Mark Mark

Business Letters & Email
B1 level


This lesson addresses how functional, grammatical and verbal formals are altered by register in English, in the context of writing a formal (business-type) email or letter. The focus is on standard forms of address and closure, differing general forms of language use in formal v informal contexts, and on some specific verbs which have a common 'spoken' form and a more formal equivalent/synonym which is generally only used in a written context and is likely to be unfamiliar to many of them.


Main Aims

  • To familiarise learners with the principles and practical use of various common aspects formal v informal written register in English, in the context of writing a formal email/letter, and give practice in using these forms in writing, in a formal and functional context.

Subsidiary Aims

  • To introduce to students a small group of common 'equivalent' synonym verbs which mirror common, familiar verbs known to and used by them in speaking, but are normally only used in the context of formal writing, and to provide them with contextual practice in their use.


Warmer/Lead-in (3-5 minutes) • To set lesson context, engage students and introduce awareness of difference in register.

Two very brief 'emails' will be written on opposite sides of the board prior to the start of the lesson. Students are asked, in pairs or threes, to discuss for 2 minutes (a) what is the same about the two texts, and (b) what is different about them. Who do you think is writing to whom in each case? How well do they know each other? Teacher will elicit ideas and and feedback from class, the key points being that (a) both are emails inviting someone (maybe the same person) to come to a meeting at 9am tomorrow, and (b) one is a formal, polite, business-orientated request (likely to be to someone the writer doesn't know well) and the second is a note to a friend who the writer knows very well.

Exposure / Highlighting of key forms and rules (6-10 minutes) • To elicit from class key differences in language use between formal and informal written communications such as emails/letters

Continuing from lead-in activity, teacher elicits from class various key rules and structures appropriate to the context of writing formal emails/letters, using the examples on the board as guides and suggestory material - along with some additional basic information which will be added and built in. The key points needing eliciting are: * Forms of address (Dear Sir/Madam / Dear Mr/Ms. Jones / Dear John / Hi John / Hey etc) * Corresponding forms of closure (Yours faithfully/sincerely / best regards / all the best / see you / take care / bye etc) * 'can' and 'will' for questions and requests generally change to 'could' and 'would' * Avoid contractions in formal emails - 'we have finished' not 'we've finished' etc * Use indirect instructions and questions in formal emails - 'could you please call me / could you explain how you lost my order' v '(please) call me / how did you lose my order' *Use conditional statements - most commonly 'I want' changes to 'I/we would like'

Practice / Production Task 1 (7-10 minutes) • To check understanding of and practice using rules and forms given in first exposure

Students receive a short informal email which they are asked, in pairs, to adapt and change, using the rules outlined in the previous stage, to make it more formal. No content words need changing at this stage, merely the forms of address, contractions, modality and directness. Whole class feedback and correction: HO of 'corrected' sheet for claficiation.

Language Presentation (8-10 minutes) • To highlight and clarify useful language for coming productive task.

Teacher posts 10 cards on board, each of which lists a commonly used an recognised verb. Elicits a sentence using each verb from selected student and checks all students are familiar with each one. Then posts 10 different coloured cards each listing a different verb, many of which may be unknown to many in the class. Asks if any students can match any verbs in meaning to the known verbs. The concept needs to be conveyed here that these are synonyms for the 10 known verbs. As much as possibly will be elicited from the class, teacher guiding and filling in gaps for any which are universally unknown. In each case the sentence used for the first verb will then be elicited and repeated with the new verb in the same context. Which set of verbs are more common? Why? (The first: they are used in speaking. The second set are only used in formal writing).

Productive Task 2 + feedback (10-14 minutes) • To provide an opportunity to practice target productive skills

Teacher gives students a series of short sentences contain the target language taught, along with some elements from previous productive task (contractions, modals etc) and asks students, in pairs, to change each sentence to make it more formal Feedback is elicited from group. Students then receive the 'corrected' email from previous activity, and are asked if they can find any examples of verbs which can be altered here to make it more 'formal'. Why is it better to use more formal language in certain contexts? Will your mail be understood if you don't use it? (yes) - do similar rules apply to Turkish?

Extended Post-class work and practice (2-5 minutes) • To offer students an opportunity for freer practice of target language and forms in a functional context outside the classroom.

Teacher gives a situational context to the class (you've received an email complaining about a specific problem from a customer) - what do you need to do? What would you need to say? Would the language you use be formal or informal? How would your email begin? Depending on time, this exercise will either be given entirely as homework (write the email) or first sentence(s) will be elicited from class and written on board, to be finished for HW individually.

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