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How to write a formal Letter / Email? | C2 Proficient (CPE)

Level: C2
Article navigation:
C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Structure
C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Writing Guide
C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Example Answers
C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Writing Topics
C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Tips
C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Useful Phrases & Expressions

Letters in the C2 Proficiency Writing paper will require a response which is consistently appropriate for the specified target reader, and you can expect to be asked to write formal letters to, for example, the editor of a newspaper or magazine, to the director of an international company, or to a school or college principal.

Let’s explain how to write a letter/email and what actually is a formal style.

Formal style

It is used when writing for professional or academic purposes like university assignments. Formal language does not use colloquialisms, contractions or first-person pronouns such as ‘I’ or ‘We’. 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.

C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Structure

1. Salutation
Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Mr Jenkins
2. The Introductory Paragraph
The reason why you’re writing this letter / the topic
3. The next paragraphs (the body)
Organise all the essential information in a clear and logical way. Use linking structures to make your letter flow
4. Closing paragraph
– sign off with: Yours faithfully
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C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Writing Guide

1. Salutation

Dear Sir or Madam

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 Mr Jenkins

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.

2. The Introductory Paragraph

The first paragraph will generally outline the purpose for the letter and the reason that the letter is being sent. In this first paragraph, 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:

  • We are writing to inform you that …/ to confirm ../ to request …/ to enquire about …
  • I recently read/heard about ….. and would like to know….
  • I am writing to offer suggestions
  • I am writing to receive further information about

3. The next paragraphs (the body)

The body of the letter will expand upon the introductory paragraph and you can extend your thoughts and feelings further when it comes to the letter. 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, even if you complain. 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.).

4. Closing paragraph

At the end, you will conclude the letter and finish any thoughts mentioned before, or specify the action the recipient should take, return the money, send information, etc.

Ending examples:

  • I look forward to receiving your reply. / I look forward to your reply.
  • I look to hearing from you.
  • If you require further information, please do not hesitate to ask

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.

C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Example Answers

Formal Letter subject:

An environmental organisation is inviting suggestions for new ways of raising people’s awareness of the importance of protecting the countryside. You decide to write a letter in which you briefly describe your idea for a publicity campaign. You should also analyse the reasons why, in general, it is important to protect the countryside.

Student’s CPE Formal Letter Answer:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing in response to your organisation’s invitation regarding proposals for a campaign to promote countryside conservation. I strongly believe that we need to think globally while we act locally, so it would be a great idea if we engaged the young – the future global citizens- in the quest for a clean environment and unspoiled countryside.

To be more specific ‘A green concert with school bands’ would be an excellent idea to sensitize people on the importance of preserving our local traditions that are inextricably linked with the Mediterranean landscape of Attica. In fact all six high schools of our municipality could participate with one school band each in a concert that may take place in the local stadium that can accommodate six thousand people. The bands can play both folklore and more modern songs while local delicacies and examples of craftwork could be exhibited at the entrance of the concert hall.

Massive participation in any campaign is the key for its success; especially when such a noble cause -like that of ‘conservation’- is served. Helping the new generation appreciate their natural surroundings and traditions is the most precious legacy we can offer to our descendants. The biosphere is literary our home so it is unquestionably important to keep it clean so that we can have fresh air to breathe and pure water to drink.

Therefore, I urge your forward-looking organization, to seriously consider my recommendation for ‘A green concert with school bands’ because it is a simple yet effective idea to develop more respect for our countryside among all the people in our community.

Yours faithfully

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Formal Letter subject:

You have recently read an article in a popular magazine describing the experiences of young people who have participated in voluntary projects to help disadvantagedn communities. You decide to write a letter to the magazine in which you briefly describe one or two ideas of your own for voluntary projects. You should also assess the ways in which such experiences can change attitudes and inspire young people in their future lives.

Write your letter.

Student’s CPE Formal Letter Answer:

Dear Editor,

I was interested to read your recent feature on young people’s participation in voluntary projects. I was impressed by the way in which the volunteers had not only provided valuable help for those less fortunate than themselves but had also gained a great deal themselves from the experience. They had blossomed as people and had often clarified their own career aspirations as a result of the work they had been involved in.

I should like to suggest a couple of other projects that I think it would be beneficial for youngsters to volunteer on. The first is a programme for schoolchildren with learning difficulties. Cuts in funding mean that this will have to close down unless volunteers can help to run it. It has been an enormously successful programme, helping many youngsters to develop skills that will stand in good stead throughout their lives, and it would be a great pity were it forced to fold.

The second is an environmental project keeping the forests around our town in good order. Work there involves clearing away dead wood, planting new trees when necessary and tidying paths and picnic areas. The forest is a valuable resource for city dwellers and maintaining it in good order is of great benefit to the public as well as to the flora and fauna of the forest.

Taking part in these projects would teach teenagers new skills – helping children with disabilities to learn, for example, or caring for the environment. However, more importantly perhaps, doing so would expand those young people’s horizons making them aware of aspects of life which were previously almost certainly little known to them. Contributing to society through such voluntary work will help youngsters to develop a sense of responsibility towards the world they live in. All of this should prove of considerable value in future years both to them as individuals and to society as a whole.

Yours faithfully,

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C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Writing Topics

You are staying in another country where you have read an article in a magazine about a custom there that the writer considers strange. Write a letter to the magazine, describing a custom or customs in your own country that  may be considered strange by outsiders and giving your own views and those of others in your country about it.

Write your letter.

You have recently become aware of the existence of a situation which you believe to be wrong or unjust and which you think should be dealt with by the authorities. Write a letter to a newspaper clearly describing that situation, explaining the problems it causes and saying what you believe should be done about it.

Write your letter

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C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Tips

  • Always proofread your letter after writing it, check for sentence structure, grammar, spelling mistakes…
  • Proofread your letter again (and again) after you have revised it.
  • Keep the recipient in mind, and write in a way that he/she can easily understand the letter.
  • Be respectful when you write, even if you are writing a letter of complaint.

 

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

C2 Proficient (CPE) Formal Letter: Useful Phrases & Expressions

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.

Beginning

We are writing to inform you that …/ to confirm ../ to request …/ to enquire about …
I recently read/heard about ….. and would like to know….
I am writing to offer suggestions
I am writing to receive further information about
I am writing to enquire about

Referring to the previous contact

Thank you for your letter of March 15.
I am writing in response to…./ In reply to your request…..
Thank you for your letter regarding …
With reference to our conversation yesterday…

Making a request

We would appreciate it if you would …
I would be grateful if you could …
Could you please send me …
In addition, I would like to receive ../ It would be helpful if you could send us …
I would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.
Please let me know what action you propose to take.
Could you …? Could you tell me something about …?
I would particularly like to know …
I would be interested in having more details about …

Offering help

Would you like me to …?
I would be happy to …/ I am quite willing to …
I would be pleased to …

Giving good news

I am pleased to announce that …
I am delighted to inform you that ..
You will be pleased to learn that …

Giving bad news 

I regret to inform you that …/ I’m afraid it would not be possible to …
Unfortunately, iIam unable to/ After careful consideration I have decided (not) to

Complaining

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with …
I am writing to complain about …

Demanding action

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

Making Suggestions

My first suggestion is
First of all I suggest/ I would like to suggest 
Another possibility is/ A further possibility is
I further suggest/ I would further suggest/ Secondly

Ending

I look forward to receiving your reply. / I look forward to your reply.
I look to hearing from you.
If you require further information, please do not hesitate to ask
If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to ask
I will willingly provide further information on request
I am at your disposal should you require further information/ need assistance
Please do not hesitate to ask should you require further information

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