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ESL Letter Model Answer – Analysis

Mohamed Sujaau aka Fsams


This is a model answer which I wrote a couple of days back for my tuition student. The question is from
October / November 2009 ESL Extended paper (Exercise 6). I’ve done some analysis of the answer to
give you a short guide on writing an effective letter to a pen-friend. First of all, let’s go through the
question and quickly analyse the GAP and LIST.

GAP
Genre: Informal letter (descriptive narrative)

Audience: Pen-friend

Purpose: To describe the experience of visiting a new sports and leisure center.

LIST
Language: Informal and descriptive.

Information: The three bullet points of the question

Style and Tone: This is equal to register, which has to be informal or friendly for this letter.

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Model Answer:

Dear Sylvia,

I can’t wait to tell you what I did yesterday – the memories are fresh so can give you all the gory details.

Do you remember the ‘Play & Fit Sports Centre’ I told you about last month? Well, it’s opened last
week and I went to check it out with Zaahy, my younger brother. I asked him to tag along as he has been
at a loose end since his friends are out of town.

The best thing about the visit was I got to try swimming in the spacious swimming track. I wonder how
big swimming tracks are in your country. Anyway, I was so glad I had the goggles you sent me. At first,
we were a bit bored, but we were good sport when the instructor taught us a few strokes. I wish you had
been there; you’d have swum like a fish!

While I was at the centre, I didn’t want to come back as the place was so pleasant and welcoming. The
prices aren’t too much either. I’m sure you’d like the modern cafeteria – Zaahy and I savoured mint tea
for a change and thought it was awesome.

Well, must dash now – I’ve got to help Zaahy with his Science Project.

With love,

Sujaau

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What makes this letter good?

1. The introduction: is short and simple and ‘yesterday’ indicates that the writer is writing about a
very recent event. This shows how friendly the writer and receiver are. The conclusion is simple too.

2. Content coverage: The response answers, all the rubric points of the question. Remember that you
do not have to write the points in the order of the question. As long as you cover all the three bullet
points, you will be fine. Only YOU can decide the most effective order for YOU to write! For
instance, the question asks to “give your opinion of the new sports and leisure centre”, and as you
can see from the answer, this rubric point is covered in the 3rd (big swimming track) and 4th
paragraph (pleasant, welcoming, affordable prices, modern cafeteria).

3. Audience awareness: The response clearly shows how the answer has been related to the audience
by personalising. Examples of such phrases include: I told you about last month, I wonder how big
swimming tracks are in your country. Anyway, I was so glad I had the goggles you sent me, I wish
you had been there; you’d have swum like a fish! And I’m sure you’d like the modern cafeteria.In
particular, the sentence, I wonder how big swimming tracks are in your country makes the audience
very explicit; I as the examiner understand that this letter has been written to a PEN-FRIEND
indeed. Remember, whatever you write should be interesting to the reader, in this case your pen
friend, so make sure you personalise.

4. Use of idioms and language structures: According to the IGCSE ESL marking rubric for Exercise
6 and 7, learners get higher marks between 8 – 9 for language if the student employs good vocabulary
including idioms. In this letter, several appropriate idioms have been used such as: gory details, be
at a loose end, be good sport, for a change. Remember, you should not use a lot of complicated
idioms just to impress the examiner. However, it is good to use simple and appropriate idioms that
do not really confuse the reader. You should also check if the idioms used are informal, since the
tone and style of the question demands you to write like that (for this letter).

5. Inclusion of feelings and time phrases: Since the letter is a descriptive-narrative, it is important to
include both feelings and timings of events. This helps you to add support to your sentences, which
comes under Idea Development. You should know that while giving good marks for Content, the
examiner looks for development of ideas and relevance.

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