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 arre 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 sttyle 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 we

ell 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 whhom 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, za

appy 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 tr

ravel 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.


Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express my strong dissatisfaction with the quality of the clothes I ordered from your catalogue last month.

When I received th

he merchandise, trousers were not linen, as advertised in the catalogue, but were made of an inferior fabric. This is unacceptable. Moreover, the blouse had small hole under the collar.

Furthermore, when I ordered the items over the phone, I was told that if I was not satisfied, I could return the clothes and receive a refund.

Although I have already sent back the items with a letter requesting that my money be returned, I have not yet received a reply from you.

I insist that you refund my money at once. I trust the matter will be receive your immediate attention.

Steven Hill

Paragraph plan for letter of application


Dear Mr. Dobblins,

I am writing in response to your advertisement in Sunday’s edition of The Times. I would like to apply for the position of Hotel Manager.

I am a graduate of the Baron School of tourism and my degree is in Hotel Management.

While at school I was the manager of the student-run restaurant. I assited in the management of a twelve-member staff and kept records of the finances.

I have previous experience with Golden Sun Hotel as assistant Manager. My responsibilities included supervising staff, responding to guests’ needs and keeping financial records.

I believe that I have the proper qualifications and experience for the position of Hotel Manager at your resort.

I have enclosed my C.V. and would be glad to supply any further information required.
Yours sincerely,
Tom Gobblin

Paragraph plan for narrative – descriptive letters

Descriptive and/or narrative techniques can be used when writing a letter. For example, you may need to write to the Lost Property Office of a hotel describing a briefcase, which you have lost. In this situation, you must write in a formal style and give a complete description of the item you are looking for, using descriptive techniques. Or you may need to write to a friend describing your summer holidays. Then you must write in an informal style, using narrative techniques (where you went, how you spent your time there, any particular incidents, etc.)


Dear Steve,

I just had to write to tell you about a strange experience I had the other night while I was walking home along Baxter’s Lane.

It was quite late and there was no one else about. I was nearing the end of the lane, when suddenly I began to feel uneasy, as if I was being followed. Then, I heard the sound of heavy breathing behind me. As you can imagine, I was terrified! I turned, and to my surprise there was a dog behind me.

At first, I thought the dog was a wolf. It was large, black and white and had strange piercing green eyes. My heart started beating quickly and I felt I was in danger. I started walking faster. When I got to the end of the street and looked back, the dog was nowhere to be seen.

Anyway, I wanted to share this story with you because I remember you told me about a similar experience you had on Baxter’s Lane. Write back and tell me what you think!

Best wishes,

Transactional letters

A formal or informal style can be used when writing transactional letters. They require a reply, which may be based on advertisement, other writing input, letters, etc. For example, a letter, which is asking for further information about a summer camp based on an advertisement, is a transactional letter.
When writing a transactional letter:
• Choose an appropriate style (formal or informal).
• Include all the factual information provided in the rubric, using your own words.
• Check that each paragraph has a topic.


Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing with regard to your advertisement in The Observer on April 26. Any further information you could send me about your auto exchanges scheme would be greatly appreciated. However, I would be grateful if you could answer a few questions I have.

I am interested in exchanging my car and purchasing a new Honda Civic. I would like to enquire as to exactly what kind of car is required. Do you accept cars that are more than ten years old? Does your company accept all makes, including German cars?

I have a 1986 red Opel Ascona. It is in good condition, and has covered 130,000 kilometres. Can I choose any make or am I limited to the same make, i.e., Opel? I would be more than glad to send photographs and service records, which give a clear picture of the condition of the car, if this would be assistance.

Thank you for your kind attention. Please reply at your earliest convenience.

Yours faithfully,
Carl Briggs

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