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Writing Letters: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Hey there! So, let's talk about the challenges of writing directed writing letters for O level and A level exams, specifically for exam boards like AQA, Cambridge, and Edexcel. Now, I know exams can be a bit intimidating, but don't worry, we'll navigate through this together!

When it comes to directed writing, it's no walk in the park. You're given a specific scenario or prompt, and you're expected to whip up a well-structured, persuasive letter within a limited time frame. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, it can be, but fear not! We'll delve into the difficulties students face and explore some handy strategies to tackle them.


Different scenarios will call for a different type of letter - it could be an informal note to a friend, a formal business communication, or a heartfelt personal message. In this guide, we'll delve into the intricacies of letter writing, providing you with practical examples and tips.

In an examination context, you might be asked to write a shorter directed writing task based on a scenario, or two contrasting letters for a specified audience. A newspaper recently published an article saying that teenagers spend far too much time online. Readers were invited to write letters to respond to this article. Write two contrasting letters (300–450 words each): one supporting the views in the article; and the other challenging them.

1. Informal letter

Let's talk about the art of writing informal letters in the context of answering directed writing essays. While exams can be daunting, writing informal letters allows you to showcase your creativity, connect with the reader, and express your thoughts in a more relaxed and personal manner. So, let's dive into some tips to help you excel in crafting informal letters for your directed writing essays.

1. Understand the Scenario:

As you begin your directed writing essay, carefully read and understand the given scenario or prompt. Identify the purpose of the letter and the intended audience. This understanding will help you determine the appropriate tone, style, and level of formality for your informal letter.

2. Start with a Friendly Greeting:

In your informal letter, begin with a warm and friendly greeting. Address the recipient in a casual and personal manner, using a simple "Hi," "Hey," or "Dear [Name]." Make the reader feel comfortable and establish a friendly connection right from the start.

3. Adopt a Conversational Tone:

Unlike formal letters, informal letters give you the freedom to adopt a conversational tone. Write as if you're having a friendly chat with the recipient. Use your natural voice, incorporating everyday language, contractions, and slang. This allows you to showcase your personality and create a more engaging letter.

4. Share Relevant Personal Experiences:

An informal letter is an excellent opportunity to share relevant personal experiences that relate to the given scenario. Draw from your own life, memories, or observations to make your letter more relatable and authentic. Personal anecdotes and stories can add depth and interest to your writing.

5. Express Emotions and Opinions:

In your informal letter, don't hesitate to express your emotions and opinions on the topic at hand. Share your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives in a respectful manner. Engage the reader with your genuine passion and let your personality shine through.

6. Use Descriptive Language:

To make your informal letter vivid and engaging, incorporate descriptive language. Paint a picture with your words, using sensory details and imagery. This helps the reader visualize your experiences and creates a more immersive reading experience.

7. Ask Thought-Provoking Questions:

To stimulate further discussion and engagement, include thought-provoking questions in your letter. Encourage the reader to reflect on the topic, share their thoughts, or offer their own perspectives. This shows your interest in their opinion and encourages a meaningful exchange.

8. End on a Positive Note:

As you conclude your informal letter, end it on a positive and uplifting note. Express your well wishes, offer encouragement, or share a hopeful outlook. Leave the reader with a sense of optimism and warmth, ensuring a lasting impact.

9. Revise and Edit:

After completing your informal letter, take the time to revise and edit your work. Check for any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or awkward sentences. Ensure the flow of your ideas is smooth and coherent. Edit for clarity, ensuring that your thoughts are effectively communicated.

10. Practice and Seek Feedback:

Writing informal letters for directed writing essays is a skill that improves with practice. Take advantage of practice exams or mock assignments to hone your craft. Seek feedback from your teachers, mentors, or peers to improve your writing skills. Constructive criticism can help you refine your style and create even more impactful letters.

Here's an example of an informal letter:

