 

  • Dear Mr. James, (to a man) 
  • Dear Mrs. James, (to a married woman) 

Dear Ms. Jennifer, (to a woman) 

  • Dear Miss Lucy (not used much these days) 

If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, begin: 

  • Dear Sir, (to a man) 
  • Dear Madam, (to a woman) 
  • Dear Sir or Madam, (when you don’t know which) 

The opening paragraph 

This paragraph (1 or 2 sentences) contains a clear statement of your reason for writing. Some typical openings are: 

  • I am writing in/with reference to….. 
  • I am writing in response to…. 
  • I am writing to complain about… 

The body of the letter 

The body can contain 1-3 paragraphs, very rarely would it contain 4 or more paragraphs. The body contains all relevant information. 

Signaling the end 

The final sentence or paragraph often indicates that the letter is going to finish. Some typical sentences are: 

  • I look forward to receiving your reply 
  • Thanking you in advance for your consideration 
  • I look forward to hearing from you 
  • Please find enclosed a copy of my CV for your perusal 

The closing 

This phrase puts an end to the letter. If you know the name of the person you are writing to, end with 

  • Yours sincerely, 

If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, end with 

  • Yours faithfully, 

The signature 

  • In a formal letter it is common to write your name in FULL including surname under your signature. 

Types of formal letter 

1. Letters Requesting Information 

Letters written to request information must do just that. The letter because to receive additional detailed information on a certain matter. These letters are always formal. As in all formal letters these should be organized in paragraphs: 

Opening para: State why you are writing; 

  • Body (usually not more than 3-4 paragraphs: include all relevant information; 
  • The last paragraph: signal the end of the letter; this consists in a short sentence; 
  • Closing para: conclude using an appropriate sentence. 

Some expressions that can be used when asking for information: 

  • I would particularly like to know… 
  • I would be interested in having more details about… 
  • Could you tell me something about…? 
  • Does the school/college organize…? 
  • I would be (most) grateful if…. 

Use formal conjunctions: furthermore / moreover / in order to / therefore / nevertheless. 

2. Letters Giving Information 

Letters written to give information must do just that. This type of letters are written to give information for a certain purpose. These letters are always formal. 

As in all formal letters these should be organized in paragraphs with the opening one stating why you are writing; the body of the letter includes all the relevant information organized in paragraphs; the last paragraph, which consists of a short sentence, signals the end of the letter. The closing should be an appropriate one.   

Some expressions that can be used when giving information: 

  • I would like to mention… 
  • I am not interested in…(however)… 
  • I prefer (learning in) 
  • I am very keen on…. 

3. Letters of Complaint 

The main purpose of a letter may be to ask for information or to give information; however, another important purpose of a letter may be to complain. Complaining is always a difficult thing to do, even in your own language. 

When writing a letter of complaint also express an attitude or emotion on the subject to the person in question. Never be rude or offensive when writing these letters, yet clearly state your purpose (I am writing to complain about…) 

4. Letter of Application 

A letter of application is written to accompany a CV when applying for a job or sent on its own to request an application form for a job. As in all formal letters, a letter of application must follow certain rules to create a good impression. 

The letter can be improved upon in many ways: 

  • By using formal lexis and expressions 
  • By using proper grammatical constructions and structures 
  • by giving only pertinent facts 
  • by organising the information in a coherent manner  

Introduction for job application

I am writing in response to… 

I am writing with/in reference to…  

I am writing in reply to… 

e.g. I am writing with reference to your advertisement in  

(newspaper) for the position of… 

I would like to apply for the position of…advertised in…  

I am interested in the position of…  

e.g. I am interested in your advertisement in The Times of 8th December  and would like to apply for the position of  teacher in your reputed institution.  

Exercise 1 

Below are some phrases and types of language that could be found  in letters.  

Decide whether the phrase or type of language would be used in a formal or informal letter and write against in the brackets formal or informal. 

The first one is done for you as an example 

“I am sorry to inform you that…”                                                  (formal) 

  1. Phrasal verbs; idioms and slang                                        ( _____ ) 
  2. “I am very grateful for” 
  3. “Why don’t we”  
  4. Contracted verb forms 
  5. “Yours faithfully”, “Yours sincerely”
  6. “Yours”
  7. “Best wishes”
  8. “Write soon” 
  9. Polite phrases 
  10. Refers to reason for writing 
  11. “I look forward to receiving your reply”
  12. “Nevertheless,”  
  13. “therefore”  
  14. “but” 
  15. P.S. 
  16. “Everything is OK.” 
  17. Simple linkers, e.g. then, later, so 
  18. “Get in touch with“

Exercise 2 

Place the phrases  given  below into appropriate categories, depending on what emotion or attitude they convey. The first one has been done for you as an example. 

Categories  

  1. Dissatisfaction 
  2. Satisfaction  
  3. Annoyance 
  4. Feeling of regret 
  5. Mentioned 
  6. Desires  

PHRASES 

  1. I am particularly unhappy about………..                       (dissatisfaction) 
  2. I’m sorry (to have) to say….                                               (_______) 
  3. I’m very keen to…. Unfortunately… 
  4. I was delighted to see/hear that…  
  5. …which was very disappointing. 
  6. Happily,… Despite my request for… … 
  7. I should receive some compensation. 
  8. …is not what I expected.  
  9. What would suit me best is… 
  10. … was most impressive.  
  11. Even though you mentioned… 

You want to find a temporary job for the summer, and you have seen this advertisement in a newspaper for personal guides. 

Write a letter of application in response to the advertisement. The letter should be between 120-150 words.

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