Key points in personal letters
Alfred Yiu is here to help you get through your exams. A graduate of the University of Hong Kong, he has 15 years' experience in tutoring students for HKCEE and A-level exams and has also written English textbooks.
When writing personal letters there are some important points to note:
Usually, you are not required to write the sender's address, let alone your real address. Even if you are asked to do so, the address is always given. Never write your own address unless the topic requires you to do so.
Date for the letter is also optional. You can simply skip it.
The name of the receiver should be given in the question. Put 'Dear' in front of it and insert a comma after the salutation.
Always paragraph your letter and make sure you have touched on all the things related to the question.
There are a number of ways to do the complimentary ending in a personal letter. 'Best wishes' seems to be most common. Never use 'Yours sincerely' or 'Yours faithfully'. Other acceptable versions include 'With kindest regards', 'With all good wishes' etc.
You should never write your own name. Use the name given by the question. Very often you are required to use 'Chris'.
There is no formula for writing a good personal letter, but there is a shortcut that can lead to success. Generally speaking, a letter is composed of three main parts: Regards, Main Subject and Round-off. Below are some expressions for your reference.
Is everything to your liking?
How's life treating you?
What's going on in your part of the world? (for friends living abroad)
I'm quite happy with my present life.
I'm rather busy preparing for the exam / doing the school work.
I hope all goes well with you.
I hope you're getting on all right.
In the real world, personal letters between individuals touch on all kinds of topics and subject matter.
In the exam, personal letters can roughly be divided into two types: letters seeking advice (about yourself) and letters offering advice (about your friend).
They require different strategies.
About Yourself: (seeking advice)
Nothing much seems to have been happening recently - just the same old routine. I must tell you one
About Your Friend: (offering advice)
After reading your letter, I feel shocked at / surprised at / worried about your decision that ...
I'm so surprised to learn that you felt frustrated / depressed with ...
I know you're caught in a dilemma between ... and ...
It's easy to understand that you're at a loss as to how the problem can be solved.
I know you have mixed feelings about ...
As your friend, let me give you some advice.
Personal letters, like any other kind of writing, should have appropriate endings pertinent to the subjects and purposes.
As you can see, I'm totally helpless and badly need your advice.
Please reply quickly and let me learn from you.
I am desperate for help and advice. Please tell me what to do in your next letter.
About Your Friend:
Having said that, I hope the above advice can help you see the problem more clearly.
I hope I can give you a new perspective on this issue / matter. Look forward to your wise decision.
I think it's time I signed off and left you in peace.
That's all I have time for now. / I have to go now. / That's it for the time being.