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Writing in Formal Language: A Letter

In this worksheet, students learn the conventions of writing a formal letter.

'Writing in Formal Language: A Letter' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:   Writing

Curriculum subtopic:   Purpose and Audience Awareness

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

In English, we develop the skills to communicate with people verbally and in writing.    In this activity, we're interested in developing our written English skills.

Think of the ways you communicate with people in written form on a daily basis...texts, email, notes and posts... they all count!

 

Letter TypingBoy with Phone

 

Who we're communicating with will change how we communicate!  Think about how you communicate with your teacher, as opposed to your friends.  Is there a difference? Most people are more informal when communicating with their friends.

 

Imagine that you're writing to someone that you don't know personally.  How you communicate is very important.  If you don't know the person who you are writing to, the chances are they'll make a judgement about who you are based on the way that you write, so knowing the best way is crucial in order to get the best outcome.  

 

Read the letter below, it's an example of how a formal letter should be written and structured.  

 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

                                                                 23 Any Street
                                                                                                            Anytown
                                                                                                            Anyshire
                                                                                                            AN2 3AS

Tel: 01844 21000

3rd April 2012

 

Mr E. Brooks
Manager
Cycle Shop
Anytown
Anyshire
AN4 8PP

 

Dear Mr Brooks,  

 

Re: Bicycle on Order

 

I am writing to ask you whether you could advise me on a delivery date for my new bicycle.  You may recall that we spoke last Wednesday and I selected the Evans Rocket Dog E.429 in Gunmetal Grey. 

 

I am going on holiday on May 4th, so I should like to know when my bicycle will arrive in order to ensure that someone will be here to receive it.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Michael Chandra

 

Mr M Chandra

 

Where should the sender’s address be placed? 

 

The sender's address should be in the bottom, left-hand of the page.

The sender's address should be on the top, right-hand of the page.

After the date, on the left-hand side of the page you should write:

The name and address of the person to whom the letter is being sent

Address of the person to whom the letter is being sent

What words are used to end a formal letter which started 'Dear Mrs. Green' ?

 

Yours faithfully,

Yours sincerely,

In which of the cases below would it be correct to sign off 'Yours faithfully'?

 

Dear Mr Hill

Dear Madam

Dear Chloe

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Sir

Match up the following to demonstrate the correct layout of a formal letter, i.e. the order in which parts of the letter are written.

Column A

Column B

1
Dear Mr. Brooks or Dear Sir/Madam
2
Write the content of the letter. Use formal Englis...
3
Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully (Mr.) M. Chand...
4
Re: Bicycle on Order
5
3 April 2012
6
Mr. E. Brooks Manager Cycle Shop Anytown Anyshire ...
7
23 Any Street Anytown

Formal letters require us to use formal language. Match up the formal phrase with the informal one.

Column A

Column B

I cannot condone this behaviour
I've just heard
It has come to my attention
So we've all decided that
Alternative arrange ments have been made
I'm not standing up for you
Consequently, my staff have agreed to
Instead, why don't you

Language matters!  Have a look at the sentence Mr Chandra was going to include in his letter at the end, why do you think he chose not to include it?

 

I'm dead excited about the bike, so please give me a shout when it arrives.

He ran out of space

It was not of the appropriate formal tone

He was no longer pleased with Mr Brooks

Mr Brooks is preparing a response to Mr Chandra.  He thinks it's a waste of time writing the addresses at the top of the letter as it's clear Mr Chandra has his own and Mr Brooks' address now.  

 

Is this the correct approach for a formal letter?

Yes - it's fine now that one letter has been sent, it's a waste of time to keep including addresses

No - even if letters have been sent previously, it is correct to begin each letter with the addresses of the sender and recipient

Below is Mr Brooks' response to Mr Chandra.  He has included the addresses but this is what he writes in the main part of his letter.

 

He makes an error in his response below, which word does Mr Brooks use that is incorrect in this letter?

Dear Mr Chandra Thank you for your letter and for informing me of your upcoming holiday. I can confirm that your bike will be delivered by 2nd May, so it will be with you before you go on your holiday. Yours faithfully, Mr Brooks

In Mr Chandra's original letter he included some text that was underlined.  What was the purpose of doing so?

