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Transactional Letters - Letter-Writing - Writing

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Put simply, a 'transactional' letter is one that is written for the purpose of getting something done, of making somebody do something (compare this with a 'non-transactional' letter, whose the purpose might be to share feelings, opinions or experiences with someone else). They can either be formal or informal, depending on whom you are writing to, and there are a lot of different types:

bullet bullet Letters giving information
bullet bullet Letters asking for information enquiries 2
bullet bullet Complaint letters : 1 (Useful language) bullet 2 (Word doc, Y3) bullet 3 (Word doc) bullet
bullet bullet For Job-application letters, check out Writing - The World of Work
bullet bullet Apologies
bullet bullet Invitations
bullet bullet Thank-you letters/notes

When you are asked to write a transactional letter you may get some writing input (advertisements, other letters, notes, invitations, etc.) and / or visual prompts (maps, drawings, etc.). When you write a transactional letter you should include all the relevant factual information given, using your own words. You should also make sure that each paragraph deals with only one topic.

After reading these very notes from the Athens University of Economics and Business I have put together the following text, adding my own comments to adjust it all to your needs.


Plan your letter well. You need some time to do this. The more you practice, the less time you'll need! Make sure your letter is well structured and organized.

Don't write the addressess unless you are required to do so.

It is very important to use the correct forms of salutation, and signature endings should always be appropriate.

The opening paragraph of a letter should state the purpose of the letter. The middle paragraph(s) should explain the details, beginning a new paragraph for each main point. The closing paragraph should state the course of action needed or repeat the purpose of the letter. Always use the appropriate phraseology for opening and closing.

Be clear about the point being made in each paragraph; topic sentences are very important.

Register is another important thing in letter writing; always bear in mind who you are talking to and how this should affect the ‘tone’ of your letter. Remember to use the appropriate vocabulary for both formal and informal letters.

Another very important point is the use of linking words and phrases. This doesn't mean that should use linking words without knowing what you're saying!

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, whereas a letter to a friend requires an informal style.

Formal style
The greeting (Dear Sir/Madam, Dear Mr / Ms Lee,)
Frequent use of passive
Formal Language (complex sentences, non colloquial English)
No contracted forms (e.g. it's), nor clippings (e.g. info, ad), nor inappropriate abbreviations (e.g. CU, asap)
The ending (Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully)

Semi-formal style
Formal greetings (Dear Mr/Ms + surname,)
Informal  endings (Best wishes, / Yours, + first name / full name)
Respectful tone, in any case
Pronouns should not be omitted and idioms should be carefully used.

Informal style
The greeting (Dear Alexa, Dear dad,)
Informal language and style (idioms, colloquial English)
Abbreviated forms, pronouns omitted
The ending (Yours / Love / Best Wishes / Regards / Cleo)

Another Transactional Letter - Invitations. Do the exercise and then copy the resulting letter!



1)You recently stayed with an English penfriend and his or her family. Write a letter thanking them for their hospitality.


2) You had a very bad meal at a restaurant recently.  Write a letter about the food and the service.


Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing about the advertising for your school I have seen recently. Some of my friends and I are interested in spending a holiday in your school.

Could you please tell me how far is Cotsford from your school? I addition to that we would like to know which is the nearest airport and is there a transfer available.

We like to come for two weeks in August. It this possible and if so when could we start?

We like to know how much it costs and what is included? To be more specific, we like to know if all the afternoon activities are included. What's more is the equipment provided?

Finally we like to know how we could pay?

I'm looking forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully.

If you write a transactional letter on any topic and wish to send it, to illustrate the theory, you'll be welcome!