Effective Letter Writing Skills Development
Letter Writing � Introduction and details
Introduction � What is Letter Writing
Writing skills are often the most difficult skills for students of appearing for various entrance exams in India. When it come to Bank Jobs entrance test English Language is an integral part of the question paper and interview as well. This article will throw some light on English Letter Writing skilld and exams strategy.
While there are important differences between spoken and written English�for example, spoken English has more shortened forms, contractions, omissions, and colloquial express ions�these differences need not intimidate the learner at the intermediate level, nor prevent the teacher from introducing real writing practice at this stage. Writing directions, taking down simple telephone messages, making shopping lists are some examples of simple writing tasks in which the students can actually practice writing English in everyday functions. Letter writing, with its many forms and uses, is another activity that is particularly advantageous for the following reasons:
� Improved writing skills
� Improved communication skills
� Improved performances at work places for e.g. Banks
� These are few reasons that Banking industry wants to check the applicants skills in English Language writing also. Letter writing is not a very tough job if practiced well. It�s a scoring section in Descriptive English Paper.
In addition to these reasons for practicing letter writing early in the English language training, there is another even more pedagogically important reason to consider. Letters that are well-organized in form and content generally follow a pattern that is similar to basic composition writing.
A well-composed letter, like a good composition in English, usually has three basic components:
1. A salutation, corresponding to the introduction;
2. A general message, corresponding to the body; and
3. A closing and signature, corresponding to the conclusion of the composition.
We see, then, that letter writing can be an effective means of introducing and reinforcing the principles of good composition in English; the writer in both cases must first organize his or her thoughts logically to convey the intended message.
17.1 Effective Letter Writing : How to write an effective letter in general ?
Let�s categorize the kinds of letters our students are most likely to encounter into two simple groups: social letters and business letters.
For both types, indeed for almost any letter written in English, there is a general layout or format that is followed and several general components that are required.
The following model sets out :-
(1) the writer�s address,
(2) the salutation to the addressee,
(3) the body of message,
(4) the closing word or phrase, and
(5) the writer�s signature.
Writer�s city/state/pin code of writer�s city/location
Salutation (Dear) + addressee�s name,
Body of the letter
Note: Readers in India usually expect to find these parts of a letter arranged in this way; they may be confused if the format is changed. In some countries, for instance, the custom is to include the writer�s name in the upper right-hand corner above the writer�s address. However, a reader accustomed to English letters may think that the (foreign) writer�s name is a street, if it is written on the first line of the address position.
Let us now discuss each segment of a letter :
1. Writer�s Address
Although you will usually find that the writer places his/her address in the upper right-hand corner of the page, business �correspondents may place their address in the letterhead at the middle top of the page, or at the lower left-hand corner.
On the envelope, the Indian post office requires the addressee�s name on the first line, the Street address on the second line, the city/state/pin code on the third line, and the name of the state/country on the last line. All of this should appear in the center of the envelope. The writer�s name and address should appear in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope.
LEFT SIDE TOP
addressee�s full name
addressee�s street address
addressee�s city/state/pin code
RIGHT SIDE BOTTOM
writer�s full name STAMP
writer�s street address
writer�s city/state/pin code
Salutations are placed on the left margin. As a general rule, when the writer knows the addressee well and is on a �first name� basis (that is, if they call each other by first name informally), the writer begins an informal social letter with Dear followed by the addressee�s first or given name:
Example: Dear Rehan, Dear Monica, etc.
For formal social letters and business letters, however, the salutation Dear is followed by the addressee�s title and family name:
Example: Dear Mr. Sharma, Dear Dr. Bhanushali, etc.
In business letter salutations, the reader may also note other forms:
For example : Dear Publ isher, Dear Editor, Dear Reader, Dear Parents, Dear Colleague, etc.
This avoids the use of Dear Sir and Gentlemen, which are now outdated as they assume all readers are male, and overlook the growing number of women in the business world today.
In business letters, the reader may also note the use of Ms., which is the exact linguistic equivalent of Mr.; that is, Ms. indicates female gender but not whether the person is married. Some women still prefer to use Miss (unmarried) or Mrs. (married), but most business correspondence today uses Ms., unless it uses some form indicating the position or office for whom the letter is intended.
3. Body of the Letter
The letter itself may also begin exactly on the left margin, directly under the salutation, or it may be indented five spaces to the right, the traditional signal for a new paragraph in English. If you prefer not to indent for each new paragraph, you should leave an extra space between paragraphs.
