BY JENNY TAN
This week we will look at writing a formal letter, another popular question for directed writing.
Your class is unhappy with your school canteen. As the monitor of your class, you have been asked to write to your principal, to complain about the following:
- food left uncovered
- attract many flies
- food served is stale
- food too expensive
- oily plates and cups
- rude workers
- workers not properly attired
- dustbins not cleared daily
- same menu daily
In your letter, you would also like to offer three suggestions from your classmates:
- stringent checks
- cheaper food
- serve a variety of food
When writing the letter, you should remember:
- to set out the letter correctly
- to include all the points given
- to write in paragraphs.
Look at the model answer below to revise the format of a formal letter and see how the points are elaborated.
The Class Monitor,
Form 5 Murni,
SMK Dato’ Kurnia,
Encik Abdullah bin Sani,
SMK Dato’ Kurnia,
Perak. 11 AUGUST 2004
Unsatisfactory School Canteen
On behalf of the students of 5 Murni, I would like to lodge a complaint about the school canteen.
2. First and foremost, the food served is not covered and many flies can be seen hovering over the food. This may lead to food poisoning. Moreover, the canteen also serves stale food. The ‘nasi lemak’ turns bad by the time the upper forms have their recess. Last week, a few of us had diarrhoea after consuming food from the canteen.
3. Apart from that, the food is also too expensive. A small plate of fried mee costs RM1.50 and many poor students cannot afford it. Besides that, the canteen serves the same menu daily. The students are bored with fried rice and fried mee every day.
4. Another complaint is that the cups and plates are oily and not washed properly. The workers are also not appropriately attired although they have been told to wear aprons and caps. Moreover, these workers are rude to students. They shout at us and use foul language whenever they get angry. They also do not clear the dustbins and rubbish daily. This is very unhygienic. As a result, there is a foul stench whenever we eat in the canteen.
5. Thus, we would like to suggest that the school authorities make stringent checks on the canteen daily or weekly. They should also ensure that the canteen serves a variety of food at a reasonable price.
We would like to appeal to your sense of fairness and hope prompt action will be taken regarding these matters.
(LAILY BT ROSLI)
Note how the points given are arranged into paragraphs and elaborated where needed.
The last paragraph states the action you want taken. This week, I would also like to focus on the elaboration and expansion of notes.
To elaborate on a point, you may:
- give a reason
- state one effect/outcome
- give details
- explain further with facts or statistics
- give an opinion
Let’s look at some examples from the model answer below.
1. food left uncovered - attract many flies
First and foremost, the food served is left uncovered and many flies can be seen hovering over the food. This may lead to food poisoning.
Since the two points are connected, I have decided to group them in one sentence. It is all right if you do not wish to use the exact words given but you must stick to the original meaning when writing. I have elaborated (underlined sentence) by stating one possible effect of the flies.
Remember that you only need to give a sentence or a phrase. Do not elaborate more than three or four lines. You will be wasting your time and effort.
2. same menu daily
Besides that, the canteen serves the same menu daily. The students are bored with fried rice and fried mee every day.
I have elaborated by giving examples of the phrase “same menu”.
Can you identify more examples of elaboration and the methods used?
Try the following exercise.
1. love holiday with family (give a reason)
2. Reading - good hobby - (give details)
3. government – worried about loitering culture (give facts)
4. Kuala Lumpur – busy, noisy but exciting (give details)
5. residential schools – better facilities (give examples)
I also want to draw your attention to the structures I used in the model answer.
Notice how I used First and foremost, Moreover, Apart from that, Besides that, Another complaint is and so on. These are transitional words and phrases which help to make the essay flow smoothly and to lead the reader from one point to another.
You can use many other transitional words and phrases to make your essay more cohesive.
To add to what you have just said: also, similarly, furthermore, in addition, then, moreover, in other words, in the same way
To use a specific example to support what you have said: For example, especially, for instance, to illustrate, as an illustration, such as
To show sequence: First and foremost, first, The second advantage is, Next, Another reason is, Lastly, Finally
To indicate that you are about to contrast what has just been said: but, on the other hand, yet, nevertheless, on the contrary, however
To indicate a conclusion: In conclusion, consequently, thus, therefore, in summary, therefore, as a result
Finally, try the following question.
A group of Form Five students from your school’s Environment Club would like to go on a camping trip. As the secretary of the club, you have been asked to write a letter to a resort to seek permission to camp at a nearby waterfall. Your letter should include the following points:
- state the purpose of your letter
- introduce your club
- teachers who will be accompanying the students
- number of students
- the date and duration of your camp
- activities to be carried out – boating,jungle trekking, nature study
- promise to clear the rubbish
- will be responsible for first-aid and other safety precautions
Remember to set out the letter correctly and to use all the points given.
Your plan may look roughly like this:
- State the purpose of the letter.
- Introduce your club
- State the number of students and teachers going on the trip
- State the duration (how long you will be staying) and the dates
- Describe the activities
- Describe the travelling arrangements and include the promise to clear the rubbish.
- Add in the point about first-aid and so on.
How is your journal getting on? Many students have e-mailed me about their journals and I am very encouraged by your enthusiasm. Use your creativity and decorate your journals too. Do send me your journals and maybe, if space permits, I will publish them. Here are the prompts for your journal this week. Keep writing and stay cool.
Jenny Tan is a teacher of English and published author of several revision books.