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Creating Opportunity Worldwide

Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Structural features
Read these two complaint emails. What structural features do they have in common? Discuss in pairs/groups.
Complaint late delivery

Subject: Bamboo blinds


Dear Mr Ong
I am writing in connection with an order I made for 50 Eco Bamboo blinds measuring 210 cm by 250
cm with the reference number TN3456.
When we discussed delivery dates, you assured me that you could deliver by 21st of February.
However, the blinds are now two weeks overdue, and I have heard nothing from you to confirm a
definite delivery date.
I urgently need these blinds as I have now included this product on my website and I am receiving a
large number of enquiries about it. Your slowness is causing a great deal of inconvenience.
I would be grateful if you could look into this matter and arrange for delivery within the next three
days.
I am afraid that if you are unable to deliver within this period, I shall be forced to cancel my order and
purchase from another supplier.
Yours sincerely,
Complaint about poor goods and service

Subject: My wedding
Dear Ms Mansor
I am writing regarding the catering service you provided at my wedding on Saturday 25th of March.
I asked for 20, 3-course dishes to cater to my vegetarian friends.
I have only just learned that these were not available on the day and they were given a lettuce and
mayonnaise sandwich instead which arrived long after the others had already finished their first two
courses. I have been told that most chose not to eat them.
I spent a good deal of time with you going through the details of the types of gourmet dishes I wanted
to be served and I paid you a lot of money to provide these dishes. Not only is this upsetting to know
that my wedding day did not go according to plan after months of arranging important details, but I
have received no apology or feedback from you about this. In addition, a lot of these guests were
VIPs and very special friends and most of them had travelled very far to share this day with us.
I would like you to provide me with a full refund for your catering services, as it did not deliver the
standard and quality that were promised.
I look forward to your reply

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

The general structure of a formal complaint letter


1. Set the scene
Usually a short paragraph describing what has happened before. Full details such as dates, amounts, invoice
numbers etc. are often found here.

I am writing.
regarding my order which arrived this morning.
to draw attention to the negative attitude of..
to complain about the decision recently made by the head of department regarding our contracts.
I am writing to make a complaint about/ concerning/ regarding..
Yesterday, we received an email stating that/ I saw your advertisement stating that
I really must complain about the (quality of goods/ standard of service) that we recently received from your
company
I am writing regarding the recent price increase of your products.

2. Make the complaint


Clear, concise information describing the problem. Effective complaints will be constructive and aim at
improving the situation. Accusation, blame and abuse are generally not appropriate. Tone is all-important
here because you need to convey negative feedback while trying to avoid making the reader lose face. Some
problems can be lengthy with a long sequence of events which may require a couple of paragraphs or more. Try
and make them clear.
Reacting to change/decisions

I feel (extremely) concerned about the new changes proposed by


I am disappointed with the decision made by you to introduce/ implement/ change
I am not happy about the..
I am unhappy that we were not consulted regarding your decision to
I would like to express my disappointment with this proposal as.

Incorrect information/misleading information

There seems to be an error in the invoice/ a misunderstanding


There appears to be a mistake in the debit amount you made to my bank account. The bank statement
states that I received..However, I actually received.
You assured us on the phone that we would have a room with a sea view; instead, you gave us a .
You advertised your product as, safe for toddlers but in fact, it is hazardous to all ages.

Late delivery/ lost items


The equipment I ordered has still not been delivered, despite my phone call to you last week to say
that I need it urgently.
Unfortunately, our bags did not arrive on the same flight.
I have still not received the items, which we ordered on 6th of June.

Poor quality goods/service


The product I received was well below the standard I expected.
Your staff members were very unhelpful when I called.
Contributed by: Glenda Thomas
The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

The whole matter was treated by your staff members as if it was completely unimportant.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Public nuisances

I would like to draw your attention to an incident that took place at (place) this afternoon.
I wish to complain about the level of noise from the Rockfest music festival last night.
A group of teenagers were shouting and yelling on the bus and intimidating fellow passengers.

3. Emphasise inconvenience
This brief section stresses any inconvenience the complaining party has had to suffer. It might also refer to
costs incurred. It could be part of the previous section, or it could be a separate section.

Your poor quality control/ inefficiency is causing me a great deal of inconvenience.


I am not happy about the inconvenience this situation is causing me.
This change will have an negative effect on/ a negative impact on..
Due to the stress of dealing with the problems created by your company, our holiday was indeed not a
holiday.
This is having/will have a negative impact/effect on our work/life balance.
I cannot accept this as it will adversely affect /have a negative impact on..
This situation will cause me/ my family/ my customers a great deal of inconvenience.

4. Request action? Make suggestions


This usually contains a concrete, constructive statement of what the writer wants the reader to do. An effective
request must be polite, but assertive and should appeal to a sense of justice.

I would be grateful if you could look into this matter and.

Please replace the items you delivered with the correct ones.

I would like you to provide us with a full refund/ a breakdown of the proposed changes.

I trust that you will arrange for a new. to be issued as soon as possible.

