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29 October 2010

First: Formal Letters

A useful activity on formal letters is linked from the page below.

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21 October 2010

Advanced Formal Letters

Go to Flo-joe:
for lots of useful exercises on the different sections of letters and emails.
Remember, you don't need to invent expressions in formal english. Selectively use the examples on the page as formulae in your work.
Don't hesitate to ask a question here, or in the A8 Discussion forum if you want to check anything before completing your work.

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18 May 2010

Advanced: Reviews

Some practical material this week. Take a look at Dark Horizons. You'll find lots of film review material which you might find useful.

Be on the look out for adjectives, comments and, as always at CAE, the special vocabulary that makes an impact on the reader. Here are (just) five that we noticed in the Angels and Demons review:

  • follow-up
  • polished
  • pad out
  • uses of Had and Yet

Advanced: formal letters

As a partner to this week's FCE task, here's something similar for Advanced level. Take a look at these letters, decide what you think, then take a look at the comments and see if you agree with them!

Obviously we're happy to answer questions here if you have them.

12 May 2010

Advanced: Application letter

From Flo-Joe here's a link to an application letter to try correcting. As usual we're happy to answer any questions you might have.

Look back to previous examples using the labels in the right-hand column >>>> to help your analysis.

11 May 2010

First: Letter of Complaint.

Go here to find a letter of complaint for you to complete the spaces in and then check on line.

10 May 2010

Things to Remember: Lost in Translation?

From recent First informal emails - be careful when using "local" names. Make sure your reader knows what you're talking about.


"Don't forget to visit El rastro." - Could be better.

"Don't forget to visit 'El rastro' which is a huge market." Better!

"You can always visit the Prado or the Reina Sofia" - Could be clearer.
"I know you like galleries, so you can always visit two of our most famous ones, the Prado and the Reine Sofia" - Much clearer (although longer of course).

09 May 2010

. . . - - - . . . *

Beware of spots in front of the eyes...

Alternatives to those dangerous three dots -

- and so on (and so on).
- amongst (many) others.
- and many (many) more(!)
- etc.

or at the start of the list -

- including
- such as
- like

Which ones could (should!) Digital Plus have used on this page?

* dot dot dot dash dash dash dot dot dot = S O S

05 May 2010

Things to Remember: Lost in Translation

Q. What have this group got in common?

A parking. A reality. A casting. Footing. Heavy! A latenight. A marketing. A Ticket.
A.They're mistakes waiting to happen!

A simple rule – if it's an English word (or looks like one) the chances are about 99:1 that it's used wrongly (from an English point of view) in Spanish. None of the above are used in English how you use them. Your reader can only see them as either a mistake or a mistranslation. Be careful!
Brian Smith

04 May 2010

First: Reviewing a Letter

Here's a thread with a student's formal letter. Take a look at Peter from Russia's letter, then when you've assessed it look at the other comments.

03 May 2010

uestions for planning

Here's a recent whiteboard related to planning your writing.

Remember to try to be as specific as possible with the consequences that come from your answers to the questions.

Here's an example if it was, for instance, an email to Sally about your holidays:

Q1 . Who´s it for? My friend, Sally.

> So it's informal
>> So I start with something like "Hi Sally!"
>>> So I finish with "Write soon!"
>>>> Just before that I probably need something like "Keep in touch" or "Let me know"
>>>>> I probably need something like "Thanks for the email" at the start too.
>>>>>> I need to remember it's informal when I express other functions (asking for things, apologising perhaps) and in my vocabulary.

Do the same for questions 2 to 4 and question 5 is the total of 1 to 4, pretty much.

Good luck!

02 May 2010

Advanced: Complaints

Go here to find a letter of complaint you can study.

01 May 2010

Keeping It Real: Complaints

Comic complaints from around the world, thanks to The Daily Telegraph.

Avoidable Error Checklist

Here's another whiteboard image. It's a checklist to help you try to stop your teacher getting to your mistakes before you do. Click on the photo to enlarge, and ask us if you have questions about the whiteboard.

