Writing/Formal Letters

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English is the lingua franca of global business. Most future English-language interactions of today's pupils will be letters, emails and phone calls at work. Written documents follow certain rules. This article contains lesson ideas and useful links how to write formal letters.

If you want to make a professional impression, it's always recommended to keep to the recommended structure and formula.


Letter of Inquiry

A letter of inquiry is a letter in which you try to get some information or post a request for funding. By keeping to the rules and conventions you'll make a better impression.

Letter of Complaint

In a letter of complaint you tell someone about a problem you want to have fixed. Here it is really important to start the letter with a polite introduction. Then you can describe your problem objectively and suggest a solution.

Letter of Application

A letter of application is usually the first contact between you and a future employer. It should normally contain 3-4 paragraphs and be no longer than one page.

If there are any mistakes it will stand out negatively, so give it to your teacher or career counselor to proof-read it.

  • Applying for a job (learning path with interactive exercises including letter of application, cv and tips for the job interview)

Elements and useful phrases for FORMAL LETTERS

Letter of inquiry
(asking for information)
letter of complaint
(telling of problems, offering solutions)
letter of application
(asking for a job)
December 6, 2013
The UK format is similar to US format, with these key difference for UK letters:
The date is written as “6th Dec 2013” not “December 6, 2013”
Dear Sir or Madam / Dear Mr Michel
(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.)

Ladies and gentlemen! ( only spoken!)

introducing the subject
(starting the letter)
I’m writing to you because … I’m sorry to have to write this letter at all, but…
I’ve been always satisfied with your products, but…
I am writing to apply for the programmer position advertised in the NY Times
I see from your advertisement in yesterday’s […] that you offer ...
I'm writing to you to express my interest in the ... position currently available at ...
main body
(What would you like to happen?)
In view of this I wish to claim…
  - a refund (“I want my money back!)
  - a replacement (“a new model”)
I apply for the post of ....
closing phrase I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon. I’d be grateful, if you could let me know if ...
I'm afraid that if these conditions are not met, we may be forced to take legal action.
If the outstanding fees are not paid by Friday, 25 October 2013, you will incur a 10% late payment fee.
I’d be very pleased, if you invited me to an interview.
I’m looking forward to seeing you in an interview.
complimentary close
(Best regards.)
(Kind regards to your family.)
Yours faithfully (If you do not know the name of the person, end the letter this way.)
Yours sincerely (If you know the name of the person, end the letter this way.)
(enclosing things)
bill (document of sale)
receipt (document of payment)
gift voucher
CV = resume
references (by a friend, pastor or mentor)
certificates (school reports, diplomas, etc)

Lesson Ideas

Paying twice?

You ordered some books from a bookshop and enclosed a cheque. Some time later you received a letter from the shop demanding payment for the books.
Write a letter pointing out that they have made a mistake.

Oh my Goodness- what a holiday!

You had a nice two-week-holiday but when you arrive there was a problem with the hotel room.
Write a letter of complaint and mention:

  • what the problem was
  • how the hotel tried to solve it
  • what you want now

Don't forget a suitable beginning and ending!


Letter of complaint

Letter of Application

See also / Siehe auch

  • Applying for a job (learning path with interactive exercises including letter of application, cv and tips for the job interview)