Diplomatic writing for high school students

writingDIntroduction. Each English teacher is sure to ask him/herself such a question over and over, “What can I do to provide an incentive to real effort?” S/he has to think over the lesson plan that actively involves each student in letter writing task and stimulates teacher him/herself to eagerly teach new useful things. In the problem of making students persuasive letter authors there are three factors: the subject material used by the students, the motive governing them, and the method employed by the teacher. A variety result is obtained by modifying any one of these elements.

Subject Materials. To begin with teaching materials have to be carefully chosen based on principally on students’ needs analysis. It is better to make use of more authentic materials together with coursebook ones. Course book and supplementary teaching materials for diplomatic writing are not easy to reach although the Internet is full of letter samples either formal or informal.

However, for an academic audience textbook providing comprehensive explanation of how to write letters of diplomatic style, their structures, what key concepts to take into account while composing them seems much more productive to obtain the proposed learning outcomes. For example, at Azerbaijan University of Languages for teaching Diplomatic Writing to senior students of International Relations and Regional Studies faculty a textbook by Virginia Evans “Successful Writing Proficiency” (1998) is used, and it provides a thorough preparation for different types of letters by presenting full-length letter samples, their theory and variety of practical tasks that contribute to students’ successful composition of their own ones.

One of more applicable features of this textbook is its tasks are more helpful to get a clear comprehension of effective letter writing step by step starting with their different parts such as salutation, complimentary ending, introductory, body, and concluding parts by providing and presenting detailed explanations together with useful phrases how to compose them separately. Then all these parts are put together to compose a full-length letter on the suggested topics. To sound more specific let’s have a brief look at one of its unit and variety of tasks employed there to give explanation for dividing letters into different styles: formal, semi-formal, informal.

The unit starts with the theory why letters of different register are practiced and what common and distinguishing features they have; for example, formal letters have advanced vocabulary, no colloquial English, whereas informal language, phrasal verbs, and idioms can be widely met in informal letters. However, in semi-formal letters respectful tone of colloquial English and idioms should be carefully used.

Style in Letters

The style of the letter varies depending on who it is addressed to. For instance, a letter to someone you do not know requires a formal style, a letter to someone you know but are not intimate with requires a semi-formal style, while a letter to a friend requires an informal style.

Formal letters contain:

– Formal greetings and endings

– Formal language i.e. complex sentences ,non-colloquial English, frequent use of the passive, and an advanced vocabulary

– no abbreviated forms
Informal letters contain:
– informal greetings and endings
– informal language and style i.e. idioms, phrasal verbs, colloquial English and omission of pronouns
– abbreviated forms
– Semi-formal letters contain:
– formal greetings( Dear Mr and Mrs ……)
– informal endings (Best wishes/ Yours+full name)
– a respectful tone, depending on the relationship you have with the recipient of the letter. Also pronouns should not be omitted and idioms should be carefully used. (11, p.82)

Students getting the needed information about different styles in letters are not ready to compose it yet. They need more practice with its different parts, how to start and finish the letter and appropriate vocabulary used in it. Variety of tasks are given in this textbook to facilitate this learning process. For example,

Read these extracts and say which is a) informal, b) semi-formal, and c) formal. Then underline the characteristics which indicate the style in each extract. What is the purpose of writing these letters? Who are the letters addressed to?

A. Regarding the future opportunities in your field of work, I would recommend that you consider to find a position of greater seniority. You have already proved yourself to be a highly competent and effective member of your company, and I believe that you now possess sufficient skills and experience to tackle the challenge of additional responsibility.

On the matter of further training, I would suggest that you might try to upgrade your IT skills to enable you to take advantage of the full range of modern technology available. There are so many well-run and useful courses operating locally, at least one of which you should find appropriate to your needs.

B. If you really hate living in Winkleborough that much, I’d say do yourself a favor and leave. Don’t hang about either. If you come here back soon, I’m sure you can find a job without any problem, and you know you can stay with me until you find yourself a place to live.

