Which one would you choose?
Last week I was marking my students’ General Training Writing Task 1 Letters. The question was something like this:
You can no longer attend you gym class next month. Write a letter to your instructor
- Say what lesson you attend
- Explain why you can’t go
- Tell them that you’ll be back soon
and say what you have enjoyed about their classes.
One of my students wrote this:
Dear Mr Schwarzenegger
It is with utmost regret that I have to inform you I can no longer attend your classes.
It has been 3 months since I commenced my ‘Tums and Bums’ training at your residence. Your instruction has had an enormous impact on my physique and I have found your methodology extremely motivational, as you are constantly encouraging us to give of our best and to push our bodies beyond our natural boundaries. This has resulted in a level of fitness I could not have imagined previously.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances beyond my control (I have been temporarily redeployed to a neighbouring town) I will be unable to attend your classes for the remainder of the term.
However, I look forward to renewing my membership next year and resuming my fitness regime.
I posted two sample sentences (formal and informal) on Instagram and asked people to choose which one they thought was best).
Guess which one they chose?
Although it’s very nicely written, it’s WAY TOO FORMAL for writing to someone that you know.
I have a really hard time trying to convince people to write informal letters in the test.
Someone even corrected me, with a version that was even MORE FORMAL than the one I wrote!
‘I beg your pardon but owing to unavoidable circumstances I cannot continue taking exercise at your gym anymore. However, as soon as circumstances permit, I am going to resume the fitness classes’.
Everything about this example is the OPPOSITE of what you should write.
- ‘I beg your pardon’ = A very old-fashioned way of apologising, which has other connotations (used to express one’s anger or indignation at what someone has just said!)
- ‘Owing to unavoidable circumstances’ = examples I found on Ludwig.guru come from the Encylcopedia Britannica:
Often, after a person has served part of his sentence, the remainder is commuted owing to specific circumstances.
And formal notices:
Due to unavoidable circumstances, the Black Eyed Peas will be unable to perform at this Saturday’s event, (The New York Times)
And other scientific journals:
Two participants in the schizophrenia group were instructed to discontinue the collection for 1-2 weeks due to unavoidable circumstances.
- ‘I cannot continue’ ‘I am going to resume’ = no contractions
- However = formal linking word
- permit/resume = formal word choice
Please believe me. It doesn’t matter if your gym instructor is strict or serious, you still KNOW them (I guess you know their first name).
Why don’t you try it yourself?
Here is how I would write a letter to my gym instructor:
This is Fiona from your Zumba class (the one at the back, who has to sit down sometimes!). Just a quick note to let you know that I’ll have to miss a few classes in December but will be back in Jan.
I’ve really enjoyed coming to your classes every week – it gets me out of the house in the winter and I love the way you just let us do as much as we want without putting pressure on us to get all the complicated moves right. There’s a lovely atmosphere in the class and I’ve been feeling much fitter and healthier since I started going regularly.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to come for the rest of the term though – my son’s swimming classes have changed and now they clash with the Zumba timetable. It’s a 30-minute drive, so I won’t make it in time for 7.
Luckily it’s only for December, and I’ll definitely be back in January with some New Year Resolutions!
Hope you have a great Christmas,
See you soon
This letter uses my 10 tips for writing Informal, friendly letters:
- Say ‘Hi!‘
- You‘ll sound more natural if you use contractions.
- No worries if you want to use slang.
- You know you can ask questions, don’t you?
- Exclamation marks are fine too!
- Don’t forget to use some commands.
- How about making a few suggestions?
- The utilisation of overly-formal utterances is to be avoided (Try not to use posh words!)
That’sall for now ( there’sno need to write every word in sentences like this)
- Bye, Lots of love, All the best!
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Need help with Informal Writing?
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