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. Moreover, their register and style can be formal or informal.
The main characteristics of a formal writing style are:
- A more complex structure. Formal writing often uses longer sentences. In formal writing, you will also see a more structured approach generally, with points clearly introduced, explained and concluded.
- An objective approach. Main points are usually stated and then supported with arguments. Formal writing is less likely to be emotional in style.
- Writing in the third person. Formal writing is not a personal writing style. The writer often aims to sound dispassionate about the topic.
One of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced writers involves using too personal a manner in a piece of formal writing.
Me, myself, I
Everybody likes to talk about themselves, but when (for example) you’re reviewing a film, you should be talking about the film and not about yourself.
The informal you
The way the word you is used in informal speech ‘You should have seen it!’ ‘if you know what I mean’ is not appropriate in formal writing. The word you point a finger at the reader. But the readers are not friends of yours, and you have no right to make assumptions about them.
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: Structure
|1. Salutation |
Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Mr Jenkins
|2. The first paragraph (opening)|
The reason why you’re writing this letter / the topic
|3. The next paragraphs (main content)|
Organise all the essential information in a clear and logical way.
|4. Closing and signing off|
Specify the action the recipient should take
– sign off with: Yours faithfully
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: Writing Guide
Read the task carefully and then… You need to underline all the content points and consider the following:
- Why are you are writing the letter/email? To correct information, to apply for a job, to complain about something…
- Who is the target reader? You may have to write to the editor of a publication, to a potential employer, to a university administrator…
- Which language/register would be appropriate to reach my goal? Is there enough specific detail in my letter/email to convince the target reader?
The CAE test does not require you to include dates or addresses in any of your letters, whether formal or informal.
If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, use this. It is always advisable to try to find out a name.
Dear Sir or Madam
If you know the name, use the title (Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, Dr, etc.) and the surname only. If you are writing to a woman and do not know if she uses Mrs or Miss, you can use Ms, which is for married and single women.
Dear Mr Jenkins
The first paragraph of formal letters should include an introduction to the purpose of the letter. The summary of the letter can be found and the intentions which will be displayed through the rest of the letter should be outlined.
Example 1: I am writing in response to the advert I saw in the newspaper seeking people to work as tour guides. I think I would make a very good tour guide and I wish to apply for the job.
Example 2: I am writing about a recent incident in your shop in which I had the misfortune to be involved in. The incident I refer to is when one of your staff stopped me and accused me of shoplifting.
The second and following paragraphs should provide the main information of the letter, and describe the main purpose mentioned in the introductory first paragraph. Most letters in English are not very long, so keep the information to the essentials and concentrate on organising it in a clear and logical manner rather than expanding too much.
- You should always be polite and respectful. A useful way to achieve it especially in formal letters is to use ‘modal verbs’, i.e., would, could or should.
- It’s important to write simply and clearly. It’s worth noting that you have to avoid using informal language, for instance, avoid contractions (i.e. I’m, it’s, etc.).
Sample paragraph structure:
Paragraph 1: To begin with, I would like to put forward …
Paragraph 2: Needless to say, this was ….
Paragraph 3: But the thing that impressed me most…
The final paragraph should shortly summarize the intent of the formal letter and end with some call to action – take, return the money, send information, etc.
Example call to actions:
Example:1 Thank you for your consideration of my suggestions. I look forward to an opportunity to discuss this matter further.
Example 2: If you require further information, please do not hesitate to ask
Closing and signing off:
Yours faithfully – use it if you don’t know the name of the recipient.
Yours sincerely – use it if you know the name of the recipient.
|A good formal letter should be:||Keep your readers in mind when writing:|
To begin with, I would like to put forward […]
Within a paragraph:
I have taken part In many activities […] Moreover, I have been In the basket-ball team[…]
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: Example Letters
You recently had an unpleasant experience when you were shopping in a department store. One of the assistants wrongly accused you of shoplifting. Although you were able to prove that you had paid for the item in question, you received no apology.
Write a letter to the manager of the shop, saying why you are angry and disappointed and asking for some kind of compensation for the way you were treated. Say that you will take further action if you do not receive an official apology.
Dear Mr Menton,
I am writing about a recent incident in your shop in which I had the misfortune to be involved in. The incident I refer to is when one of your staff stopped me and accused me of shoplifting in front of about 20 other people. Needless to say, this was an extremely embarrassing situation for me. Thank goodness I had kept the receipt to prove that I had paid for everything on my person at the time, but to be accused of stealing like that in front of all those people – some of whom I knew personally – was very humiliating and degrading. The shop assistant used a very accusatory tone…
But the thing that angered and dismayed me most was not the accusation itself – after all, misunderstandings happen sometimes – but the accuser’s failure to acknowledge his mistake or apologise to me. When I showed him the receipt, he simply walked off mumbling about how ‘shady’ a character I looked. Considering how much embarrassment I was caused, I do not think it was too much to have expected a simple apology either, do you?
Which brings me back to why I am writing; if I cannot get an apology from this assistant, then I would like a formal one from you instead. If an official apology is not forthcoming and I am not compensated in some way – with a shopping voucher for example – then be warned that I will take further steps to ensure that I get justice.
I look forward to hearing from you at the very earliest convenience.
A student from a business school in an English-speaking country has arranged to spend two months on a work experience programme in your department. Your manager has asked you to write a letter to the student, welcoming him to your company, explaining what he will be expected to do and how he will benefit from this experience.
