GT Writing letter 8: Explaining, suggesting, requesting (formal style)

You are studying at a college which has very limited sports and leisure facilities for students. Write a letter to the principal.

In your letter,
outline the situation
propose ways to improve this situation
request a meeting to discuss this

Begin your letter ‘Dear ——–’
Do not write any addresses
Write at least 150 words

Explanation of the Task

Recipient: In reality, you would know the principal’s name, but you would not know them personally;the principal is older and senior in authority compared to you.

Style: The letter will be in a formal style, remembering that the recipient is in authority and is not obliged to follow your suggestions.

Content: The Task asks for explaining (the limited facilities) suggesting (improvements) and also requesting (the discussion meeting.)

Band 9 model letter 8

Dear Ms Smith,

I thought you might be interested in some thoughts about the amenities for sports and other free time pursuits here at the college. Although we have a table tennis room, there are no other facilities for students, and this seems a great shame as so many of us would like to socialise after study hours.

If I may suggest some improvements, I think we could adapt classroom 12 (which is rarely used) as a games room, perhaps with Wi-Fi and electrical charging points. I also wonder if we could agree the use of the nearby park on certain afternoons, for team sports, yoga and running. These are quite straightforward steps which would immediately give the student body far greater scope for leisure,with all the benefits this would bring us.

I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this proposal with you in person, and I hope it will be acceptable if I contact your office assistant to arrange a convenient time.

Kind Regards,

Maria Campos-Costella

(169 words)

Why is this a Band 9 letter?

Recipient: The candidate uses a suitable formal greeting and ending. The ‘call to action’ is expressed in a cautious, polite way (‘I hope it will be acceptable if . . .’) which reflects the higher authority of the recipient.

Style: The candidate uses some important formal phrases for this type of letter to a ‘higher figure’ recipient:

‘I thought you might be interested in’ (this is a classic way of beginning a ‘suggesting’ letter to a principal, a boss etc.)
‘this seems a great shame’ (not ‘this is a great shame,’ which would be too direct.)
‘If I may suggest some improvements’
‘I also wonder if we could’ (= here is another suggestion)
‘I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to’ (= you don’t have to meet me, but I think it’s important.)

Notice how different this formal letter is from a formal letter making a complaint to a business or asking for information. In this letter, the writer emphasises that she has no power to make these
suggestions strongly; she offers them for consideration only. In the exam, ask yourself if the recipient is obliged to listen to your ideas; if they are not obliged, use the phrases above.

Other classic phrases in this type of situation are:

‘I have been giving some thought to the student cafeteria, and I wonder if we could change . . .’
‘If I might give you some comments on the cafeteria, there seem to be two issues of concern.’
‘While we all enjoy the cafeteria food, I think there is the opportunity to change . . .’

Content: The three content ideas are clearly separated, and introduced with phrases which make their function obvious. The candidate emphasises the benefit of the suggestions (‘far greater scope for leisure’) and also how easy they would be (‘straightforward.’) The letter does not give too many technical details (eg about the electrical charging points) but focusses instead on the advantages of the ideas.

The writer has been careful to include suggestions about sport and leisure (‘games/yoga and team sports/running’) to fulfil the task instruction completely. It is important to read the task instructions carefully to make sure you deal with all these ‘small’ points, because the examiners will want to see that you have answered them before they can give you a very high score.