The ability to express themselves clearly in writing is a valuable skill for students in life and in the workplace as they progress in their chosen career. While some will be well on their way to being accomplished written communicators, others will need help and support to develop this skill.

The three main elements to clear written communication are:

  • Structure - how the content is laid out
  • Style - the way something is written
  • Content - what is being written


A good, strong structure is the basis to a clear piece of writing.

  • Decide on a logical order, identifying key points
  • Construct a strong introduction and ending
  • Stick to short paragraphs and sentences
  • Use headings, sub-headings or bullet points for key points (but don't go overboard)


The style should reflect the audience. How much information and detail does the reader need? How formal or informal should it be?

  • Use concise language (less is more if it makes the point)
  • A sentence should communicate one idea
  • Keep paragraphs to a few sentences (especially in cover letters)
  • Avoid repetition, except if needed for emphasis


  • Does the writing convey a clear message?
  • Do the separate points come together into a cohesive whole?
  • Does the conclusion bring it all together, and relate to the introduction?
  • Is the language positive and constructive?
  • Is the writer warm, friendly, enthusiastic?

Check, double check and triple check spelling, grammar and punctuation. DO NOT rely only on computer spell check! Read the words OUT LOUD - this is the most effective way of picking up a typo or clumsily worded sentence.

Most jobs and almost every career require a reasonable proficiency in written communication. This activity will encourage students understanding of the importance of these skills.
Most jobs and almost every career require a reasonable proficiency in written communication. This activity will encourage students understanding of the importance of these skills.


Although they are rapidly being replaced by email, believe it or not, formal letters are still sent, received and even requested by some employers and organisations. Students may need to write a formal letter to:

  • Contact a potential employer about employment opportunities
  • Apply for a position at a higher education institution or for a scholarship
  • Make a complaint
  • Offer a suggestion
  • Request information


  • Avoid slang at all costs
  • Don't ramble - less is more!
  • Always check your work - proofread and then proofread again


  • Always begin a formal letter with 'Dear' and the person's surname
  • Address your letter Sir/Madam if you don't know their name or to whom it should be addressed
  • If you know the person has another title (such as Dr., Capt.), use this
  • Use Ms. unless you know the woman prefers Miss or Mrs.


  • Yours faithfully - when the letter begins with Dear Sir/Madam
  • Yours sincerely - when a named person is addressed (e.g., Ms. Smith)
  • Yours truly - when writing to someone you know slightly

Using the Formal Letter Template and guidelines, students will practice their formal letter writing skills


Generally speaking, an email is considered to be less formal than a letter, however when communicating by email, there are still simple rules to follow to ensure it makes a positive impression and gets the desired response. The language, tone and structure of the email should depend on who it is being sent to - an email to a prospective employer should not look and sound like an email sent to a friend!


  • Avoid using emotions or text language
  • Don't descend into over-familiarity or slang
  • Always proofread before hitting 'send'
  • Use a professional-sounding email address (as opposed to a silly or made-up name)


  • Subject line is the equivalent to the subject line in a letter - descriptive and brief
  • Use appropriate formalities
  • Be specific and straight to the point
  • State your name and the purpose of the email
  • Explain what information you are seeking
  • Provide information on how you can be contacted


Follow the lead of the person you are corresponding with in any future emails, for example:

  • Address any future emails the way the person originally signed off
  • Take a slightly less formal approach in signing off ('Best wishes', 'Kind regards')
  • When requesting something or asking a question use 'Thanks', 'Many thanks', 'Thanks in advance'
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Link to the Written Comms Assessment Task