It showed that he was serious in his letter

It highlighted the subject of the letter to the reader

It broke up the writing and looked good

It was used to highlight that this letter was a complaint letter

  • Question 1

Where should the sender’s address be placed? 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The sender's address should be on the top, right-hand of the page.
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot this on the example letter in the introduction? We need to commit this to memory, as this is the way letters are always set out. The sender's address or 'return address' always comes first and is written in the top, right-hand corner of the page. This is so that the person you are writing to knows where to send their response.
  • Question 2

After the date, on the left-hand side of the page you should write:

CORRECT ANSWER
The name and address of the person to whom the letter is being sent
EDDIE SAYS
Did you think it was important to include the name as well as the address? It's really important that we make it clear who we are writing to! We also call this person the 'recipient'. As with all formalities when writing a letter including the recipient's address is important as it shows professionalism and makes a good impression, which will mean your letter will get the attention it deserves!
  • Question 3

What words are used to end a formal letter which started 'Dear Mrs. Green' ?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Yours sincerely,
EDDIE SAYS
This is something we just have to learn, and it may seem trivial but it's really important. We always use "Yours sincerely," if we know the name of the person we are writing to. So if you are writing anything that is specific to an individual, for example. their first name or their surname, it's always 'sincerely' as the sign-off. Pay close attention to the spelling of sincerely, it's one that always catches people out.
  • Question 4

In which of the cases below would it be correct to sign off 'Yours faithfully'?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Dear Madam
To Whom It May Concern
Dear Sir
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this one? There were 3 possible options that would have required us to sign off 'Yours faithfully'. Remember the rule - we use 'Yours faithfully' if we don't know the name of the person we are writing to. W When we use a general term such as 'sir' or 'madam', it's clear we don't know the exact person we're writing to, otherwise, we'd use their specific name, so if we're not specific, we're not using sincerely as the sign-off.
  • Question 5

Match up the following to demonstrate the correct layout of a formal letter, i.e. the order in which parts of the letter are written.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

1
23 Any Street Anytown
2
3 April 2012
3
Mr. E. Brooks Manager Cycle Shop ...
4
Dear Mr. Brooks or Dear Sir/Madam
5
Re: Bicycle on Order
6
Write the content of the letter. ...
7
Yours sincerely or Yours faithful...
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on? Did you remember you can always revisit the introduction at any time you like? This was a case of thinking about the order that we must use when writing a letter. By now we should remember that we always begin with the address of the person writing the letter, which in this case is 23 Any Street, Anytown!
  • Question 6

Formal letters require us to use formal language. Match up the formal phrase with the informal one.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

I cannot condone this behaviour
I'm not standing up for you
It has come to my attention
I've just heard
Alternative arrange ments have be...
Instead, why don't you
Consequently, my staff have agree...
So we've all decided that
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on here? Remember, there's a difference between the language we use in a formal letter (it should be formal!) and the language we use conversationally. One rule of thumb is that we don't use contractions in formal writing. Did you spot that we've used contractions in this explanation? As we're having a discussion here, our use of contraction is appropriate, but if we were writing to the Queen... we'd definitely make a different choice!
  • Question 7

Language matters!  Have a look at the sentence Mr Chandra was going to include in his letter at the end, why do you think he chose not to include it?

 

I'm dead excited about the bike, so please give me a shout when it arrives.

CORRECT ANSWER
It was not of the appropriate formal tone
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot that the tone of this sentence was not in keeping with the rest of the letter? It's what we would call a bit over-familiar for a formal letter! The first clue that this was not appropriate was the contraction 'I'm' and then the rest sounds like something you may say to a friend. It's clear that Mr Chandra is buying the bike from Mr Brooks so this is something of a business letter, which means it needs to be formal.
  • Question 8

Mr Brooks is preparing a response to Mr Chandra.  He thinks it's a waste of time writing the addresses at the top of the letter as it's clear Mr Chandra has his own and Mr Brooks' address now.  

 

Is this the correct approach for a formal letter?

CORRECT ANSWER
No - even if letters have been sent previously, it is correct to begin each letter with the addresses of the sender and recipient
EDDIE SAYS
Although Mr Brooks does have a point (as everybody in the communication has each other's addresses) it wouldn't be the correct approach to skip this stage. Skipping this stage would potentially call into question Mr Brooks' professionalism. It's always best to follow the correct procedures when putting anything in writing.
  • Question 9

Below is Mr Brooks' response to Mr Chandra.  He has included the addresses but this is what he writes in the main part of his letter.

 

He makes an error in his response below, which word does Mr Brooks use that is incorrect in this letter?

CORRECT ANSWER
Dear Mr Chandra

Thank you for your letter and for informing me of your upcoming holiday. I can confirm that your bike will be delivered by 2nd May, so it will be with you before you go on your holiday.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Brooks
EDDIE SAYS
Did you spot that Mr Brooks included the sign-off 'yours faithfully'? He should have finished the letter with 'sincerely' as he is writing to someone specific i.e. Mr Chandra. We must commit this rule to our letter writing memory!
  • Question 10

In Mr Chandra's original letter he included some text that was underlined.  What was the purpose of doing so?

CORRECT ANSWER
It highlighted the subject of the letter to the reader
EDDIE SAYS
How did you get on with this last question? The subject of the letter was underlined to give the reader (Mr Brooks) an insight into what the letter was regarding. The subject of the letter acts a little like a title in an English essay, it gives a bit of context to what the reader is about to read. That's another activity completed! Why not try another to check you're feeling really confident while you're on a roll?
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