Why don’t you pull yourself together and get on with a building a better life back here where you belong? It’s high time you took a few risks again, like when you were a kid. Get a new job, find some other stuff to fill your time. Move back here and go for it

C. Of course, it will be a big change going to live in a different part of the country, away from your family and all your old friends, but it need not be as difficult as you seem to think. Why not apply for a room in a university hall of the residence? Everything is provided, and because you live with a lot of other students, it is easy to make new friends.

As far as the course goes, I am sure you will manage very well. The work is at a higher level, but I am certain you’ll enjoy the challenge. In fact , I think you will enjoy the opportunity to study your subject in depth, so I really think you should give it a try. (11, p.83)

This task enables students to read each paragraph carefully and by analyzing appropriate vocabulary used in each of them to identify their styles, purpose and audience. More complex sentence structures, and advanced vocabulary in Extract A discloses its formal style, while omission of pronouns” Get a new job”, “Move back here!”, more informal language: idiom“ Pull yourself together” and phrasal verb “ hang about” etc. in Extract B is quite opposite- informal style. Extract C is of semi-formal style because it shares some features with formal letter “Of course, it will be a big change going to live …” (complex sentence), some with informal “Why not apply for a room in a university hall of residence?” (omission of a pronoun “you”)

Another task provides them with more practice of writing different parts of letters: how to suggest appropriate beginnings and endings or replace the bald parts with their similar ones by making an effective use of suggested “Useful Language.”

1. For each one of the situations below write a suitable beginning and ending using appropriate expressions. Then suggest reasons for writing them and the expected results of each request.

– You want to request a loan from your bank manager for home improvements.
– You want information from a college or university about a particular course of study you are interested in.
– You want the director of an art gallery to look at your work and consider the possibility of holding an exhibition.
– You want the town council to place special bins in your area to encourage recycling.
– You want a travel agency to send you brochures concerning the package holidays they offer for large groups.

2. Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing to bring to your attention the dangerous state of the road junction between the Ellis Roda and Wiltshire Avenue in the village of Hazlemere. During the last year there have been a large number of accidents at this junction and it seems to me that something must be done.

The basic problem is the lack of road signs on Ellis Road warning drivers of the junction. In particular, for traffic approaching from the north, there are no warning signs at all until they have reached the junction.

Furthermore, the junction also presents a danger to the children walking to and fron the local primary school. Due to the fact that there is no safe place to cross, several children have been injured in minor accidents.

One solution to the problem would be to install signs on Ellis Road. These should be clearly visible and large enough to make drivers aware of the junction. (11, p.86, 98)

Governing Motives

The another factor that affects the effectiveness of teaching Diplomatic Writing is students’ interest in the subject itself. Most EFL teachers complain that the obstacle that is hardest to overcome in teaching letter writing is students’ lack of a real immediate motive for expression. It is “must” to have students exert themselves to the best of their abilities and really feel the need of composing something that reveals his/her strength and weaknesses to develop. Much can be gained if in the selection of theme an appeal is made to fundamental students’ interests treated in an organized, systematic way. In many writing courses and textbooks a great weakness is shown in the lack of systematic procedure in the choice of topics for discussion.

The topic of one week or one day is often unrelated to the work of the succeeding week or day. A life-interest of student should be considered when the class is organized into different types of societies for the transaction of diplomatic correspondence. The first day may well be spent in breaking down the feeling the formality that is likely to exist at the beginning of the term. The important thing to be acquired the first day is the right atmosphere in the class.

The students must be made to feel that what they are working for is of prime importance for success in future careers and that will prove of everyday use to them. It is only by sincere co-operation, frank criticism, spontaneous effort, and perseverance that they can hope to become real ready learners and successful writers. In the real learning atmosphere the class can be changed into the diplomatic staff working board that is full of opportunities of real diplomatic correspondence. At this time it is the purpose of the class to make a good study of the letter forms both formal and informal.