I must insist (that) you address the concerns of your staff/customers as this.

I would like you to reconsider your decision/ I strongly request that you reconsider.

I would appreciate it if we could hold a meeting to discuss the issues that concern us/me.

I would like to request a meeting to discuss these matters.

In order to improve this situation,

I recommend that you introduce/ I recommend introducing a

In order to minimize inconvenience, I suggest that you introduce/ I suggest introducing.


It would be better to introduce
5. Make your position clear (optional)
In this section you may want to mention what you will do if the request isnt granted. The most effective strategy
is to stay calm and not threaten too much, especially if you dont intend to act.

Unless I receive the goods by the end of the week, I will have no choice but to cancel my order.
If you do not reconsider the decision to increase the price of our subscription, I will have no option but
to cancel mine.
I regret that after 6 years of being a loyal/ regular customer/employee of (organisation/company), I will
be forced/ obliged to switch to your competitor/ close my account with you/ hand in my resignation due
to this decision/ if this decision goes ahead.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Practice Activity: Language and organisation of complaints


a) I hope that you will deal with this matter promptly as it is causing me considerable

inconvenience
b) I am writing in connection with the negative attitude of a member of your staff.
c)

I believe that I am entitled to an immediate replacement.

d) I am writing to complain about the quality of a product I purchased online from your website.
e) The equipment I ordered has still not been delivered despite my phone call to you last week to say

that it is needed urgently.


f)

I am writing to draw your attention to a problem in your customer services section.

g) I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about the treatment/ service I received from a

member of your staff.


h) Although you advertise yourself as a top-quality brand, the product I received was well below the

standard I expected.
i)

I would appreciate it if the faulty goods could be replaced as soon as possible.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Practice activity: Conjunctions and discourse markers


Match the beginnings with the endings in the box
there were only 7 in the box

of the 8 that I ordered

the fact that I paid for 8.

Therefore, I am not prepared to


pay your invoice.

so I am not prepared to pay for


this.

but there were only 7 in the box.

However, there were only 7


in the box.

In addition, two of the covers were


damaged.

a You only sent 7 books, instead

.
b You only sent 7 books, despite

.
c Even though I paid for 8 books,

.
d I paid for 8 books.

..
.

e I paid for 8 books,

F Firstly, the quantity of books was incorrect.

.
g You have still not resolved the problem with the books,

h You have still not resolved the problem with the books.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

What is tone?
The tone of your writing is the general mood that it creates in the mind of your reader. Its about with
how you make your reader feel about you and the organisation you represent.
Tone depends on:
the level of formality or informality you use.
the attitude you take towards your topic.
In general, you want your reader to feel as good as possible about you and/or the company you
represent, no matter what the situation is. This is so you can get the result you seek but still maintain
relationships and not create a negative, defensive reaction in your reader.
The skill of building and maintaining good relationships in writing depends on your ability to control
certain features.

Using Indirect / diplomatic language


Here are some examples of how you can use indirect/diplomatic language to minimise or avoid
making a negative impact when you need to communicate a negative message such as in the case of
a complaint letter.
It is

It seems/appears to be
As far as Im aware, it is

very

a bit / a little / quite / rather

Is it ?

Might it be?
Do you think it might be?

It will

It might be
It may be.

We should

Perhaps we should
Do you think we should
It might be a good idea to.

Lets.

Perhaps we should think about

unhappy
bad
expensive
Its a bad idea.

not very happy


not very good
not very cheap
Im not sure its a good idea.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Focusing on tone
Background
Teachers receive an email from their head, Zara Hussein, informing them that a decision has been
made by the department that all teachers are required to attend compulsory professional development
courses every week. She has decided that 4 hours a week, twice a week for the next ten months after
classes is a reasonable amount of time to do these courses and will benefit the institution as a whole.
The teachers are very upset about this, and decide to write to her explaining this and requesting a
meeting to discuss it.
Responding to Zaras email

1. Dear Zara

A little too
confrontational and
aggressive.

This decision is really unacceptable. How are we supposed to do our jobs and take care of our families if we
have to attend 8 hours of professional development classes per week? I would like to meet to discuss this
immediately. Is now OK?

Sarcastic. Formal in an
inappropriate way.
2. Dear Ms Hussein
Thank you so much for agreeing to an 8-hour course per week for us. Its really very good of you to do this with
so little consultation. What we appreciate most, of course, is no longer being able to do our jobs effectively and
spending time with our children. Could we possibly meet at your earliest convenience for me to thank you in
person?
Too emotional.
Inappropriate use of
capital letters.

