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Letters, Assignments, Essays and Presentations

As a means of communication, writing has a distinct advantage over the spoken word. Like the TV chef's dish that had been "prepared earlier" it can be as near-perfect as possible, all the mistakes having been remedied before it is given a public airing. With care and consideration, the written word can convey exactly what the writer intends. Unfortunately, if time is the enemy, a hasty scribble can do as much damage as engaging one's mouth when the brain isn't in gear. Whether writing letters, either business or personal, school and college assignments, essays, reports, short stories, or full-length novels; even posting online chat and tweets, a little extra thought will make the finished product so much better and less ambiguous. Hopefully, the following advice may help make writing less of a challenge and more enjoyable.


Always assuming you know the person you are writing to, style and content will be pretty much the same as if you are having a chat. Those you only contact once in a while should be interested in the latest news; but imagine how much better it would be if it was entertaining as well as informative. All this takes is a bit of time for some thoughtful editing before sending it.

The format of business-type letters changes over the years, so compare some recent letters and emails that have been received. Note the positioning of your address, that of the sender, where the date goes and how it is typed, plus how the main message is set out. Also see the way it begins - Dear Sir, Dear John, Valued Customer; then how it ends - Yours faithfully, kindest regards, etc; and notice that a business-like opening is not closed with familiar words (eg Dear Sir… …Catch you later) - that's a no-no! Formal is formal; casual is casual - beware of mixing up the two. The accepted forms of communication are best observed. Avoid starting the letter: "I am writing to you…" Isn't that obvious? The content should be to the point and as brief as possible. If sending a hardcopy letter, try to position the main body of text in the centre of the page with sufficient space at the bottom for a signature.

Letters of Complaint:
Whether justified or not, insults are unlikely to achieve what you wish. Be firm, certainly, and say it how you see it; but beware of going overboard, particularly with comments that might be deemed libellous. If at all possible, leave it a day before sending, especially if your emotions were high when writing it. Reading it again in the cold light of day, you could decide it is a bit strong and in need of modification.


These tell you what is required - obvious, yeah? Apparently not: too many students get carried away with the project and what they are saying in it, but haven't fully understood what is expected. Always read the guidelines before starting and don't miss the key points. Plan your approach and structure, and while writing, frequently refer back to the instructions to ensure you are not going off track. Take particular note of any suggested format, font, margins, line-spacing, etc. Ignoring these criteria won't help your grading.

Who Are You Writing For?
If you don't know the lecturer personally, structure the assignment simply and concisely, giving as much as necessary to answer the requirements, but avoid padding and smart comments. This is especially important in exams when a complete stranger will be assessing your work. Even when you know the lecturer who will be marking your assignment, your job is to impress them with the correct information and in a writing style that is acceptable.

See next page for Part 2

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