Dear Sarah, Hey there! I hope this letter finds you in high spirits and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. It's been a while since we last caught up, and I thought it was about time I dropped you a letter filled with all the latest updates and stories from my side of the world. First off, let me tell you about the incredible trip I took last month. I ventured to the breathtaking countryside, where I hiked through lush green forests, climbed majestic mountains, and stumbled upon hidden waterfalls. The sights were absolutely mesmerizing, and I couldn't help but think of you throughout the journey. It reminded me of our own adventures and the laughter we shared. On a more personal note, I recently started a new job at a creative agency, and I must say, it's been quite a whirlwind. The team is fantastic, and the projects we're working on are incredibly exciting. I find myself challenged and inspired every day, which is a refreshing change. I can't wait to hear what you've been up to career-wise. Any exciting projects or endeavors? Remember the concert we attended together last year? Well, guess what? Our favorite band is back in town next month! I managed to snag a couple of tickets, and I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather go with. How about we relive the magic and dance the night away? Let me know if you're up for it, and we'll make it a night to remember. Speaking of nights to remember, do you remember that hilarious mishap we had during our road trip? I still burst into laughter whenever it comes to mind. Those shared moments are priceless and hold a special place in my heart. It's those memories that make our friendship so incredible and enduring. Before I wrap up this letter, I wanted to check in on you. How are you doing? How's your family? I genuinely miss our long conversations and the way we effortlessly understand each other. Let's plan a get-together soon. We can catch up over a cup of coffee, share stories, and laugh until our stomachs hurt. Alright, my friend, I'll let you get back to your day. Know that you are always in my thoughts and that our friendship means the world to me. Take care of yourself and remember to find joy in the little things. Sending you hugs and warm wishes, Alex P.S. Give my love to your adorable dog, Max. I can't wait to see him wagging his tail when we meet up again!

Remember, writing informal letters in directed writing essays allows you to showcase your creativity, connect with the reader, and express your thoughts in a personal and engaging manner. So, embrace the opportunity, infuse your letters with your unique voice, and let your creativity shine on the exam paper. Good luck!

2. Formal Letters

Let's dive into the world of writing formal letters with headings, specifically in the context of answering directed writing essays. Now, I know exams can be stressful, but fear not! With this comprehensive guide, we'll help you navigate through the process of crafting professional and effective letters.

1. Understand the Prompt:

First things first, take a good look at the prompt or scenario provided for your directed writing essay. Understand the purpose of the letter you're being asked to write. Is it a formal complaint? A persuasive request? A job application? By grasping the objective, you can tailor your content and headings accordingly.

2. Format and Placement of Headings:

Headings in formal letters provide structure and help the reader navigate through your letter. Start by placing your headings at the left margin, aligned with the body of the text. You can make them bold or use a slightly larger font size to make them stand out.

3. Sender's Information:

Begin your letter with your contact information. Include your full name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. Place these details at the top-right corner or aligned with the left margin, a few lines below the date.

4. Date:

Don't forget to include the date of writing just below your contact information. Format the date correctly, following the conventions of the specific exam board you're writing for. This adds a professional touch to your letter.

5. Recipient's Information:

After the date, provide the recipient's details, such as their name, job title, company, and mailing address. Use the correct salutation and address the recipient formally, using their proper title if applicable. This shows respect and professionalism.

6. Salutation:

Begin your letter with an appropriate salutation. For example, "Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. [Last Name]," or "To Whom It May Concern." Use the appropriate level of formality based on the context and audience of your letter.

7. Introduction and Opening Paragraph:

In the opening paragraph, introduce yourself briefly and state the purpose of your letter. Grab the reader's attention and clearly convey why you're writing. Be concise but informative to set the stage for the rest of your letter.

8. Body Paragraphs:

The body of your letter is where you provide detailed information, explanations, or arguments to support your purpose. Divide your letter into logical paragraphs, each with a clear heading indicating the content that follows. For instance, if you're writing a complaint letter, you might have headings like "Incident Description," "Consequences," or "Requested Resolution."

9. Conclusion:

Wrap up your letter with a concise summary of your main points and restate your purpose. Express gratitude if appropriate, and offer any necessary contact information for further communication or additional documentation.

10. Closing and Signature:

Choose an appropriate closing for your letter, such as "Sincerely," "Yours faithfully," or "Best regards." Leave a few lines of space for your handwritten signature, followed by your typed name. If you're writing the letter electronically, you can use a digital signature or simply type your name.

11. Proofread and Edit:

Before submitting your letter, take the time to proofread and edit it. Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and awkward phrasing. Ensure your ideas flow logically and the language is clear and concise. Pay attention to the formatting and appearance of your headings to maintain consistency and professionalism.

12. Practice and Seek Feedback:

Writing formal letters with headings takes practice. Take advantage of practice exams or mock assignments to hone your skills. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or peers to improve your letter-writing abilities. The more you practice, the more confident and proficient you'll become

Remember, writing formal letters in the context of directed writing essays is a valuable skill that extends beyond exams. It's a skill you can apply in various professional and personal situations. So, embrace the challenge, follow this comprehensive guide, and let your well-structured, persuasive letters shine in your exams and beyond!

