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A Guide to Formal Letter Writing

Formal letters have the following basic elements:

1) Heading. The writer’s full address and the date appear here. The writer’s name should not be included in the heading, because it will appear at the end of the letter. Stationary with a letterhead may include the address. If so, type the date two spaces beneath the letterhead, against the left margin. If you need to type the entire heading, place it just to the right of center.

2) Inside address. This includes the recipient’s name, title or department, organization, and address. Place the inside address two spaces beneath the date, against the left margin.

3) Salutation. This politely addresses the recipient by title and last name. The titles Mr, Mrs, Dr may be abbreviated, but Professor and Colonel may not. Ms is generally preferred for women whether they are married or not, unless they go by another title.

Dear Mrs Smith: (if you know the person’s name)

Dear Sir or Madam: (if you don’t know the person’s name)

When you do not know the name of the person you should direct your letter to, you may write to an organization by using one of these alternatives:

Dear Personnel Director:

Dear Credit Card Manager:

Use a colon rather than a comma after the salutation in business letters.

4) Body. Begin the text of your letter two spaces beneath the salutation. Single-space within paragraphs and double-space between them. Do not indent paragraphs.

5) Complimentary closing. Two spaces beneath the body of the letter begin the closing, place it either against the left margin or aligned with the heading, just to the right of center. Most formal letters end with this sentence. Learn it!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Standard closing include:

Yours sincerely, (if your letter starts with Dear Mrs Smith)

Yours faithfully, (if your letter starts with Dear Sir / Madam)


Sincerely yours,


Best regards,

Capitalize only the first letter of the first word, and end with a comma.

Sign your name and print it clearly.

Exercise 27. Correct the following letter.

583 west 32nd avenue

apartment 1d

new york n y 10025

september 5 2005

dear sir or madam

i am writing to ask for more information about the youth debating competition which i saw advertised in the international student/ i am the chairperson of my schools debating team and we would be very interested in participating but require further details/

first of all could you let us know whether there is an age limit for participants/ our team consists of twenty five students aged between thirteen and seventeen/ would it be possible for all of us to take part/ and if so would we need to be accompanied by a teacher/

we would also be grateful if you could tell us when the deadline for application is as well as the exact dates of the competition so that we can make the necessary travel arrangements/ finally we would appreciate some information concerning accommodation in the area where the competition is going to take place/

i look forward to receiving your answer/

yours faithfully

anna milton


Exercise 28. Read the following letter of complaint. In some lines there are punctuation mistakes. For each numbered line 1-30, show the correct punctuation. Some lines are correct. Indicate these lines with a tick (√).

A Letter of Complaint

45 Milton Street,


25 October, 2002.

Fitness Products Ltd,

St Helier,

Jersey JE6 9NY.

Dear Sir/Madam,

































I am writing to you about a Tour de France exercise bike serial number 39879) which I bought from Mogul Megastores on 29th September for ₤499.99. I enclose copies of the guarantee and receipt.

In your advertising you claim that, by using the exercise bike for ten minutes a day, you would lose at least two kilos a week I have been using the bike for a month now and it is as though I have done no exercise at all. In fact the more I use the bike, the more weight I seem to put on, despite following the instruction manual carefully

Even worse than that the bike is extremely badly made. The speedometer stopped working after a week and the machine that measures heartbeats must also have broken since it gave readings of over two hundred beats per minute when I was cycling at full speed I was so worried that I went to the doctor, who told me not to worry as my heartbeat was perfectly normal. However the final straw came when the pedals broke just as I was cycling at full speed. As well as falling off the bike and nearly breaking my arm I pulled a muscle in my thigh, which has caused me considerable pain and meant that I have had to take three days off work.

When I took the exercise bike back to Mogul Megastores not only did the manager refuse to refund the money but said that he would not repair the bike either. He was also extremely rude and treated me as if I was stupid to have bought the bike in the first place.

I would like you to refund my money as soon as possible and I suggest that you pay compensation for the injuries that I have received. Unless I receive a satisfactory reply within the next three weeks I will have to take further action I have already been in contact with my local consumer protection office in order to ask for advice and they have recommended me to take legal action, if I do not get full satisfaction.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

A. N. Jeffreys

A.N. Jeffreys (Mr)





















Now it’s your turn. Write your own letter of complaint. Imagine you bought one of the following products (a CD player; a pair of shoes or boots; a jacket; a mobile phone; a portable television; a digital watch) and something went wrong with it. Write a letter of complaint to the firm which produced this product. In your letter answer the following questions:

What went wrong with the product?

What claims did the advertisement make?

What happened when you took it back to the shop?

Organize your notes into four or five paragraphs.

Exercise 29. Read the following advertisement and letter of application. In the letter of application find and correct 10 punctuation mistakes.


Join WORLD AID and work with local communities

in the Third World. We are looking for volunteers

to work in our camp near Chittagong in Bangladesh:

• to participate in our flood control and tree-planting


• to help look after small children,

• to teach basic maths to primary children,

• to work on a survey of local wildlife.

Minimum stay – three months.

Write to Michael Cartwright, (World Aid,

Palmers House, Ludford SY18X) saying what

kind of work you are interested in. Give details about

yourself, say why you are interested and why you are

suitable for the work.

Successful applicants will receive

free transportation, accommodation and board.

A Letter of Application

87 Orchard Rise,

Bishops Castle,


September 15, 2001.

Mr Michael Cartwright

World Aid,

Palmers House,






















Dear Mr Cartwright

I am writing to apply for the job of volunteer worker which I saw advertised in The Guardian last week I would be interested in teaching maths to primary children in your camp in Chittagong in Bangladesh. I enclose a copy of my CV.

