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Basic Advice for Writing Cover Letters

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0:08

Hello, in this video we're going to talk about the level of formality in your cover 
letter. 
We'll discuss why we need to think about formality as we write it and look at some 
of the differences between formal and informal tone or style in a cover letter.




0:25

To begin, let's define what we mean by level of formality.




0:30

In English, as in many other languages, we use different words and 
grammar forms depending on the situation we're communicating in.




0:39

So for example, if I am speaking with my close friend, 
I would probably use more informal language such as what's up Tony or 
how's it going, you going to watch the game tonight?




0:52

However, if I am speaking or 
writing to someone I don't know personally and the context is more professional, 
then I should choose a more formal style of language.




1:03

Therefore expressions such as, what's up Tony? 
How's it going? Could be incorrect or 
rude in that situation.




1:12

If the person who reads my cover letter were to see such expressions they might be 
surprised, shocked or even offended by my level of informality.




1:25

With this in mind it is important that you use formal words or 
phrases in your cover letter.




1:33

Nowadays, many employers request that you send your resume and 
cover letter by email rather than by traditional mail.




1:42

However, just because you are writing your cover letter in an email, 
does not mean you should write in an informal way, 
as if you are speaking with a friend, or a family member.




1:54

For example, how should you address the person you are writing to? 
Should you say, Hi Mary, or Hi Mr. 
Smith, both of these greetings or salutations are too informal. 
A more appropriate one is, Dear Mr. Smith, if the person is a man, 
or Dear Ms. Smith, if the person is a woman. 
If you don't know the sex of the person you are addressing then, 
Dear Sir or Madam is a better choice. 
Likewise, in your closing it would be interpreted as too 
informal if you were to write Bye or Take care or Goodbye. 
A more formal alternative is Sincerely or 
Yours sincerely, and then you should follow this with your full name.




2:45

In the body of your cover letter or email try to avoid using informal language. 
It's best not to use contractions such as I'm, you're, it's etc. 
Use the longer forms, I am, you are, it is. 
While these things might seem small to you, 
they will contribute to the overall professional tone of your writing. 
And help with creating a good first impression.




3:16

Finally, let's look at an example of the opening of a cover letter. 
This one is written too informally. 
See what you think.




3:24

Hi there, I saw your ad for a receptionist in the paper and 
I'm really interested in the job.




3:31

Clearly this is too informal. 
In the United States this would not be acceptable and 
an employer who reads it might interpret the writer as not being serious or 
professional enough for the job.




3:44

So, the message is, always try and 
be professional in any communication with an employer.




3:53

Here's the sample rewritten, so it's now more formal. 
Dear Ms. Smith, I was very interested to read your advertisement for 
the position of receptionist in the Seattle Herald dated May 6th 2011. 
I would like to be considered for this job.




4:13

In this video, we have looked at levels of formality in a cover letter, and 
discussed the differences between formal and informal styles.




4:23

I hope you can see that using a more formal style in your cover letter is what's expected from an employer. 
Next, we'll look at controlling tone with modal verbs.


0:09

Hello, in this video we're going to talk about using modal verbs to be more polite.




0:16

When applying for a job in the United States, it is important that job 
seekers are direct and honest, but also respectful and polite.




0:27

Modal verbs help the writer to control the tone or feeling. 
This is how you will leave a positive impression on your reader.




0:39

We will begin with the definition of modal verbs, 
the grammar structure and the meaning or reasons why we use them.




0:50

Then we will look at example sentences with and 
without modal verbs to show how the same message is given in different ways.




1:03

Let's begin with a definition.




1:05

Modal verbs are helping verbs such as can, will, could, would, or might.




1:14

These modal verbs show a speaker's attitude or 
feeling that something is possible or probable.




1:27

Modal verbs are helping verbs that are immediately followed 
by the simple form of a verb.




1:36

Could and would are very common modal verbs used in cover letters, 
emails and conversations during the job search.




1:46

When you use a modal verb in the sentence, 
it must be followed by another verb in the simple form.




1:54

Look at this example. 
I could assist the company by working with international visitors.




2:03

Now, let's talk about the meaning of can and will, along with could and would.




2:11

When a writer uses can or will, it is very direct. 
Can means that the writer has the ability to do something. 
And will shows that the writer is making a future promise or prediction.




2:26

Could or would show that something is possible, probable, or very likely. 
These are more polite forms of can and will.




2:38

Let's look at some examples from a cover letter.




2:43

Number one, I can assist your company in international markets.




2:49

Number two, I could assist your company in international markets.




2:55

Number 1, just shows that the person has the ability, but 
number 2 is more polite and 
shows the possibility of using that ability to help the company.




3:10

Here's another example with will and would.




3:16

Number 1, I will assist your company in international markets.




3:24

Number 2, I would assist your company in international markets.




3:31

It is rude for him to say I will assist your company in international markets, 
because only the employer gets to make that decision.




3:42

If the applicant is too direct it changes the tone or feeling of the message.




3:50

Another meaning of the modal verb would is a polite form of want. 
Want is often too direct and can sometimes be rude.




4:02

Would like is more indirect and polite.




4:07

In a cover letter, applicants want to have a job interview but 
need to politely say what they want.




4:16

The way to do that is by saying number one,




4:20

I would like to discuss the job in an interview.




4:24

Or number two, I would like to learn more about the company in an interview.




4:33

It is very important that job seekers communicate what they could do for a company and clearly say what they want the company to do for them. Respectfully and politely.




4:51

Let's review what we've learned about modal verbs. 
Using modal verbs in writing and speaking is the best way to be direct, but also polite.




5:03

Job seekers can control their tone, and leave a positive impression.




5:09

We now know that modal verbs would and could are used with other verbs to describe things that are possible or likely.




5:20

We can also use would like to clearly show what we want 
in a polite and respectful way. 
Next go onto a game to practice using modal verbs in polite language.


0:09

Hello. 
In this the final video of Unit 3, 
we're going to talk about writing your cover letter for a specific job.




0:18

We will prepare for the second assessment of this unit 
where you will first write your own cover letter for a job.