Although we are mainly concerned with format here, it will be well to keep in mind that the body of the letter contains the main message or �point.� Culturally speaking, a native English language reader usually expects the writer of formal or business letters to (1) introduce him/herself, (2) state the purpose of the letter, and (3) conclude the letter. Note that the conclusion often may be a simple �thank you� for the reader�s attention.
4. Closing Signature
The closing and signature at the end of the letter are usually spaced from the right margin and aligned under the address and date that appear in the upper right-hand corner. If there is any possibility that the person receiving your letter may not be able to read your signature (because of a difference of handwriting styles), you should carefully print or type your name under your handwritten signature. Remember that when the reader answers your letter and addresses the envelope, he/she must be able to spell your name clearly and correctly. Your letter is the only guideline to spelling your name and address correctly.
Note : Impact on the Reader
In summary, a good letter must be clearly thought out, and clearly organized on paper. Its message should be understandable to the reader and its appearance on the page should be well-balanced, like a picture in a frame. A letter, remember, carries the writer�s unspoken thoughts and silently reflects the writer�s personality. Each letter is a personally creative act of real communication.
17.2 General Tips for effective letter writing in IBPS OR State Bank PO Exams :
Point No 1 :-
The first thing is identify the type of letter you are being asked to write. Is it a formal, semi-formal or informal letter? The entire style of your letter writing is based on your answer to this question. Adjust your style and choice of words according to the type of letter you have been asked to write in the exam.
Point No 2. :-
The next Important thing is open and close the letter correctly. Remember that each type of letter requires a different opening and closing. The chart below will help you remember this:
To someone you have not met, whose name you don't know
Dear Sir / Madam
To someone you may or may not have met, whose last name you know & use
Dear Mr Sharma,
To someone you know well, whose first name you know and use
Point No. 3 :-
Open a formal and semi-formal letter with a formal sentence. Never try to be friendly, as you do not know the person you are writing to. Get right down to the point and the business and indicate the reason you are writing, as shown below:
Dear Sir / Madam,
I am writing to inquire about / I am writing in connection with...
Dear Mr Jay,
I am writing to inform you ... / I am writing in connection with...
Point No 4 :-
Always open an informal letter with a general, friendly paragraph. With friends whom we know, we care about the whole person. We have a broader relationship in the context of which this communication is taking place. So it is best to acknowledge that friendship first, before getting down to the reason for your letter. In fact, the first paragraph could be purely friendly small talk, unrelated to the reason for your writing. Look at the example below:
I hope you and your family are all well. It was such a pleasure to see you again last summer. We sure had a great time catching up with each other after so many years. You have always been a cherished friend, no matter how much of a gap there has been since we met.
Anyway, the reason I'm writing is that I have some good news - I am getting married this summer...
Point No 5 :-
Remember, always identify the main purpose of the letter while writing in the exam. Are you asking for help, apologizing, inviting someone, complaining or thanking someone? Learn appropriate and polite expressions that will support what you need to say.
Point No 6 :-
Learn and use standard written phrases. Students sometimes struggle to finish their writing in time. This happens when you are trying to write every sentence from scratch. The fact is, in conventional letter writing in English, we use a number of standard expressions and phrases and add on to them the specific information we wish to communicate. By learning how to use these expressions, you will find the letter writing task much easier and will never have to fight for time.
Point No 7 :-
Make sure you write at least 100-120 words. Practice writing letters till you know what 120 � 150 words feels like and looks like. You will lose marks if you write less. You will not lose marks if you write more; the only restriction on writing more is in terms of time, not the number of words.
Point No 8 :-
Learn the correct spelling of commonly used words. It is surprising how many Banking Entrance Aspirants make a mistake when spelling words such as "sincerely", "faithfully", "in connection with" and so on. You can prevent yourself from losing marks by learning the correct spelling of these words and expressions which you are highly likely to use on your exam.
Point No 9 :-
Stay on topic. In order to complete your letter within 10 minutes or less, practice writing letters where you stick to the point. The letter writing test does not require you to make up a story to complete your letter, but if you do so then you end with less time for the remaining questions.
Point No 10 :-
Include all important points asked by the examiner. If you exclude even one of the points given to you in the question prompt, you will lose valuable marks. Practice writing letters that include the major important points and go back and check that you have included them in each practice exercise you do.