Learn how to write a formal email to make a request.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and tips and do the exercises.

Reading text

Dear Ms Leitman,

I am writing to request your help following a change in my circumstances.

As you know, I am enrolled on the Basic Spanish course at your college, which starts in September. However, due to unforeseen family events, I have had to leave the country for a while to assist my parents in Hong Kong.

At present it is not clear when I will be able to return and unfortunately I will not be able to start the course as planned.

I would like to request a refund for the course fees already paid. I apologise for the short notice and for any inconvenience caused. In the event that a refund is not possible, I would be grateful if you could postpone my enrolment until my return.

Thank you in advance for your help and I hope to be able to update you on the situation soon.

Yours sincerely,

Honor Singh

Tips

  1. Organise the letter clearly into:
    • The reason for writing
    • The nature of the problem
    • The outcome you'd like
    • An apology for the inconvenience
  2. Don't go into too much personal detail when explaining the problem, as this is a formal situation with a person you don't know well.
  3. To make polite requests use the phrase I would be grateful if you could …
  4. Using nouns instead of verbs can make your writing sound more formal. (For example, instead of My circumstances have changed, say There has been a change in my circumstances.)
  5. Sign off Yours sincerely, if you know the person's name and Yours faithfully, if you don't.

Discussion

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Language level

Advanced: C1

Comments

I used to delay my driver license when I have worked on the sea where jobs were divided into shifts of some weeks onshore and some weeks offshore. I was being offshore when I attended the driver course, but unfortunately one of my co-worker was ill, and then my company had to ask me for covering his duty. That was an unforeseen situation in my plan, so I contacted my coach to ask for postponing my enrollment some weeks till the shifts finished. The coach told me go to a registration room to know more information. As his advice, I went to the registration room to ask how to postpone the course; they gave me a template paper to fill in the reason I postponed, how long I wanted to delay, or so on. In fact, if they did not give me that template paper, I would not know how to write a kind of formal, polite mail like the email in this task. Since the course was designed for working people, therefore things mostly were dealt smoothly unless I made too short notice or had got a particular reason in their black list. By that process, there was no inconvenience caused for both sides as well as refund requested at all. It's fair because I could have as long delay time as I wanted, or even if I did not know how long I would postpone, I would join a new course anyway, but I could not get back any money.

I have no ideas of how to improve my writing skill via these practical tasks.
The tasks tell me how to write somethings, for examples, formal or informal, passive or active...etc. But... I don't know how my skill is improved, or how to practice more to write correct forms, correct clause, or correct sentences...etc.

Hello QTN03
I would suggest you read the general advice on improving your writing on our Frequently asked questions page (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/frequently-asked-questions). I would particularly emphasise the value of getting feedback from a teacher or other proficient writer, though I realise that it can be difficult to find someone to do that for you. Many people also neglect reading, which is a shame, for it is through reading that we can see good writing that we can imitate or take inspiration from.
As for improving your grammar, I would recommend looking through our English grammar reference (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference), which we recently revised and added new exercises to.
I'm afraid we're not able to revise our users' writing, but if you ever have a specific question about a specific sentence or structure, please do ask us here in the comments.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kirk!
This's a useful answer.

Dear Kirk!
Please, can you present some good website to practise writing for me?
I will be very dedicated to your help.

Hello again QTN03
I'm afraid I'm not that familiar with any websites besides our own. It's not that I don't want to recommend any to you, it's that I don't use them so I just don't know any of them!
I would recommend that you visit our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LearnEnglish.BritishCouncil). Our social media team is more familiar with these kinds of resources, and you can also ask other learners if they have any recommendations there.
Good luck!
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Kirk
I've got it already.