Write your letter.
Dear Mr Miller
We are delighted that you have decided to spend two months on a work experience programme in the xxx marketing department. We warmly welcome you to our company in general and to our department in particular.
You will be given the unique opportunity to work with a young team launching a new soft drink. Your work will be as interesting as demanding. You will have to analyse several surveys which have recently been conducted. Based on the results of your analysis you will have to think about possible target customers. Furthermore, you will be asked to develop ideas on how exactly we could launch our soft drink. You will have to gather thoughts about how to run a successful campaign. As this project has not been made public yet, we expect you not to talk about this project to your friends or family. You will be expected to work hard and, sometimes, for long hours.
However, you will most certainly learn a lot. You will be given the unique chance to develop a marketing campaign. You will also get used to working with different marketing tools. Furthermore, you will have to learn how to take advantage of a wide variety of computer programs, which will not only help you to analyse the surveys conducted but will also assist you in making out possible target customers. This two months work experience programme will help you to understand the use and impact of marketing tools. We areconﬁdent that this experience will go far beyond that what you have learnt at university.
We are looking forward to working with you.
Your company would like to offer work-experience placements to students in an international college. Write a letter for publication in the student newspaper at the college.
Your letter should explain what your company does, what kind of work-experience placements are available, and how students would benefit from the experience.
Write your letter.
Are you looking for a work placement that will give you plenty of valuable experience and will look good on your CV? If so, then our company may have something to offer you.
We are an international educational exchange organisation which organises links between schools all over the world. We currently have three work-experience placements available for students from your college. The work would involve a range of office tasks, including dealing with correspondence, arranging meetings and keeping our database up-to-date. We are particularly interested in offering these placements to students with some knowledge of two or more languages.
The placements would be of great benefit to the students who are given this opportunity. It would provide experience of working in a small and dedicated team, which would give you the chance to develop a wider range of office skills than would normally be the case in larger organisations. Our international network means that you would also gain some contacts all over the world, which might be of particular value to any of you considering a career in some aspect of education.
You will find further information about our organisation and the placements we offer on our website and we look forward to hearing from any of you who think that the work might be right for you — and that you might be the right person for one of these placements.
Best wishes to you all,
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: Example Questions
We are looking for volunteers to help out at a famous, international sporting event.
We’re looking for friendly, respectful people with good language skills, good team skills and a ‘can-do’ attitude. We need people to welcome delegates, provide customer service and solve problems. If you think you have what it takes, apply now.
Write an application to become a volunteer. Mention:
– your language skills
– your personal qualities
– examples of times when you have demonstrated team skills
– any relevant work experience
Now write your letter. You do not need to include any postal addresses
A colleague of yours, Alice Watson, has applied for a job in the public relations department of a large charity. Poverty Action. You have been asked to write a letter providing a character reference for her. Indicate how long and what capacity you have worked with her, and how her personal characteristics would make her suited for her job. Here is part of the letter you received from Poverty Action:
The job of Public Relations Co-ordinator consists mainly of supervising PR work and entails travelling around the country and working with various people in our large organization. The successful applicant will need good managerial skills and be committed to the philosophy of
Write your letter in reply. You do not need to include postal addresses
On a recent holiday, you lost a valuable item. Fortunately, you have travel insurance to cover the cost of anything lost.
Write a letter to the manager of your insurance company. In your letter:
– describe the item you lost
– explain how lost it
– tell the insurance company what you would like them to do.
Write your email in an appropriate style.
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: Tips & Strategy
If you aim to write an official letter, you should:
- avoid everyday colloquial language or slang
- avoid contractions (I’m, it’s)
- avoid emotional, subjective language (terrible, rubbish, etc.)
- avoid general words such as nice, good, get, etc.
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: Useful phrases
Useful phrases for a formal letter: (use as set phrases in the exam, don´t experiment with new vocabulary or grammar)
Dear Sir or Madam
Dear Mr Jenkins
With regards to the letter/email on…
With reference to your letter/email…
After having received your letter/email…
I received your address from … and would like …
Thank you very much for your letter/email on…
I have been given your contact details by… and I would like to…
In reply to your letter/email of…
I am writing with regard/reference to …
I am writing to express (my concern about/ disappointment with/disapproval of/apologies for)
I would like to draw your attention to/point out …
As you stated in your leter, …
Regarding… Concerning … With regard to…
I am wiing to compiain about …
You said …but in fact what happened …
(I feel) I must also (dis)agree with …
I should also like to point out that …
Your (article) states that … However,…
I would appreciate it/be grateful if you would …
I look forward to receiving/seeing …
I trust/very much hope you will …
I hope to hear from you soon…
If you require any further information, feel free to contact me
Should you require anything else, do not hesitate in contacting me
C1 Advanced (CAE) Formal Letter/Email: FAQ
Who is the audience? This will be given in the prompt.
What is the purpose of the writing?
You are usually giving information or requesting action. You should be direct and get to the point quickly.
Should I use headings or bullet points? No.
How should it start?
“Dear Sir or Madam (if no name is given), I am writing to…” This is the expected opening of a letter. First, you explain why you are writing, in the next paragraph you explain why you think you should get what you want.
How should it finish?
You should clearly re-state your recommendation or desired action in your last paragraph. This is usually followed by a “I am looking forward to…” statement and “Yours faithfully/Yours sincerely, x.”
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