Unit 15

Question 1 : What is the formal layout of a letter, where should things go?
Question 2: What are the differences between the words ‘trip’ ‘tour’  and ‘journey’?
Question 3 : How should we respond to an informal greeting?

Unit 15

Hi everybody, this is Misterduncan in England, how are you today? Are you okay? I hope so! Are you happy? I hope so!

Well here I am with the twentieth edition of my weekly question and answer forum. . I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has written in to me since the end of February and I really do enjoy reading your e-mails. . I promise that I will carry on making these weekly shows as long as you want me to.

So without any more chit- chat or bumptious banter, let’s have our first question for today.

Question 1: What is the formal layout of a letter, where should things go?

This question was sent in by Xao Xuan who comes from China but now works in Singapore.

When writing a formal letter, there are a few rules you must remember concerning the layout. Your own address must go near the top right hand of the page, while the address of the person you are writing to must be placed on the left hand of the page, but slightly lower than yours. The date must follow next, placed slightly below your address.

Then you begin the letter by greeting the person, normally beginning with ‘Dear’. If you are writing formally then you must use a title, such as Mr, Miss or Mrs, followed by their surname. ‘Dear Mr Smith’ or ‘Dear Mrs John’. If the letter is informal and you are very familiar with the person you are writing to, then it is possible to use their first name.

‘Dear Steve’ or ‘Dear Mary’. The main part of the letter must follow standard grammar rules. It is not appropriate to use abbreviations such as those found in mobile text messages or informal slang.
You must end the letter with either ‘Yours sincerely’ or ‘Yours faithfully’ and then your full name. If you sign a typed letter by hand you must also type your name just below it. If you do not know the gender of the person you are writing to, you can simply use ‘Dear Sir/ Madam’ as the greeting.

Question 2: A nice e-mail and a question!

I have received a nice e-mail from Martynas Velentiejus who lives in Lithuania. Martynas wants to know the differences between the words ‘trip’ ‘tour’  and ‘journey’.

First of all, the words ‘trip’ and ‘journey’ are very similar in meaning. They both refer to travelling from one place to another. You take a trip. You make a journey. You go on a trip. You go on a journey. The word ‘tour’ tends to be used when describing the movement through one place, be it a village, town, city, country, or continent. You are exploring a certain area. A tour of London. A tour of Italy. Another word we can use is ‘sightsee’.

We went sightseeing around Venice. Or we can use the general term ‘excursion’. Having said that, the word ‘trip’ can also be used to describe travelling a very short distance. I’m going to take a trip into town. Very often we use ‘journey’ to express a long period of travel, taking many hours or even days. A journey around the world.

Thank you for your e-mail and a big hello to you Martynas and everyone watching in Lithuania.

Question 3: How should we respond to an informal greeting?

This question was sent in by Backer who lives in Germany.

There are many ways to greet another person in English. In general social situations, we tend to use informal greetings, which are normally given in the form of a question, such as…How’s it going? What’s happening? How’s tricks?  How are you doing? You keeping well? Are you alright? The response given to each greeting tends to be short and polite. Not too bad, not much, yeah fine, I’m doing fine, yeah I’m great thanks.

A greeting can be given as an exclamation such as... Hey! What’s up? Yo!

Just as English in general is changing, so are the ways we greet each other. So called ‘street’ slang has become popular as a result of the modern music trends followed by young people today. Of course this is nothing new and it will always change as each new generation come along. Casual greetings are a friendly way of acknowledging another person.

Another nice e-mail!

I have received a nice e-mail from Dung Nguyen Tien, who lives in Vietnam and asks if it would be possible for me to make more video lessons about places in England. Well that is a great idea and in some future lessons I hope to go out and about to various places that I consider interesting.

Not only here in England, but also around the UK. Thank you Dung for your e-mail and a big hello to all those watching in Vietnam.

 A very handy word.

The word ‘hand’ can be used in various ways. Hand something over. In this sentence the word ‘hand’ means ‘give’ (pass). ‘Give a hand’, this means to help someone. You give them a helping hand. A big hand, this means to give applause… ‘Ladies and Gentlemen please give a big hand for Mr Lomax!’

‘handy’, a handy man, a person who fixes and repairs things for a living.
Handy means a useful object or something that is easy to use.

Before I make my way back home for a well deserved…lie down, I would like to say a special hello to Carlos Ambrosio in Spain, who thanks me for providing all my online video lessons for free. Well Carlos, it is my pleasure.

A big hello also to Rubab Naqvi in Pakistan, who asks what the best method of learning English is. Well there are no magic methods or one sure-fire course for mastering English, but there are combinations of exercises which can over time help you to gain experience and build your word power too.

I have covered some of these in previous lessons as well as mentioning them here before on ‘Ask Misterduncan’. Being able to speak any language is a skill and just like any skill, there are no quick ways of gaining this ability.

Time, patience, and enthusiasm are always necessary.

Hello also to Abdullah Hamza who is now studying at the British council in Jeddah- Saudi Arabia.

Abdullah asks me to say a big hello and give a special mention to the Village of Bahra. Finally a big hello to all my new Facebook friends and followers including…Alexei, Alice, Allesandro, Jala…and Sylwia. That is all from me for this twentieth edition of ‘Ask Misterduncan’. I will see you all in two weeks time for number 21.

This is Misterduncan in England saying thank you for watching me answering you and of course ta-ta for now.


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