This lesson plan for teachers of teenagers and adults at intermediate level and above explores the theme of writing emails. Students will learn the rules of writing emails and will compose and send an email. 

Janet Shackleton, British Council

The main focus of this lesson will be on writing semi-formal emails, and the students will send an email to a tourist information centre of their choice using the rules they will have studied in the first half of the lesson. I have done this lesson several times myself and although not all of the students received replies from the information centres they emailed, most of them did, which in itself gave them much satisfaction.  

The lesson is suitable for intermediate students and above, although if simplified could be adapted for use with lower levels.


Writing emails


Intermediate and above


90 mins


  • To teach or revise the rules of writing emails in English by studying the differences between formal letters, and informal and semi-formal email


Lesson plan: guide for teacher on procedure.

Download lesson plan 75k pdf

Worksheets: can be printed out for use in class.

Download worksheet 131k pdf

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Find out more about effective writing activities in our teacher development module Engaging with writing – preparing activities.



Great lesson and our students really need it because of the misunderstanding that may occur or even worse when mixing up formal and informal requester. I also focus on the use of emoticons and how they can also be problematic across cultures. As an example, I have my students read an excellent article from the Guardian (21/9/2007)which basically deals with how people perceive e-mails with emoticons as not serious, and that these  funny symbols although fashionable are at times problematic. Rania

Overall a very useful lesson. Thanks for posting it. 

However I'm very uncomfortable about the content of the 'bad' email.

My main issue with it is talking about the divorce, adoption etc. It seems unnecessarily controversial to me. Of course there may well be learners who had such experiences as children, but it also leaves the rest of us feeling uncomfortable, as well as hinting that it is a bad email because of her background; well-brought-up people also write bad emails. I would imagine that it would have been very easy to write an equally bad email without touching such a sensitive and unnecessary subject.

Am I wrong?


I'm going to try this with my group tonight. It looks really useful - covering a lot of the points that come up in email writing. Will try to post a brief review once I've trialled it. 

Nice lesson, but I agree about the content being a little unnecessary, but why on earth is it a "bad" e-mail? Aren't we being very prescriptive here? Rather than being bad this is simply a "familiar" register with e-mail jargon used by millions of native speakers everyday, there's nothing bad about it at all.  If someone from Finland were able to write a "bad" e-mail like this they would be an advanced level student with a complex knowledge of English grammar, abbreviations, contractions, register and modern e-mail jargon.

Perhaps 'inappropriate' would be a more suitable adjective to use here. You're right, there's nothing 'bad' about the English in this email. The writer does have extremely good command of colloquial English and grammatical structure.
Can she write an effective email though? ‘Millions of native speakers’ would know that you don’t write an email like this to make an enquiry and an ‘advanced level student’ needs (and wants, I’m sure) to learn how to be flexible with register and use language appropriate to the context. Until she has that flexibility, she really doesn’t have ‘complex’ knowledge of the language.
Making appropriate language and layout choices for your purpose, audience and context are essential elements in the language learning process.
One of the key aims of this emailing lesson is clearly to teach students just that.

nice lesson indeed!i agree with you (ogi71) , even in my country, Albania, if a student were able to write such an e-mail, he/she would be considered as an advanced one...

Thank you for your suggestions! It's a nice lesson! I also consider the term bad email not the best one, but I still believe that students need to know that some things should remain private and the overuse of abbreviations can create confusion...It is good to point that out...

It is highly important not only for aspirants but also you and me. Importance of writing mails day by day high even part of our lives. Aspirants must need to know all the forms of writing mails. One must keep in their mind is that should write clear and specific along with polite way of writing.
I agree with other comments made by some teachers here. I appreciate for their valuable points.

Students found this very useful


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