3. Zara

This is COMPLETELY UNFAIR!!! It doesnt benefit us!!! It stops us doing our jobs properly and spending time
with our family. A meeting is urgently sought. I am really upset!
Measured/ makes the
point clearly and offers a
positive direction.
4. Dear Zara
I am concerned about the 4 hour, twice a week classes you have agreed to and the impact that it might have on
our effectiveness as teachers and our work/life balance. Could I come and see you to explore possible ways to
seek a solution or better outcome for us?
Emotional and makes a
personal attack.
5. Dear Zara
I am shocked at the suggestion of an 8 hour a week compulsory course. Are you mad??! Could I come and see
you to explain the problems that your lack of sensitivity to us is going to cause?
Contributed by: Glenda Thomas
The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

When communicating a negative message in a formal context, impersonal structures and often
passive voice might achieve a better result.Look at this example:
Accusing / threatening tone

Neutral tone

According to our records, you owe


us $25,550.

According to our records, the amount of


$25,550 is due from your company

You didnt fill in your claim form


properly.

Some information appears to be


missing on your claim form.

You havent done next months staff


roster yet.

I cant find next months staff roster.

You have not paid for your parking


bay number B2112.

It appears that we have not received


payment for your parking bay number
B2112.

You might have noticed that the rewritten examples with a more appropriate tone are often longer.
This is because more words are often necessary in order to not sound accusatory or threatening.

Summary:
Try to make any complaint as constructive as possible.
Support your complaint with any evidence you have.
Avoid using an abusive, negative tone; use a polite, optimistic tone.
Avoid emotion and personal attacks
Threaten no more than you are prepared to carry out.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

10

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

LEVELS of FORMALITY in writing

FORMAL/PROFESSIONAL STYLE
This is the style you will need to use in part 4 of the Aptis test. Ideas are generally presented politely
and carefully (tone!). The language is generally impersonal, with much use of fixed expressions and
often passive verb forms. Careful attention should be made to your grammar. Your sentences should
be written with full words and no contractions.
NEUTRAL/ INFORMAL STYLE
Informal style is closest to speech, so there are everyday words, contractions and conversational
expressions and some words are left out entirely, particularly in the case of sms messaging. ( [Ill]
speak to you later, [Are you] sure [it was] from our website?, Next week [would be] better than this
week etc.) and some abbreviations may even be appropriate (asap, pls etc). The reader may also be
more tolerant of poor grammar in this informal style. You have to know the rules first in order to break
the rules here.
Neutral is still quite informal as it still uses everyday expressions and contractions but sentences will
still mostly be written using correct grammar. This style might be appropriate in frequent email
exchanges between people you work with and in personal emails depending on your relationship with
the reader.
The style that you select will depend on:

who your reader is. (a colleague? a client? text message reader? A manager?a friend?)

how well you know your reader. (a close friend? a complete stranger?)

why you are writing. (wishing your staff a nice holiday? Writing a complaint?)

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

11

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

In the example below, the same message is written in two contrasting styles.
1. formal style
I am afraid I will not be able to attend the meeting on Friday. I would be grateful if you could send me a copy of
the minutes. I will also write to Sabina to inform her that I will not be there. Once again, I apologize for this. I can
assure you that I will be at the next meeting.

2. informal style
Sorry, cant make it Friday. Can you send me a copy of the minutes? Will also write to Sabina and tell her I
wont b there. Sorry about this and I promise Ill b at the next meeting.

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

12

Creating Opportunity Worldwide


Pro-ELT Teacher Training Materials

Level: B1 and B2

Full sentences vs abbreviated sentences


Look again at these excerpts from the informal email above:
Need to know yr a/c no. b4 can deal with this.
our special online offers are only available til Feb 7, so suggest you do this asap.

The same word is missing directly before each of the words highlighted in bold.
What is the missing word? Why is it missing?
Missing out words is common in more informal communication, both in speaking and in writing. This
often happens when people know each other very well and the situation is relaxed and friendly. The
meaning is clear from the context so the full grammatical form is not necessary.

However, its important that you realise that you are dropping words. This is because when you
need to write in a professional, FORMAL style, you need to be able to use the full grammatical form.
Look at the examples in the box. Match them to the descriptions underneath.
a. (Thats a) good idea!

g. Just read (the) email about (the) packing

b. (Did you) get my last email?

cartons.
h. Your suggestion (is) good, but needs
clarification.

c. (I) think your idea may work.


d. (It) seems OK to me.
e. (I am) looking forward to seeing you.
f. (Ill) speak to you later.

i. (Are you) coming with us on Friday?


j. (I) hope youre well.
k. (Its a) pity we missed you yesterday.
l. (I would be) grateful if you could.

Descriptions:

The subject I or We can be left out, especially with mental verbs like
hope, think etc.

..... / ..

In a question, the subject you and the auxiliary verb (be, have, will etc.)
.. / ..
can be left out.

The subject I and the auxiliary verb can be left out.

.. / ..

The subject I and a form of be can be left out when be is the only verb.

The words that or it can be left out, often with a form of be as well.

.. / ..

A form of be can be left out on its own.

..

The articles a/an or the can sometimes be left out.

..

Contributed by: Glenda Thomas


The British Council, 2013
The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for cultural relations and education opportunities.
British Council Malaysia is a branch (995232-A) of the British Council, registered as a charity in England and Wales (209131) and Scotland (SC037733)

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