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Learning Zone
Article

How to write a formal Letter / Email ? | B2 First (FCE)

Level: B2
Exam:
Article navigation:
 B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Structure
B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Model Answers
B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Example topics
B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter & Email: Tips
B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Useful phrases
B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Questions & Answers

Writing paper will require a response which is consistently appropriate for the specified target reader, and for example, you can expect to be asked to write different kinds of letters/emails. Moreover, their register and style can be formal or informal.

Formal letters are written to an individual or to an organisation. The purpose may be, for example,

  • to apply for part-time or holiday work (application letter)
  • to apply for study or scholarship opportunity (application letter)
  • to complain about something (complaint letter)
  • to make suggestions about something
  • to request information (enquiry letter)

 B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Structure

1. Salutation
Dear…
2. The first paragraph (opening)
Say why you are writing. Clearly state the subject or context.
3. The next paragraphs (main content)
Give the details about why you are writing. Organise all the essential information in a clear and logical way.  Use linking structures to make your letter flow
4. The last paragraph
Say how you expect the other person to respond to your letter if this is appropriate.
5. Closing and signing off
Finish your letter with an appropriate comment. Don’t just stop abruptly.
Yours ……….
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1. Salutation

If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, use “Dear Sir or Madam,” whereas if you know the person’s name you write “Dear Mr Smith” or “Dear Ms Smith”. Use the title “Ms” if you don’t know if the woman is married or unmarried.

2. The first paragraph (opening)

Here, you state your reasons for writing the letter and, if needed, what you are responding to. This should not be more than a couple of lines.

Useful phrases for the opening

  • I would like to apply for one of the scholarships I saw advertised in your prospectus.
    (applying for a scholarship)
  • I am looking for outdoor work during the summer holidays and I would like to apply for the position of hotel lifeguard assistant which I say advertised in my university’s student newspaper.
    (applying for a job)
  • I have seen your advertisement for the job in the local newspaper. I am writing because I would like to apply for the job.
    (applying for a job)

3. The next paragraphs (main content)

In the next paragraphs, you give more details about why you are writing. Give relevant information, but don’t expand too much. Use linking structures to make your letter flow.” Moreover”, “Furthermore”, “In addition” are all good examples of words that can be used to link sentences together.

4. The last paragraph

The last paragraph consists of telling the person what you would like them to do as a result of the letter, whilst also thanking them for their time. – “Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience”

5. Closing

When signing off, look at how you started as a guide. If you don’t know the name of a person you can sign off with “Yours faithfully,” and if you do know the name of the person you should use “Yours sincerely,”Your full name a surname should then be written under this.

It’s very important to write simply, clearly and logically informal letters. Contractions should not be used (“I am” not “I’m”).  Therefore, keep your letter short, direct and to the point

B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Model Answers

Topic

You have seen the following advertisement in a newspaper:


VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

We are the National Diabetes Organisation and we are organising a campfor diabetic children. We need volunteers to work with us during the camp.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Teaching children about diabetes
  • Playing games with them

Also, you should speak several languages because it’s an international camp


Write a letter applying to become a volunteer

Model answer

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing with regard to the advertisement posted in yesterday’s newspaper about the camp for diabetic children. I would like to take part as a volunteer if it is possible.

As you can see in my résumé, I completed a degree in nursing, so I am qualified to teach children about it. Besides, I suffer from diabetes, so I am quite familiar with this illness and how to deal with it.

Furthermore, I have some experience organising entertaining events for children, as I worked at a regular camp for children last summer. For this reason, I am capable of organising and playing fun games with children.

Finally, I must say that I can speak 3 languages, since I have spent some time abroad, in England and Germany. Therefore, apart from Spanish, I am fuent in English and German.

Can I ask about the duration of the camp? What is the daily timetable?I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

José

Topic:

You bought the personal stereo advertised in a mail-order catalogue.


A GREAT LITTLE PERSONAL MUSIC CENTER THAT FITS IN YOUR POCKET!
(Very big and too heavy for my pocket)

This high-quality stereo comes to you at the unbeatable price of $19.99,
(not true – found one for $14.99 in shop) including the cost of postage, lower than you will find in any shop.

It comes compete with:

  • Headphones (missing)
  • Convenient carrying case (zip broken)
  • Batteries

It has a recording facility (didn’t work) ,will pick up any radio station, and plays all your tapes (destroyed two tapes) with high-quality sound.


Write a letter to Home Mail Order, complaining about the stereo, and asking for your money back, or a new stereo

Model answer

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in connection with a personal stereo which I saw advertised in your mail-order catalogue. Last week I bought one of these, and I am sorry to say that I was very disappointed when I received it.

First of all, your advertisement stated that the price would be lower than in any shop but I saw the same stereo at a price of $14.99 instead of $19.99

Furthermore, your advertisement promised that it would be a high-quality stereo complete with all necessary accessories. However, when I received it, the headphones were missing and there was a broken zip on the carrying bag. As well, the recording facility did not work, and I have already destroyed two tapes that contained my favourite musical compositions.

Finally, you also promised that it would be a compact and portable device. However, the stereo was so big and heavy that it could not be carried in a pocket.

Could you please arrange for me to receive a new one or refund my money in full?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Petrov

B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Example topics

You are helping to organise a visit to an English Language Academy in manchester. You have received a letter from John Webster, the director of the Academy. Read the letter and the notes you have made. Then write a letter to Mr Webster using all your notes.


