Formal Letter: How to Write a Formal Letter That Meets WAEC/NECO/GCE Standard
How can you write a formal letter that meets WAEC/NECO/GCE standard? Under continuous writing you have options to choose from. You could choose to write a letter, an essay, a speech, a report or creative writing. If writing a letter is your preferred option pay attention to this content. First we shall look at what a formal letter is.
A formal letter is also known as official letter or business letter. It is the kind of letter we write to people we don’t know or are not used to. Here the language you use must be formal/official. Examples of this kind of letter are the letter we write to commissioners, ministers, editors, etc.
Features of Formal Letter
A formal letter has the following features:
- Body and
In a formal letter, before anything else, the address comes first. Two addresses are to be written. The writer’s address and the recipient’s address. The writer’s address is written at the top right corner of the paper while the recipient’s address is written at the left side immediately after the writer’s address. Next is the salutation followed by the title. Note that after the recipient’s address you must skip a line before writing the salutation
It is important to note that if the letter is going outside Nigeria, there will be a comma after Lagos followed by Nigeria, then you add a full stop. Below is a sample address of a formal letter:
Note that if you choose to write the title all in capital letters you do not need to underline as shown above. But if you choose to write the title in initial capital letter you must underline. (eg. Effects of Unemployment) Prepositions are written in small letters in the case of initial capitals. But in the case of all capitals, every word should be written in capital letter.
Standard marking guide
The standard marking guide is the expectation of the examiner. Every candidate is expected to meet certain criteria known as COEMA.
- C = content (10 marks)
- O= Organization (10 marks)
- E= Expression (20 marks)
- MA= Mechanical Accuracy (10 marks)
Now let’s see what candidates are expected to do in order to satisfy each of these criteria. We shall begin with content but we can’t do justice to it without reference to at least one past question. Therefore, let’s refer to a WAEC past question.
Write a letter to the chairman of your local government stating the effects of unemployment and suggesting ways of solving the problem.
With the above question in mind, I will now discuss what candidates are expected to do under content. To do justice to content the candidate needs to discuss at least three vital effects of unemployment.
You can begin your introduction on a congratulatory note but this is not to say that this is the only way to begin. There are many ways to begin your introduction and you are free to choose any form of introduction you are most comfortable with.
The second paragraph should address one effect of unemployment, the third paragraph should take care of yet another effect, and the fourth paragraph still another. This means if you intend to discuss three effects of unemployment the three points should be addressed in three separate paragraphs. Still under content, you need to discuss at least three solutions in three separate paragraphs. Don’t forget that conclusion also forms part of the content.
This has to do with how the letter is organized. Avoid using expressions like firstly, secondly, thirdly to link your paragraphs, instead make use of expressions like the first point is, in addition, further more, besides, also, again, etc. To conclude you can either say finally or in conclusion. Do not say conclusively.
This is where the use of English as it relates to standard of English is put into play. You either use the Standard British English or the Standard American English. Whichever you choose to use you must be consistent- this means that if you decide to use the S.B.E you must use it throughout and vise versa. Also, you must express your ideas in correct sentences.
Standard British English VS Standard American English
Under mechanical accuracy the examiner will watch out for:
- Wrong spelling
- Omission of article
- Error of redundancy
Wrong spelling – For any word you spell wrongly you lose half a mark.
Capitalization – You equally lose half a mark each time you fail to use capital letters where appropriate or the wrong use of capital letters.
Omission of article – You as well lose half a mark each time you omit article. For example, I have a cold, not I have cold. I need half a bag of rice, not half bag of rice.
Error of redundancy/repetition – This refers to when a candidate repeats the same concept twice using different phrases/words when this is unnecessary. For example, so therefore, still yet, log of wood, etc. Such is known as tautology. You either say still or yet, so or therefore, log or wood. Again, you lose half a mark for each error of redundancy. This is why it is very easy for a candidate to score zero under mechanical accuracy. Therefore, every candidate needs to be extra careful.
Body of the letter
This is the content of the letter which has been discussed above. It is the reason for the letter. The body is the most important part of the letter and without the body, there is no letter.
Before writing a conclusion, review the body of the letter. Make sure your message is clearly communicated in the content. Then write a final paragraph keeping with the tone of the rest of the letter. Here you restate the major themes of the message.
Next, write a formal sign off (subscription). In a formal letter of this nature, use only yours faithfully to be on the safe side. Remember that the ‘Y’ in Yours should be in capital letter while the ‘f’ in faithfully should be written in small letter after which you append your signature. Then write your name below the signature. Please note that your surname or last name should be written before your first name.
Any candidate who applies the above guidelines is sure to write a formal letter that meet waec standard.