In addition to the assignments of composing letters of different purposes, the students are interested in the literary and published letters as they have come down to us from different years, and a great deal of reading is done. The letter is an excellent form of composition for the study of unity and coherence as well as the formation of the sentence and paragraph. A great variety of letters follows: the firm acknowledges the receipt of the order, the firm asks for payment, the customer complains the quality of the product or seeks an extension of time, and on through a variety of transactions involving the writing of contracts, notes, and different kinds of diplomatic forms.

Practice in the writing of diplomatic letters of different purposes is done through investigation and frank discussion the class involved and aims to make the form correct and the subject-matter in good taste and to the point.

EFL teachers should also encourage students to make an effective study of letters since it can directly affect their future career. For instance, the student who can write a good letter produces a favorable impression from his first inquiry, an applicant whose letter is correct and clear is asked to call on the manager of the firm to which s/he applies, the clerk whose letters read well is promoted by his/her employer, or the employee who can express his/her employer’s idea even better than s/he can is paid a large salary.

Employed Methods

There are many ways of using letter-writing in order to achieve good writing results. Sometimes the names of the whole class may be put in a box, and each student may be asked to draw one. The letter will then be written to the student whose name is drawn, who will reply. A good deal of correspondence on different diplomatic topics has been carried on successfully in this way and especially has improved the written work for students who fear the criticism of their peers mor than their teachers. It is also an excellent opportunity to involve all students in the learning process and learn better from each –other.

Another method is like to build a fruitful correspondence with students of other groups where the same subject is taught. It also enables students to successfully get acquainted with others they don’t know and arises more their interests in diplomatic affairs. Another method which can be found useful in more ways than one is the writing of letters to the teacher. These may take the form of suggestions with regard to class organization, or inquiries concerning a book recommended, or requests for assistance in tackling some study problems, or just personal letters.

Whatever their content, such letters never fail to open the eyes of the teacher to the student more than ever before, replies given to these letters will be profitable in a different way from the usual theme discussion. It is true than not all students are successful writers in this case, but it provides an effective chance of doing more practice in letter-writing even for weak students and feel confident in composing their structure correctly.

Moreover, a real interaction can be established between diplomats or business people who are invited to the class by asking them to take some time and trouble to answer students’ most frequently questions. When they discuss the key concepts of composing the correct form of letters and the principles that determine their content, the students are motivated and also a little bit surprised to find out diplomats or business men consider them of so much importance as to feel the necessity of making a careful study of letters. As continuation of the class students are asked to compose diplomatic letters of different purposes, as well as letters of application or resumes to the same people. The invited people are also requested to offer any criticisms or make any suggestions which will enable the student to write a stronger one than the latter.

Each student, on his/her own initiative makes sure of every minute detail in form, content, fold, and address. It doesn’t seem necessary to require a care in preparation; the student him/herself is certain to do it because s/he wants to. His/her questions asked about these details reveal to the teacher where his/her teaching has failed. Many things which the teacher has believed sufficiently clear s/he finds out not to be so clear and definite in the minds of students. Furthermore, the letters written as a final result of the eagerness of the students to make a good impression on the diplomats or business men addressed and finally ready for mailing in many cases will have done credit to learning outcomes of the Diplomatic writing course.

The replies provided by the people addressed emphasize and once more disclose the key principles of tone and content of letters that are hard to be disregarded while composing further diplomatic letters. Such experiment serves as a bond between the students and the real world that makes the student feel that while at university he is living and experiencing, not preparing to live and experience. In addition, such teaching fills the teacher with enthusiasm that communicates itself to his/her students.

Conclusion. To sum up, effective teaching of Diplomatic writing requires an actual diplomatic transaction between teacher and students that step-by-step brings them into close relation and emphasizes to students the value of such relation by furnishing opportunity for the teacher to render them to future qualified experts in this field. It also gives students an incentive for earnest effort that no ordinary classroom or textbook task can give them. It becomes so much nicer for them to write of real things to real people than to write of make-believe things to imaginary people.


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Created by Gulnara Chingiz Hajiyeva

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