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Letter writing offers students a chance to take a stand on an issue that they have a strong feeling about. The power of the pen is mightier than sword they say. Letter writing helps students to become engaged in the world around them by crafting appealing, convincing letters to public figures, policy makers, and other people in power.
General tips to letter writing
Ensure you constantly proofread your letter after writing.
Try to cross check for sentence structure, grammar, spelling mistakes and so on.
Make sure you proof read again and again after you have revised your letter.
Bear the recipient in mind, and write in a manner that he/she can readily comprehend.
Don’t make use of abbreviated dates. As an example, make use of November 19, 2004, and not 11/19/04
Even when you are writing a letter of complaint, you should always write in a respectful tone.
Business letter writing tips
Be brief and keep to the point, but don’t leave out any crucial information.
Try to keep your letter short enough and make it fit into one page.
If your letter is more than one page, print on another page and not at the back of the page.
Make use of your company letter head if any instead of the standard plain paper. If you have access to company (or personal) stationary with a letterhead on it, use that instead of regular paper.
Formal Letter Writing Tips
Below are a few tips to formal letter writing.
Rules for Writing Formal Letters in English
In English language, there are a few conventions that ought to be followed when writing a formal. In addition to that you ought to write as plainly and as clearly as possible. Try not to make the letter longer than required. Try not to make use of informal languages such as contractions.
1) Your Address
The return address should be written in the top right-hand corner of the letter.
2) The Address of the person you are writing to
The inside address should be aligned to the left, starting below your address.
Many people write the date on different sides of the page. You can write the date either on the right or the left of the page on the line after the address you are writing to. Write the month as a word and not figure.
Salutation or greeting:
1) Dear Sir or Madam,
If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, use dear sir or madam. It is always desirable to try to find out a name.
2) Dear Mr Jenkins,
If you know the name, make use of the title (Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, Dr, etc.) and the surname alone. If you are writing to a woman and you are unsure if she uses Mrs or Miss, you can use Ms, which is for married and single women.
Ending a letter:
1) Yours faithfullyUse this if you do not know the name of the person.
2) Yours sincerely
Use yours sincerely If you know the name of the person you are writing to.
3) Your signature
Sign your name, then print it under the signature. If you think the person you are writing to may not know whether you are male or female, put your title in brackets after your name.
Content of a Formal Letter
The first paragraph ought to be short and mention the purpose of the letter. That is whether it is to make an enquiry, to make a complaint, to make a request and so on.
The paragraph or paragraphs in the middle of the letter ought to provide essential information that relays why you are writing the letter. The majority of letters in English are not very long, therefore, keep the information to the basics and focus on organizing it in a clear and consistent manner instead of trying to over expand it.
The last paragraph of a formal letter ought to state what action you expect the recipient to take. That is whether you want him or her to refund, send information to you and so on.
Abbreviations Used in Letter Writing
The following abbreviations are widely broadly used in letter writing:
asap= This means as soon as possible
cc= carbon copy When you are sending a copy of a letter to more than one person, you use cc to let them know.
= enclosure (when you include other papers with your letter)
pp= per procurationem. This is a Latin phrase that means that you are signing the letter on somebody else’s behalf; if they are not available to sign it themselves, etc)
ps= postscript (when you want to add something after you’ve finished writing and signed it)
pto(informal) = This means please turn over and is to ensure that the other person knows that the letter continues on the other side of the page.
RSVP= please reply
10 tips to score higher in English writing
Figure out the type of letter
Figure out if the letter you are asked to write is a formal, semi-formal or informal letter. The whole tone of your letter would depend on this. Tailor your style and choice of words to suit the type of letter you are writing
Open and close the letter properly
Remember that every type of letter needs a different opening and closing. The table below provides you with a clear guide:
To someone you have not met, whose name you don’t know
Dear Sir / Madam
For a person you may or may not have met, whose last name you know and use
Dear Mr Brown,
Dear Ms Stone
To someone you know well, whose first name you know and use
Open a formal and semi-formal letter with a formal sentence
Don’t try use friendly tone, as you do not know the person you are writing to. Move straight to business and show the reason why you are writing, as illustrated below:
Dear Sir / Madam,
I am writing to inquire about or I am writing in connection with…
Dear Mr Jones,
I am writing to inform you … I am writing in connection with…
Open an informal letter with a common, friendly paragraph.
With friends and people that are known to us, we care about the entire person. We possess a deeper relationship in the perspective of you are writing. Therefore, it is best to recognize that friendship first, before mentioning the purpose of writing. The first paragraph, in reality should be mainly meant for minute friendly talk that has no connection to why you are writing. Then go ahead and mention your purpose of writing
State the major reason behind the letter
If you are asking for help, making apology, sending out an invitation, making a complaint or saying thank you, state it. Try to learn the suitable words to use in any of such occasions.
Study and make use of typical written phrases
Students every so often make great effort to finish their writing within the scheduled time. This is because they try to write from the scratch. In normal English letter writing, we are encouraged to make use of a few standard expressions and phrases and add upon them the specific message we hope to convey.
Make sure you write up to the word count you are given
Practice writing letters till you are well familiar with what 150 words feel like and look like. You will lose marks if you write less but not when you write more; the only constraint you will have to writing more is with regards to time and not the number of words.
Study the correct spelling of regularly used words
It is amazing how a lot of students make a mistake when spelling words like “sincerely”, “faithfully”, “in connection with” and so on. You can avoid that by learning the correct spelling of these words and expressions which you are most likely to use on your exam.
Don’t write outside the topic
In order to finish your letter within 20 minutes or less, practice writing letters and you go straight to the point.
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