30 April 2010

An Advanced Proposal

A sample of a Proposal from one of our Advanced students is now available on the download site. Please note the teacher's comments at the end: it's a great example of someone using what they've studied (and perhaps this website!) to do very good homework. Producing this level in an exam would be very difficult, but would certainly get a very high mark.

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28 April 2010

Language for Writing Complaints

Here's a selection of "complaining language" from the British Council, Madrid Adults. Particularly formal language is in italics.

Some introductory sentences:
I am writing to you to express my indignation/ outrage that
I feel I must complain about the manner in which
I am writing to you following a most regrettable incident
I am somewhat concerned about something which occurred
I am writing to you because I feel I can no longer put up with - direct!
I feel I must express my deep unease at the manner in which
I would just like to mention a little problem which has cropped up/ arisen concerning

Detailing the complaint:
I was absolutely outraged to learn that - direct!
I find it quite appalling/ most regrettable/ totally unacceptable that X should + verb - direct!
It is quite beyond belief that a grown adult should + verb - direct!
I was quite amazed to discover that - direct!
You can imagine my surprise when
It is rather unfortunate that he should + verb

Apportioning blame:
The whole thing was a cock-up (informal) of the first order - direct!
It is patently obvious that your company is to blame/ at fault in this matter - direct!
This was a gross discourtesy/ error on your part - direct!
Of course you yourself had no idea what was going on - direct!

Expressing your sense of personal injury:
This disagreeable incident has caused
I felt rather upset/ embarrassed about the whole thing
The whole thing has left rather a nasty taste in the mouth - direct!

Suggesting a solution:
I am sure you will agree that the whole business should never have happened in the first place
I feel that the least you can do now is to
I hope this business can be settled amicably
I sincerely hope a solution to this business can be found promptly
I look forward to receiving a prompt explanation as to what action you intend to take in this matter
I am sure that given good will on both sides a mutually-acceptable solution can be found
I would regret having to take this matter further
I would be most grateful if you could look into this matter and let me know what you intend to do about it
I believe I am entitled to a refund/ an apology.

26 April 2010

Reviewing More Complex Writing

Some tasks on paragraphs and organisation.

Go here for one on narrative organisation (useful for stories, review and writing about trips, travel etc, and here for another.

Go here for another on sentence transformation to develop more complex sentences.

Finally, go here for some complex sentence writing. COndense your ideas into fewer words to make a real impression.

25 April 2010

Are we alone in the Universe?

Hello everyone.
This is not a discussion of SETI, but homework!

You write your homework. You finish it. Hallelujah, you think. Done. Now let's hand it in and see how many yellow highlights I get this time!

But are you doing everything you can to reduce those highlights?

The reality is that some people do not check thier writing as much as they need to. One reason for this is because it is, if we're honest, not always that interesting and actually pretty difficult.

We can't check it for you, I'm afraid. But you could check it for each other. There are almost certainly one or two students in your group you know quite well now (hopefully more than that!). Why not agree to finish homework a couple of days early, and hand or send it to each other before you hand it or send it in? Email is rather useful for this...

You'll check thiers, they´ll check yours and you might both get some corrections, some opinions and even some ideas for how to do another one better in the future. If you'd like to find someone to share writing with, ask around your class, or have a chat with your teacher - they can ask the group for you if needs be.

Try it. You might like it.

Brian Smith

23 April 2010

Advanced: Application Letter

A sample formal letter - you don't need to speak Polish to use it!

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22 April 2010

Planning Practice

Helping you plan and organise your wriiting. Go here for 15 (yes, 15!) Fact Sheets, 8 worksheets and even a game to play.

The materials here are for all kinds of writing. Exam students should choose carefully for the kind of writing you will find more useful (notice all the work on letters!).

Concentrate on the topics you find most challenging.

15 April 2010

Useful Language for Reports and Proposals

A selection of expressions at a formal register.

