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How to write a cover letter

Person in blue shirt holding a pen and signing a piece of paper
Learn how to write a cover letter.

Unsplash CC: Helloquence

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In this exercise, Australian teacher Cara Dinneen demonstrates techniques for writing a cover letter.

When practising writing skills, Cara Dinneen advises students to be strategic and intentional. It is important to have a purpose for writing. In this example, Cara provided a sample of a cover letter and identified the relevant writing techniques — including tense and prepositions.

The first step is to understand your reason for writing. This is an important for any type of writing task — whether it be a description, essay, or cover letter — because it helps you identify the type of language you should use.

In Cara's example, she starts the letter by writing "Dear Mr Jabri". She has identified the title of the person who is reading the letter.

Cara's first full sentence is: "I am writing to apply for the ______ position advertised in the ______ ."

There are two points to note in the opening sentence.

The first is the use of the present continuous tense: "I am writing". "That’s very standard — to be used in the beginning of a letter in English," says Cara. She also uses the present continuous tense in the second sentence: "I am enclosing".

The second point to note is the use of prepositions: "apply for" and "advertised in".

An annotated sample cover letter by Cara
The first half of Cara's sample cover letter.

Supplied: Cara Dinneen

In the second paragraph, Cara is telling the reader why she is interested in the job and offering the reader reasons why they should consider her in particular.

An annotated sample cover letter by Cara
The conclusion to Cara's annotated sample cover letter.

Supplied: Cara Dinneen

The final paragraph is a "call to future action," describes Cara. She suggests making "an offer for further contact."

Cara writes "I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you in more detail."

The use of would is "cultural" — "some people might say 'I welcome' or you might say 'I would welcome' the opportunity."

According to Cara, "'would' adds a bit more of a distance — a little bit of politeness...It’s not that without the ‘would’ it’s disrespectful, but it’s a softer approach. And that’s an individual choice."

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