In our second English Language blog post we talk about writing a formal letter to express a point of view. Here is an example of the sort of question you might see in your exam:
Many people prefer to spend their holidays in Great Britain rather than travel abroad. Write a letter to a magazine editor giving your opinion on this topic.
Here’s a sample answer:
Dear Mr Smith,
After reading several articles in your magazine which suggest that it is unethical to travel abroad, I felt compelled to express my contrasting point of view. As a child I spent many happy summer holidays in Wales and Scotland and I love rambling in the countryside, but I cannot agree that we should all stop taking holidays abroad.
One argument put forward is that air travel is detrimental to the environment. However, a single flight abroad just once a year is inconsequential compared to the millions of tonnes of pollution pumped into the atmosphere by coal power stations around the world. I am not a global warming sceptic; in fact I passionately believe that we are facing a climate emergency. My electricity at home is generated by solar power and I vigilantly recycle my waste daily. Considering all my efforts, surely I should be allowed to take one holiday abroad a year?
Having spent every childhood holiday listening to the rain hammering on a caravan roof I think I have earnt the right to lie on a beach somewhere soaking up the sun, and swimming in a crystal clear (pollution-free) sea. In all honestly, who wouldn’t prefer to do so? According to a government survey one in five people in Britain today are vitamin D deficient. Therefore, a week in the sun is important for our emotional, mental and physical health.
Spending time abroad also opens our minds. It allows us to meet different people and to experience new cultures. Our horizons are broadened by visiting famous sites like the pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Amazon rainforest. Only by experiencing the world first-hand can we truly appreciate its wonders. I’ve learnt about volcanoes from visiting Mount Vesuvius, and Roman history by visiting the Coliseum. Learning from books and the internet just isn’t quite the same. Moreover, many countries rely on tourism. What will happen to their economies if tourism is taken from them?
I appreciate that air travel has an environmental cost which is why I choose to travel just once a year. Foreign travel makes a huge difference to myself and to my whole family. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when she fulfilled a lifetime dream and climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The memories I have from travelling abroad are priceless, and I would encourage your readers to keep expanding their horizons by travelling both inside and outside Great Britain whenever possible.
When writing a formal letter like this you need to include the following:
In the top right hand corner write your address and then leave a space before writing the date underneath. The date should be in long form eg. ‘July 14th, 2020’ rather than ‘14/07/20’.
Just below your address, on the left hand side of the page write the name of the person you are sending the letter to, their job title and their address.
For the exam, you can make up both addresses. Make sure you use capital letters for proper nouns.
This is the greeting. In the sample letter here we’ve written ‘Dear Mr Smith’, but if you didn’t know the person’s name you would write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
3. Complimentary close
Sign off your letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the name of the person (as in the sample letter), and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you’ve stared the letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Sign the letter with your signature, and beneath your signature write your name eg. ‘Nicola Higgins’.
4. First paragraph
In the first paragraph of your letter clearly state your point of view and use a tone that is more formal than your everyday language. Do not use contractions (don’t, I’m, can’t, it’s) or vague words like ‘good’ and ‘nice’. Always be respectful and polite even if you are writing a letter of complaint.
5. Use persuasive techniques
When expressing a point of view check that you have used at least 6 of the following techniques:
- Counter argument
- Direct address (‘I’)
- Emotive language
- Imagery (simile/metaphor)
- Rhetorical questions
How many different techniques can you spot in the sample letter?
6. Final paragraph
In the last paragraph of your letter restate your point of view as strongly as you can using a persuasive technique and suggest a course of action.
Read the final paragraph of the sample letter. Has the writer’s point of view been restated effectively? What persuasive techniques are used? What course of action is suggested to the editor?
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