News Update on Letter Writing : Feb 2022

Business Letter Writing: English, French, and Japanese

This article examines the form and content of business letters of request in English, French, and Japanese, focusing on prescriptive accounts in the respective languages. Since writing is the process of creating meaning, the examination of a highly prescriptive form of written communication increases our understanding of the varied interpretations of the writer’s purpose and reader’s expectations in different cultures. The rhetorical differences of note in this comparative exercise were that despite amazingly similar surface characteristics, American business letters are reader oriented, French business letters are writer oriented, and Japanese business letters are oriented to the space between the writer and reader.[1]

The pragmatics of letter-writing

This paper focuses on personal letter-writing as a mode of communication between an L2 writer and an L1 reader, a little explored discourse type, yet particularly vital and salient in the process of language teaching and learning. The corpus is composed of 120 personal letters. They are supposed to be written to British English native speakers. The data were analyzed and discussed in the light of the theoretical insights of a number of modern linguists, notably Grice’s Cooperative Principle and Leech’s Principle of Politeness as well as Brown and Levinson’s views of politeness strategies. The main objective of the study is to examine the corpus of letters in terms of the sociocultural background of the writers, that is, to establish interpretive links between the type of material collected and its situational and cultural context. As a non-nativized variety of English, the language used by the students exhibits certain peculiarities likely to be the result of contradiction between two different cultures. The major argument therefore developed in this study is that these peculiarities can be seen as “errors” which are the by-product of incomplete understanding of the sociocultural background of the target language.[2]

Alphabetic Skills in Preschool: A Preliminary Study of Letter Naming and Letter Writing

Development of letter naming and writing (skills in writing first name, dictated and copied letters, and dictated and copied numbers) was examined in 79 preschool children (M age = 56 months). Skills were assessed in the fall to determine the status of these procedural skills that are components of alphabetic knowledge at the start of the school year. Children with high letter-naming scores also had high scores on letter writing, including dictated or copied letters and writing some or all of the letters of their names. Letter-naming skills were related to number-writing skills whether the numbers were dictated or copied. The highest writing scores were found for first name writing compared to writing or copying letters and numbers.[3]

Contributions of emergent literacy skills to name writing, letter writing, and spelling in preschool children

The purpose of this study was to examine which emergent literacy skills contribute to preschool children’s emergent writing (name-writing, letter-writing, and spelling) skills. Emergent reading and writing tasks were administered to 296 preschool children aged 4–5 years. Print knowledge and letter-writing skills made positive contributions to name writing; whereas alphabet knowledge, print knowledge, and name writing made positive contributions to letter writing. Both name-writing and letter-writing skills made significant contributions to the prediction of spelling after controlling for age, parental education, print knowledge, phonological awareness, and letter-name and letter-sound knowledge; however, only letter-writing abilities made a significant unique contribution to the prediction of spelling when both letter-writing and name-writing skills were considered together. Name writing reflects knowledge of some letters rather than a broader knowledge of letters that may be needed to support early spelling. Children’s letter-writing skills may be a better indicator of children’s emergent literacy and developing spelling skills than are their name-writing skills at the end of the preschool year. Spelling is a developmentally complex skill beginning in preschool and includes letter writing and blending skills, print knowledge, and letter-name and letter-sound knowledge.[4]

Health Effects of Expressive Letter Writing

This study is the first to experimentally examine the potential health benefits of expressive letter writing. College students (N= 108) were randomly assigned to one of three letter–writing tasks. Experimental participants wrote a letter to a socially significant other who either helped or hurt them, whereas control participants wrote a letter to a school official regarding an impersonal relational topic. At follow–up, experimental participants reported greater sleep duration and fewer days of illness–related activity restriction compared to controls. In addition, participants who wrote a letter to an offending individual reported better sleep quality relative to controls. Psychosocial outcomes did not vary according to group assignment. Findings point to the potential sleep–related health benefits of expressive writing.[5]


[1] Jenkins, S. and Hinds, J., 1987. Business letter writing: English, French, and Japanese. TESOL quarterly, 21(2), pp.327-349.

[2] Al‐Khatib, M.A., 2001. The pragmatics of letter‐writing. World Englishes, 20(2), pp.179-200.

[3] Molfese, V.J., Beswick, J., Molnar, A. and Jacobi-Vessels, J., 2006. Alphabetic skills in preschool: A preliminary study of letter naming and letter writing. Developmental Neuropsychology, 29(1), pp.5-19.

[4] Puranik, C.S., Lonigan, C.J. and Kim, Y.S., 2011. Contributions of emergent literacy skills to name writing, letter writing, and spelling in preschool children. Early childhood research quarterly, 26(4), pp.465-474.

[5] Mosher, C.E. and Danoff–Burg, S., 2006. Health effects of expressive letter writing. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25(10), pp.1122-1139.

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