I am very glad to see that you are coming to our academy in July. I am sure you will all have a very enjoyable time and that you will learn a lot of English.

Your can either stay all together in a youth hostel or individually with local families. Please tell me which you would prefer.

Tell me something about your group so that I can organise interesting spare time activities. What sort of things do they like doing?

Please ask if you need any further information.

Yours sincerely,

John Webster


Your notes:

  • Paragraph 1 – learning a lot of English is very important because …..
  • Paragraph 2 – say which you prefer, and why
  • Ask what the weather’s like in Manchester and what clothes you will need

You have just returned from a trip to Canada. You flew there and back with Maple Air. You decide to write to the airline to complain about your flight and ask for some money back. Read the advertisement and the notes you made and then, using the information, write a letter to the airline. You may add other relevant points of your own.


FLY MAPLE AIR TO CANADA

We offer:

3 flights a day
wide, comfortable seats
friendly, well-trained staff
a good choice of food
special diets no problem
the latest in-flight entertainment

Phone 0179 765893 now or see your travel agent for more details.


Your notes:

  • Late boarding
  • Staff quite rude
  • No vegetarian food for me
  • Old film

Your parents have seen the following advertisement.

A marvellous experience and a wonderful opportunity to get you fit.Individualised health and fitness programmes in a charming rural setting.

They want you to send an email to ask for further details including answers to the following questions:

  • Where?
  • Places available in August?
  • How much for a week?
  • Drinking allowed?
  • Any trips?
  • What type of exercise?

B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter & Email: Tips

  • Begin your letter by saying why you are writing.
  • Say where you saw the advertisement
  • Remember,  the letter uses formal language.
  • Try to avoid using exactly the same words that appear in the notes.
  • Make sure you have included all the points from the notes.
  • Use an appropriate closing formula.
  • Decide what each paragraph will say before you start writing; each paragraph should have a specific purpose.
  • Imagine you are really writing the letter and put yourself into the writer’s position.
  • Check your work for accuracy, punctuation and spelling.

 


A good formal letter should be:

  • Clear – plain, simple language
  • Concise – short, straight to the point
  • Correct – error-free (grammar, spelling, punctuation, content)
Keep your readers in mind when writing:

  • Set the correct tone
  • Use appropriate language
  • Give only relevant facts or information which is easy to understand, clear and precise

B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Useful phrases

We will finish it with some useful vocabulary mostly used to organize information. Although it is taking a shortcut, if you learn several expressions for each paragraph in each type of text that could be on your exam, you will certainly be able to create a very consistent and well-organized text.

Greetings

Dear Sir
Dear Madam
Dear Sir/Madam
Dear Mr Brown
Dear Ms Jones etc

Reason for writing

I am writing in response to your article/advertisement/letter.
I am writing with regard to your article/advertisement/letter.
I am writing regarding your article/advertisement/letter.
I am writing on behalf of

Referring to their letter

As you stated in your letter, …
Regarding … Concerning … With regard to …

Ending the letter:

I look forward to receiving your reply.
I look forward to your reply.
I look to hearing from you.

Closing

I am, yours faithfully (if you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to).
I am, yours sincerely (if you know the name of the person you are writing to).
Yours faithfully.
Yours sincere

Letters to complain: Useful phrases

Reasons for writing

I am writing in order to complain about.
I am writing to complain about

 Introducing the complaint:

Firstly.
In the first place.
First of all.
My first complaint is
The first problem is
The first thing I would like to draw your attention to is.
My first concern is

Introducing further complaints:

Secondly.
In the second place
Not only …….but also
In addition.
In addition to this.
Added to this
….was also unacceptable

Demanding action:

I suggest that you replace the item.
I therefore suggest that I be given a full refund .
I would be grateful if my money was refunded
I would be grateful if you could give me a full refund

Letters to request information: Useful phrases

Reason for writing:

I am writing to receive further information about.
I am writing to enquire about. I am writing to receive more detailed information about.
I am writing to receive further details about

Requesting first piece of information

The first thing I would like to know is.
First of all I would like to know
I wonder if you would mind telling me first of all ….?

Requesting further information:

Could you also tell me….?
Could you also inform me ….?
Would you also mind informing me ….?
Would you also mind telling me ….?
Do you know ….?
I would also like to know if.
I would also like to know whether
I hope you might also let me know about …

Thanking for information:

I would like to thank you in advance for this information.
Thanking you in advance for this information.

B2 First (FCE) Formal Letter/Email: Questions & Answers

What is the purpose of the letter?

The task will tell you exactly what you have to do. This may include: asking for or giving information; initiating action or responding to a request; giving feedback on suggestions; making complaints, suggestions, or corrections.

Who will read it?

Probably someone who you do not know well, if at all. This may be a named individual, or an unnamed representative of an organisation, possibly a person in a position of authority or responsibility.

What style should I use?

Be polite. Use indirect expressions, formal linking phrases and set phrases wherever appropriate. Avoid being too familiar, or using contractions and colloquial language.

What information should I include?

In a transactional letter, you will need to read all the information you are given. This will include the task itself, plus one or more additional texts, such as letters, memos, adverts, and handwritten notes. You must respond to all the questions and points in the texts or notes.

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