Writing Informal Letters
(a manual for students and teachers)
The art of writing a letter takes practice, knowledge about proper form, and the ability to put into words the thoughts and feelings which are associated with the letter. Learning to write a letter can be difficult for students as there are multiple types of letters which can be written.
In my presentation I would like to focus your attention on writing informal letters. The aim
of my presentation is:
– getting students to understand the rules of informal writing;
– helping students master writing in English;
– preparing students for taking the state exam.
A. PARTS OF A LETTER
At the top of an informal letter, we will put our address, so that the reader will know where to send their reply to. We should put the date on which the letter was written in the format month/day/year, e.g. March 24, 2011. The address should be in the upper right-hand side of the paper.
1. The Salutation
The opening salutation in Great Britain and the USA is followed by a comma. The most common salutations in an informal letter is Dear Mary,… Note that it is followed by a comma. However, some prefer the extremely informal use “Hey!” or “Hi!”
2. The Introductory Paragraph
For an informal letter this should be started with a sentence that piques the interest of the reader. Make a few chatty comments or ask a few personal questions. Remember you are writing to someone you know very well, so try to be as friendly as possible. You are allowed to use colloquial language, i.e. language that is appropriate for speech but not really for writing. The most appropriate phrases will be:
– How are you getting on?
– I’m really sorry for not getting in touch sooner.
– Thanks for writing back so quickly.
– I just wanted to let you know...
– Sorry I haven’t written for ages.
– Thought I’d better drop you a line to thank you for helping me.
3. The Body of an Informal Letter
Once we have written the introductory paragraph, it is time to form the body of the letter.
The introduction should flow smoothly into the body where we will talk about the main subject of our letter. If we are going to be discussing more than one topic, we can say “To begin with”, “I need to tell you”. With this type of wording, the letter is more logical and makes more sense. This helps your reader understand it more easily. We should bear in mind to put things in order so that they are easier to keep up with.
Keep the tone of an informal letter on a conversational level. We have to remember to use contractions in the informal letter, and make sure to put the apostrophe in the right place. It
is always a good idea to ask questions in the body of the letter that you would like the person to answer in their reply. Questions work as a good base on which to write a letter, and they give the recipient motivation to reply.
4. Complimentary Close
We finish the letter with an excuse to stop writing such as “I must dash now.” “I have to write my history report now.” In informal letter writing, the complimentary close is always very friendly
– Best wishes,
– With love from,
We have to remember a comma always follows the complimentary close. After the complimentary close we may add a short message (PS). We use it especially to write down something that we may have forgotten in the body of the letter.
Whether you sign only your first name, nickname or full name will depend on the relationship.
Draw the students’ attention to the special features of informal:
In informal letters the use of contracted forms is a must.
– I’ve done...
– Why don’t we...
Pay attention to the use of phrasal verbs and idiomatic language.
– It’s a piece of cake for me to do the history project.
Appropriate formulas for writing informal letters (linking words).
Typical Errors When Writing an Informal Letter
1) The questions are grammatically incorrect
2) Inconsistency in the tenses used
e.g. I was going to town yesterday when a dog bite me and I ran all the way to the hospital.
We may propose that students correct this sentence together.
3) The apostrophe is in the wrong place.
e.g. The dog lost its’ collar.
4) The complimentary close is not punctuated, the name is written on the same line.
e.g. Take care Michael.
For those who don’t live in an English-speaking country and don’t speak English on a daily basis, it is difficult to tell the difference between formal and informal vocabulary. So I compiled
this short list of words. Students can memorize it and use it in their writing while practicing.
• Formal • Informal
Inform me Let me know
Contract Get in touch
Apologise Say sorry
Compensate Make up
Establish Set up
Discover Find out
Handle Deal with
Investigate Check up on
Tolerate Put up
Increase Go up
Many/much A lot of
* The examples here are not hard and fast rules, and variations and other words and phrases are quite possible and correct.
The Informal letter sample
I`m glad to hear from you. Thanks for your letter. How are you getting on?
I`m writing to you to answer your questions about students` independence from their parents. As a matter of fact, the allowance in Russian universities is so low that it`s not enough for pocket money. And it`s absolutely unreal for students to get a well-paid job, so Russian students have to be financially supported by their parents even though they want to be independent. Students can rent a flat only if parents give them money for that. And only nonresident students can live in university hostels.
By the way, did you enjoy your trip to Scotland? What places of interest have you visited? Have you seen the Loch Ness monster?
I`m sorry but I must dash now. My mum is coming, we are gonna have dinner soon.
By Sergey Kuzmin,
Elizavetinskaya State Secondary School
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