I am 18 years old and I have just finished secondary school in Newcastle I would like to work for you because I am very interested in teaching. I would also like to learn about a different culture as I feel that intercultural understanding is extremely important.

I am a hard-working and committed person I have participated for the last three years in a voluntary program Community Links visiting elderly people in my local area. I feel that I can get on with people from other cultural backgrounds since I have also taught immigrant children English at our church school.

I think I would be a good primary teacher of maths due to my teaching experience. Also, I have recently passed my Maths ‘A’ level grade B, so I have a good understanding of the subject. In addition I hold a certificate in first aid, which might be useful.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours sincerely

Maureen Taylor

Ms Maureen Taylor

Now it’s your turn. Write a letter applying for work on a volunteer programme. Imagine you are applying to work as a volunteer in Bangladesh. Decide which of the four jobs you are interested in. Think about why you are interested. Write about your reasons for wanting the job, your personal qualifications and your practical skills.

Curriculum vitae – (Am. E. resume)

● A curriculum vitae (Am. E. resume) is a short written account of a person’s education and past employment. All curriculum vitaes cover certain standard items: name, address, phone number; education; past experience; skills and talents; publications, awards, honours, membership in professional organizations; list of references or a statement that they are “available upon request”.

Curriculum vitae

Oleg Petrov

29, Molodezhnaya Street, Flat 7

Barnaul, 656031, Russia

Phone: -(3852) 53 24 85

OBJECTIVE: Obtain employment in the field of tourism that will allow

me to use my ability to work with people and take

advantage of my knowledge of foreign languages.

EDUCATION: Barnaul State Pedagogical University

1999-2004 Diploma in English and German

Qualified as English interpreter


EXPERIENCE: 2003-2005 - Tourist agency “Robinson”. Assistant,

Interpreter of Director General.

Duties: interpreting, translation of documents,

appointments, schedules of meetings.

LANGUAGES: ENGLISH: Fluent reading, writing and speaking ability.

Qualified as interpreter and translator.

GERMAN: Good reading and translating ability.

FRENCH: Reading and translating with a dictionary.

OTHER SKILLS: COMPUTER: Microsoft Word and Excel. Typing,

fax, Xerox.


ACTIVITIES: Sports, tourism, music.

REFERENCES: Mrs Anna Ivanova, Associate Professor, Barnaul State

Pedagogical University, Barnaul, 55 Molodezhnaya

Street, Phone: (3852) 268771

Mr Peter Benson, Manager, Tourist agency, 29 Lenina

Avenue, Moscow, Phone: + 7 913 2546789

A Guide to Writing a Curriculum Vitae

A curriculum vitae gives you an opportunity to present a positive picture of yourself to a prospective employer.

An excellent curriculum vitae may help you get the job of your dreams and a poor one may mean a lost opportunity.

Since this is the first piece of information a company will receive about you, it is critically important that your curriculum vitae be well-written.

It should be presented at the beginning of any interview that you have with a company. Ideally, a curriculum vitae should not be longer than one page.

The contents of a curriculum vitae can be roughly categorized as: 1) PERSONAL INFORMATION (address and telephone number), 2) JOB OBJECTIVE, 3) EDUCATION, 4) EXPERIENCE, 5) SKILLS, 6) EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES, 7) REFERENCES.

A curriculum vitae begins with PERSONAL INFORMATION: name, address, telephone number.

After your address, a statement of your intent or JOB OBJECTIVE should be written. This objective should be well thought out from the very beginning since it will influence how you will write the rest of the curriculum vitae. It should not be too general, e.g.: ‘To obtain a managerial position in a western company.’

Think about your job search and career goals carefully, write them down in a way that shows you have given this much thought.

For example: ‘Objective: To obtain a position in telecommunication that will allow me to use my knowledge of engineering and take advantage of my desire to work in sales.’

Notice that your desire to have a well-paid job is not included in this statement. A focus on money in your first sentence will not make the best impression anywhere in the world, not just in Russia.

After the statement of intent, describe your EDUCATION.

List the universities, institutes and colleges you have attended in reverse chronological order.

Any studying you have done abroad should be included and courses that you have taken that are relevant.

If you graduated with honours, you should definitely include this. A ‘red diploma’ can be called ‘graduated with high honours’ in English. Do not include your high school.

Your working EXPERIENCE is the next section. List your experience starting with your most recent place of employment, your position, and the name of the company you worked for.

Provide information about your responsibilities, emphasizing important activities by listing the most relevant to your objective. Do not use complete sentences! List your responsibilities in short statements that do not include the words ‘my’ or ‘I’.

Following experience, you should list your special SKILLS.

These include your language skills, computer abilities, and any other talent that relates to your statement of intent.

When describing your language abilities, it is best to be honest about assessing your level, “fluent English”, “native Russian”, “intermediate German”, and “beginning French” are all ways to describe your language abilities.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES should be included in the next section. Student or professional organizations you belong to, travel, sports and hobbies should be listed here.

Do not list “reading” or “writing” as an activity. It is assumed most people with a higher education do these things regularly.

The last section of your curriculum vitae is the REFERENCE section. List at least two people, not related to you, who can describe your qualification for the job.

Their names, titles, places of work, and telephone numbers should be included. If you do not have space on your curriculum vitae for this, write ‘Available upon request.’ You will then be expected to give this information to a prospective employer if it is requested.

The style and format of a curriculum vitae are extremely important. Your curriculum vitae must be typed, preferably on a computer in order to format it most effectively. A neat and well-written curriculum vitae with no spelling mistakes will give an employer the impression that you are accurate and take care of details.

Exercise 30. Imagine that you are currently looking for a job. You want to obtain a position in a tourist agency. You will have to send a curriculum vitae to different tourist agencies.

Write a curriculum vitae in which you give information about your skills, your experience, your education and other things. Emphasize your strengths.

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