TASK 1: A newspaper recently published an article saying that teenagers spend far too much time online. Readers were invited to write letters to respond to this article. Write two contrasting letters (300–450 words each): one supporting the views in the article; and the other challenging them.

Letter 1: Supporting the Views in the Article Subject: The Alarm of Excessive Online Time for Teenagers To the Editor, I write this letter in wholehearted agreement with your recent article on teenagers spending far too much time online. The digital era has brought undoubted advantages, from instant communication to vast information resources. Yet, it's concerning to observe the sheer amount of time our young ones spend glued to screens, causing real-world experiences to often take a back seat. Being online continually can adversely affect teenagers' mental health, making them vulnerable to cyberbullying, body image issues, and online harassment. The ephemeral pleasure from likes and shares has started dictating their self-worth, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) has become a chronic stressor. Beyond mental health, excessive screen time also hinders their physical well-being. Sedentary behavior linked to prolonged device usage increases obesity risk, deteriorates eyesight, and disrupts sleep patterns. Moreover, I worry about the compromise on essential life skills. When interactions are primarily digital, the opportunity to develop face-to-face communication skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence is lost. Furthermore, online distractions often impact academic performance, with the allure of social media or games disrupting study time. While it's unrealistic to expect a total digital detox, it's crucial that we educate our young ones on the sensible usage of online platforms, balancing their digital activities with outdoor play, hobbies, and quality family time. Yours sincerely, Luke Skywalker --- Letter 2: Challenging the Views in the Article Subject: The Unrecognized Potential of Teenagers' Online Time To the Editor, I appreciate the concerns raised in your article about teenagers' online time, but I must respectfully disagree. The narrative that teenagers spend 'too much' time online is simplistic and fails to recognize the potential benefits and opportunities the digital world offers. In today's connected society, digital literacy is no longer optional; it's a necessity. By spending time online, teenagers learn to navigate this digital landscape, gain technical skills, and prepare for a future where such competencies will be critical. Moreover, the internet provides an unlimited library for learning and discovery. Teenagers are now consuming and producing content, learning languages, coding, or even understanding quantum physics via YouTube! Let's not forget the blogs, vlogs, and podcasts that encourage self-expression and creativity. The online world also broadens horizons. Interacting with global peers allows teenagers to appreciate diverse cultures, perspectives, and ideas. They can join online communities that align with their interests, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance, which can be particularly valuable for those who feel marginalized in their immediate environments. We must remember that not all screen time is created equal. Yes, mindless scrolling and exposure to harmful content are concerns. However, this underlines the need for better digital education – teaching our teenagers about online safety, digital citizenship, and critical thinking, rather than demonizing their time spent online. Instead of imposing unrealistic screen-time limits, let's focus on encouraging quality digital engagement and facilitating open conversations about their online experiences. Yours sincerely, Luke Skywalker

TASK 2: Write a letter applying for a job at a local guesthouse/hotel. In your letter, you could include:

• why you want a job in a guesthouse/hotel

• what relevant skills and knowledge you have

• what difference you can make to the experience of guests

[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State, Zip] [Email Address] [Phone Number] [Today’s Date] Dear Hiring Manager, I am writing to apply for the position at your local guesthouse/hotel, which I recently saw advertised online. I am particularly drawn to this job as I have a passion for providing exceptional customer service and creating a warm, welcoming environment for guests. I have previously worked in customer-facing roles, including a two-year stint at a popular local restaurant. There, I honed my skills in attending to customers' needs, handling complaints efficiently, and maintaining a positive and amicable demeanor even during peak hours. Furthermore, I completed a hospitality course at the local community college, which equipped me with knowledge in the areas of housekeeping operations, front office procedures, and food and beverage service. My background has prepared me well for the rigors of a bustling hotel environment. I am adept at multitasking, problem-solving, and communication. I am also proficient in multiple languages, which would allow me to assist a wide range of guests. I believe I can make a significant difference to the experience of your guests by ensuring their needs are met promptly and courteously. My focus is always on creating a memorable stay for guests, which often results in repeat business and positive reviews. Thank you for considering my application. I would be delighted to further discuss my qualifications in an interview setting. I am confident that I can contribute positively to your esteemed establishment and enhance the overall experience for your guests. Yours sincerely, [Your Name]


In conclusion, letter writing is a versatile skill that demands not just a command of the language but also a nuanced understanding of the context, audience, and purpose. Practice and patience are your allies in mastering this valuable art of communication.



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