Be Successful in Writing an Informal Email

It took me almost no time to decide what theme this post would be about. It is something most of you are going for when it comes to the B2 First for Schools Writing Paper, part 2. Is it an article, a report, a review, a story, or an email or a letter to a friend? Once you have the writing paper in front of you and this writing type is one of the three questions, you could say “It’s my lucky day!”  You already know which one I mean, don’t you?

Writing an Informal Email or Letter 

That’s right! It is writing an email or a letter that many of you feel most comfortable with. More precisely, writing an email or a letter to an English-speaking friend. The reason is obvious! We all keep in touch with our friends, no matter the distance or how busy our school timetable or work schedule is. Be it through a short message, a comment on the online social media, an email, a call, a voice mail, and so on and so forth, we always stay in contact with each other.

However, talking about email or letter writing as an exam task, have you ever wondered which the shared part in almost all the tasks is? Look at these exam questions taken from the Writing Paper sample tests 2015 and 2019, and you will see it!

You have recieved this email from your English-speaking friend Jan.

From: Jan
Subject: new city
You know I’m going to live in a new city next month? I’m so excited about it, but also a bit nervous. I’ll have to make new friends, but I’m not sure how easy that will be. I’m sure I’ll miss my old friends, too. Do you have any good advice for me?

Write your email.
You have recieved this email from your English-speaking friend Sam.

From: Sam
Subject: photography project
I’m coming to your country on holiday with my family soon, and I’d like to take some photographs for a school photography project that I’m doing. Can you tell me where I can take some interesting pictures of places and people? Why would these be good to photograph?
Thanks for your help!

Write your email.
You have recieved a letter from your English-speaking pen friend.

Can you help me with a class project? I have to write about places which are special to people. Can you tell me about a place that is special to you? Where is it? What does it look like? It doesn’t have to be a famous place. Just explain why it’s important to you.
Write soon, Sam.

Write your email.
You have recieved this email from your English-speaking friend David.

From: David
Subject: touring holiday

Some college friends of mine are visiting your area soon for a week’s touring holiday. They would like to travel around and learn about your local area and its history.
Can you tell me about some of the places they could visit? What’s the best way to travel around – car, bike or coach?

Write your email.

You have recieved this email from your English-speaking friend, Alex.

From: Alex
Subject: I need your advice

I play the guitar in a band with three friends. We play for fun after school. Now my friends would like our band to play in a music competition on TV, but I’m not sure if I want to. Do you think it’s a good idea? If I say ‘no’, it will upset my friends.
What should I do?

Write your email.

So, in almost all the above exam tasks, our friend is asking for advice or suggestions.  Writing back is as easy as a piece of cake, isn’t it? You are most likely to be given a five out of five for CONTENT, which is one of the four writing assessment criteria.  Nevertheless, remember that quite a lot of B2 candidates are going to choose this very task. The question is, though, how can you make your writing stand out from the rest? How can your work catch the examiner’s attention, no matter the amount of letters or mails he/she has already assessed?

Here is the answer: you must use a rich language range of vocabulary, along with a variety of simple and complex grammatical forms. Just imagine if the only forms to give your friend advice would be “You should …” or “If I were you, …”? Such a colourless writing! Range and variety are the keys to a successful email or letter writing.

Let’s therefore see how you can get a 5 for LANGUAGE and a 5 for COMMUNICATIVE ACHIEVEMENT, which are the other two criteria of writing assessment, along with ORGANISATION and the one I have mentioned above, the CONTENT.

Take a minute or two to write down other different ways to give your English friend advice on how “to make new friends” (see the first exam task above)

Are you ready? Take a close look at the list below and, in case they are still not on your list, I strongly recommend you add them to your Golden List of Expressions.

  1. If I were you, … (second conditional)
    • E.g. If I were you, I would join some after-school clubs.
  2. You should/could + verb INF
    • E.g. You shouldn’t worry about it. I am sure you will get to know great people.
  3. What about + verb+ING?
    • E.g. What about joining in the football club? You are so good at it! You rock!
  4. Likewise, you ought to + verb INF
    • E.g. You ought to break the ice with your classmates. Ask them about what they do in the afternoons. You will find plenty of ways to meet people while taking part in activities you really enjoy.
  5. What if you + verb INF?
    • E.g. What if you keep in touch with your old friends, too?
  6. I’d advise you (not) to + verb INF
    • E.g. I’d advise you to stay in touch with your pals.
  7. I’d suggest + verb+ING
    • E.g. I’d suggest sending your friends some postcards.
  8. It’d be better to / it would be better to + verb INF rather than + verb+ING 
    • E.g. It would be better to go out rather than staying in.
  9. Don’t worry too much about / if
    • E.g. Don’t worry too much if at first you find it hard to make friends.
  10. Why not + verb INF
    • E.g. Why not getting around and exploring the city?
  11. You can + verb INF
    • E.g. You can invite your old friends to your birthday!
  12. Remember that
    • E.g. Remember that I am always here for you, no matter how far we are from each other. Guess what? I could even visit you during our school holidays! It would be great!

Note: verb INF means that we must use the infinitive form of the verb, and verb+ING means that we must use the gerund form of the verb 😉

Hope you have found my writing tip useful.

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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