Points to note in writing letters
WE pick up our discussion on letter writing from where we left last week. We need to acknowledge that some opinions presented here are from various sources. Paragraphs in the body of the letter, just like in ordinary compositions are shown by skipping a line between one paragraph and the next. All paragraphs begin immediately after the left margin without indenting. Somebody might think these are easy points to remember, yet failure to follow instructions has led to the undoing of many learners.
Where do we leave other free lines when writing letters? Leave a free line between: the last line of the address and the date, the date and the salutation, the salutation and the body of the letter, the last line of the body of the letter and the signature. In the salutation of personal letters, use the name you use when talking to the person you are writing to, such as Dear Peter, My dearest Father, Beloved Uncle. In the signature you write: Your friend, Yours sincerely, Your loving daughter/son/sister, or simple write Love. Then you end by writing your first name only, such as: Jack, Amkela.
Learners are reminded that a personal letter should be lively and interesting, except when it is about sad news. It should show the writer’s interest in the life of the person she or he is writing to, by, for example, referring to what she or he already knows or has written in previous letters to the same. Avoid repeating the pronoun “I” many times as it is boring to read such material. The same applies for ordinary compositions where repetition spoils everything.
Writing informal or personal letters is obviously an easier task than writing formal or business letters which follow a particular style and rules. Formal letters are written for business purposes, and are sent even to people we do not know personally. When are formal or business letters written? These are written when, for example: seeking school vacancies, liking moving from primary school to high school, seeking for employment, making complaints or apologies to organisations. For example, complaining about poor service delivery by a local bus company or local authority.
You could write a business letter giving information or making enquiries to organisations or asking for services. Language used in business letters is strictly formal, no slang and you stick to the requirements of the question. There are two addresses: — the writer’s address first, then the date, followed by the addressee’s name and address. Salutation — For formal letters write: Dear Sir/Dear Madam or use the person’s name if you know it, for example, Dear Mr Dube, Dear Miss Jane, Dear Reverend Ndlovu, Dear Professor George.
The subject of the whole letter is given in the form of a heading just after the salutation. Example — APPLICATION FOR A FORM ONE PLACE or ASKING FOR A DONATION. When a heading is in small letters, it should be underlined. A formal letter should always be polite. Arrange formal letters in paragraphs. Write: Yours faithfully and after that as the signature write your full names legibly, like in this case: Charles Dube or Mary Jones.
Learners can compare and contrast informal and formal letters so that they do not confuse the two. Learners should not forget picture compositions which just like those based on other situations are found in Section B of the English Language examinations. Learners narrate the full story as represented by the pictures. They do not describe the picture itself, however, learners have to make the story live by giving the places and characters imaginary names. Learners could add any relevant details.
Whenever learners are asked to write compositions, they should always read the questions or topic and understand exactly what they are required to do. They should observe the rules of the question, such as length, or information that must, or may be included. They should write neatly, arranging the composition in paragraphs; each paragraph beginning with a topic sentence. A reminder again and for the benefit of junior learners: a paragraph is asset of sentences that deal with one main idea.
A topic sentence introduces the main idea in a paragraph. A paragraph has other sentences that support the topic sentence by developing the main idea further. It stands out clearly supported by free lines or spaces from other paragraphs. Let us specify the three main parts of a composition: we have the beginning or introduction. A good introduction should be brief, and in most cases it is one paragraph. It should give the reader an insight into the composition; and the direction it will take. Above all, it should be interesting enough to encourage the reader to want to read on.
The body or middle of the composition. This is the main part of the composition, but, it gives learners a torrid time. This is where learners make or break the composition. A well written body includes all the details of events or descriptions. It is the longer part of the essay, usually consisting of several paragraphs depending on the total length of the essay. It should be interesting enough to maintain or even increase the reader’s interest. All in all, it should deal with the material within the terms of the question or topic.
Lastly, we have the conclusion or ending. A good ending ties together comments made earlier in the composition. Sums up what has been written in response to the question. In addition to this, it makes judgements, or gives answers to the issues discussed, or reasons for the events discussed. On top of that, it is usually brief. Learners always ask what they can do to pass English Language examinations. While there is nothing wrong with that, the problem is that the question is too wide for consideration. I would suggest they provide specific areas they need to be helped on rather than present vague questions.
In the next issue I would briefly describe the type of compositions and what is required. We shall consider these types from descriptive leaving out narratives as the latter has been dealt with a number of times on this page.
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