Here's some things that might help your homework writing(s).

The purpose/intention/aim of this report/proposal is to outline / present / discuss / give a brief comment / suggest / sum up the last...
This report contains the relevant details concerning the problem as you required.
It's based on my observations/extracts from the questionaries / the feedback from participants...
As requested, I am submitting this report concerning...
This report is submitted in support of our request for...

Findings (Reports) /Suggestions (Proposals)
I suggest ... as it would result in...
Consideration should be given...
It would be prudent / inadvisable / advisable to ... on the grounds that it / owing to the fact that / due to the fact that...
I am opposed to the idea of...
It would be mutually advantageous
I suggest that the problem of... can be addressed through...
For the satisfaction of... the ... should be...
Another problem was that...
I would strongly recommend...
More steps also need to be taken to...

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these facts is that...
I hope / believe / trust you will consider this proposal favourably / the proposal will be given due consideration / the proposal will receive due consideration.

Reports and Proposals: Headings & Subheadings

It may just be a personal thing, but I don't like proposals or reports (for example) referring to titles or headings in the body of the text.

For example, if you put this:

Food is one of the most...

I would suggest you change it to:

This is one of the most...

Miles Brickman

09 April 2010

Writing Tip: Vocabulary in Homework

Make sure your vocabulary in your homework is showing you can talk about the topic. Identify the topic(s) in the question, then use your coursebook.

Find the chapter(s) in your coursebook that refer to the topic(s) and look out some useful words. At FCE aim for six-plus, ideally a mix fo verbs, nouns and, best of all, some combinations and, if the formality is right, a phrasal verb or two are very wise.

At CAE it's similar, but you're probably looking for ten words/phrases or more. Check your formality carefully, and be on the look out for synonyms at all times.

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04 March 2010

CAE Leaflet Week: An example from the Net

We found this example of a student's attempt online - complete with corrections. It's even on a topic local to you!

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02 March 2010

CAE Leaflet Week: Fun and games

Check the basics of leaflet writing!

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01 March 2010

CAE Leaflet Week: Writing Activity 2.6a

Five days of materials to help you write leaflets and information sheets.

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First Application Letters

Go to the Prospects UK website for some very useful language to give your application impact. Add all the good stuff to your list and be sure to use this page when doing any formal writing homeowrk in the future.

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26 February 2010

Our Advice on Writing

Five Key points
- read the question very carefully and identify necessary functions to perform
- list language to achieve functions identified above (in the appropriate formality)
- work out the vocab topic(s) and list expressions/words you know you are going to use
- decide how many paragraphs and sum up their contents in two or three words (eg - what function does each one perform?)
- have a checklist for error correction and proofreading
- allocate 5 minutes to this

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03 February 2010

Link: CAE Practice

Use of English (and Listening) practice here.

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31 January 2010

First: A TV review

Here's an First-level review that reaches a pass level - perhaps you can learn something from it.

Advanced: A TV review

A sample writing for you to take a look at and learn from the mistakes!

27 January 2010

Help with writing Reviews

Some general advice from Las Rozas teachers about writing a review:

Remember the usual elements -

- answer the exact question
- think about the style, format and presentation
- decide carefully on your number of paragraphs

You'll also need some more specialist language too - specifically:

- some language for opinions
- descriptive words
(for example suitable adjectives and adverb+adjective combinations)
- specialised vocabulary for films, books or whatever
For example, do you know which words here are for which media?

Soundtrack, chapter, script, screenplay, plot, titles, set, location, scenery, star., co-star..

To help a little, there's nothing wrong with taking ideas from the net, so here are a couple of places to look for reviews that are not too colloquial (which many magazines and websites are). - just look for comments on almost anything - from cds and movies to hairdryers and food mixers! - specialist (and longer) movie reviews

Remember - when you write, you can use the net for ideas. But, DO NOT copy chunks of text - you lose marks if we think your work is not original enough.