Level: Pre-intermediate and above
This lesson is designed to analyse the structure and style of a formal letter of enquiry.
Do advertisements provide all the information we need to make decisions?
You are looking on the Internet for information about short English courses in the summer in England. You see an advertisement about a summer camp where you can study English and learn to play football at the same time. What information do you need before you can decide if you want to go on the course or not? Write down 5 questions.
e.g. How long is the course?
Now read the information below and find the answers to your questions. Did you find the answers to all your questions?
Why do we write a letter of enquiry?
You probably found the answers to some of your questions, but not to all of them. So, how can you find out the information you need? The answer is simple. Write a letter (or email) of enquiry!
What are the sections of a letter of enquiry?
A letter of enquiry typically has the following sections. Put them in the correct order.
a. Reason for writing
b. Closing: request for a quick answer
c. Questions asking for specific information
d. Opening greeting
f. Request for extra information
h. Closing: greeting and signature
Now look at the following example letter and check.
46/9 Nguyen Trai Street
Ho Chi Minh City
Camford Language School
34 Downs Street
14 April 2011
Dear Ms Smith
I am writing to enquire about your summer courses which I saw advertised in ‘English Today’.
I recently took the FCE exam and I am now studying for CAE. Please could you tell me if you have advanced courses available? What dates do the courses start and how much is the cost? I will be coming from Vietnam. I would like to know what kind of visa I should apply for. I would also like to know more about the accommodation. Are single rooms available? Are meals included in the cost of a course? I would be grateful if you could send me more information about your school and the surrounding area.
I look forward to hearing from you.
3. Opening greeting
4. Reason for writing
5. Questions asking for specific information
6. Request for extra information
7. Closing: request for a quick answer
8. Closing: greeting and signature
How do we ask questions and make requests in a letter of enquiry?
In a formal letter of enquiry we often use polite forms to ask questions. Compare the question forms below:
|Direct (neutral) form||Indirect (formal) form|
|Do you have advanced courses available?||Please could you tell me if you have advanced courses available?|
|What dates do the courses start?||I would be grateful if you could let me know what dates the courses start.|
|What kind of visa should I apply for?||I would like to know what kind of visa I should apply for.|
|Please send me more information.||I would be grateful if you could send me more information.|
Look at the example letter again. Notice that we usually use a mix of indirect and direct forms. This produces a polite, yet clear letter. If we used indirect forms for all the letter, it would sound ‘wordy’ and lose clarity.
Which indirect questions need a question mark?
Look at the example questions and requests in the table above. Which ones have a question mark? Why? Now check your ideas below.
Explanation: Indirect questions and requests have two parts. The first part is a polite expression, such as ‘I would be grateful if’. The second part is the question or request.
To choose the correct punctuation, look at the grammar of the first part. If it is grammatically a question, use a question mark e.g. Could you tell me…?
If it is grammatically a statement, use a full stop e.g. I would like to know… .
How can I practice writing indirect questions and requests?
Write the following questions and requests in an indirect (polite and formal) way.
1. Do you provide special training for goalkeepers?
2. I’m 19 years old. Can I take part in the football camp?
3. Do you have any camps for girls?
4. Send me a brochure.
5. My son doesn’t speak any English. Do you have any courses for beginners?
6. Will you pick my daughter up from the airport?
7. I’m vegetarian. Do you provide vegetarian meals?
8. Tell me the arrangements for health insurance.
9. Will I meet any famous players?
Note: there are many possible answers. The following are just examples. Note the punctuation
1. Please could you tell me if you provide special training for goalkeepers?
2. I am 19 years old. I would like to know if I can take part in the football camp.
3. Please could you let me know if you have any camps for girls?
4. I would be grateful if you could send me a brochure.
5. My son does not speak any English. Please could you tell me if you have any courses for beginners?
6. I would like to know if you would be able to pick my daughter up from the airport.
7. I’m vegetarian. Please could you tell me if you provide vegetarian meals?
8. I would be grateful if you could tell me the arrangements for health insurance.
9. Please could you tell me if I will meet any famous players?
How can I practice writing a letter of enquiry?
Look at the advertisement for the soccer school and your questions again. Write a letter to ask for information. Use your questions, or the questions from the exercise above.
• Coaching (n): training a person or team in a sport (Huấn luyện)
• Undergo (v): experience something, especially a change (Trải qua)
• Comprehensive (adj): including all, or almost all, the items, details, facts, information, etc., that may be concerned (Toàn diện)
• Tactic (n): the particular method you use to achieve something (Chiến thuật)
• Elements (pl.n.): basic principles (Nguyên lý cơ bản)
• Allocate (v): give something officially to someone for a particular purpose (Chỉ định, dành cho)
• Customised (adj): (something) made or changed to suit the needs of the owner (Được thiết kế theo yêu cầu)
• Emphasis (n): special importance or attention that you give something (Sự nhấn mạnh)
• From across the globe (expression): all over the world (Trên khắp thế giới)
• Excursion (n): a short journey made for pleasure, especially one that has been organized for a group of people (Chuyến tham quan)
• FCE/CAE (n): two popular exams from Cambridge, ‘First Certificate in English’ (upper intermediate) and ‘Certificate in Advanced English’ (Advanced) (Hai kỳ thi phổ biến của Cambridge, FCE (trình độ sau trung cấp), và CAE (trình độ cao cấp))
• Accommodation (n): a place to live, work or stay in (Nơi ở)
• Surrounding area (collocation): area that is near or around something (Khu vực lân cận)
- Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
- Longman Active Study Dictionary
This material is provided by the Australian Centre for Education and Training (ACET).