Archive for May, 2013

How to write topic sentence in Business Letter (Formal Letter)

Some common Malaysian mistakes in reply business letters


“We refer to the above.”

“With reference to the above, …”

“Referring to the above matter, …”

“With regard to the above, …”

Or, when you want to sound very “corporate” :

“Pertaining to the above-captioned matter, …”

Or, when you want to use Malaysian Business Language:

“The above matter refers.”

They are a waste of ink.


Use a topic sentence such as:

“Thank you for your letter of 22nd March 2012, in which you …………

Effective Topic Sentences do not use the phrase

“the above matter” or “the above subject”,

nor do they use the words

“refer”, “reference”, “regarding”, “pertaining to”!



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How to improve your English

Ways to improve English

happy girls

Read, write, listen and speak and you will get there.



Read books whose subjects interest you, and try if possible to get some advice on whether the books you have chosen are written well.

Also, choose books whose language provides some challenge to you, but not too much, because that might discourage you. If there are 10 or more words on every page that you don’t know the meaning of, find a simpler book.

There is also no library near you. You can go to the Project Gutenberg website at languages/en


Reading alone is not enough, look up a word in a dictionary to find out its exact meaning or meanings.



 Improving on your writing skill. If you have no tutor or a friend to help you, just write a diary. You don’t need to write every day. But whenever you feel happy or upset or angry about something, try to write how you feel in your diary.

Never mind if it is somewhat ungrammatical at first: you will get better as you read more and write more. And if you feel upset or angry, writing it all down may actually help you feel less upset or angry.



The BBC has a useful website for learning English, where you can also improve your listening skills through listening to the passages that are read aloud, and the conversations between people.

Try browsing the following site: index.shtml



Speaking may be the skill that is hardest to improve. Having a friend who is proficient in English would be helpful. If you don’t have such a friend, try getting a tutor, if you can afford it.

If you have neither friend of that description, nor cash to pay for a tutor, don’t despair. If you listen to the language often enough, you can try to speak it on your own.

Try reading aloud in the privacy of your home or room. It can be enjoyable.


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How to reply a letter of complaint

Do you believe that the customer is always right? If so, you will write a Letter of Apology, which might go something like this:


Dear Customer,

We are extremely sorry that you have been disappointed in our service. We were definitely in the wrong and we sincerely apologise for all the inconvenience which you have had to suffer because of the negligence of our staff …

You might end by repeating the apology:

Once again, please accept our profound apologies.


You have just lost a customer!


In this extract, there are seven words which can only serve to erode your customer’s confidence even further in your company.

If the customer is right, then someone has to be wrong.

So don’t write any such thing!


In dealing with complaints,

the issue of who is right and who is wrong should not come into question.

So, when a complaint comes in,

write a Letter of Adjustment.

Using the ‘5 As’:

> Acknowledge:

This is not like acknowledging a cheque, so don’t write:Your letter has been received and the contents noted. As mentioned in a previous article in this column, this is rude.

Write a topic sentence which summarises the customer’s difficulties. Only when you have acknowledged the customer’s difficulties will you have credibility to do something about these difficulties.

Don’t use the word refer in a topic sentence. Write something like: Thank you for your letter of (DATE) in which you highlight to us the delays you have experienced in …

> Accept:

Accept the blame if you need to, but don’t write sorry and try to avoid apologies also; use regret, as it serves to place some distance between you and the conflict. Remember, the integrity of your company is in your hands.

> Account:

Account for the problem. Give some explanation. Don’t overdo this. I once received a letter of adjustment from a bank, in which I was informed that the manager of the department had been dismissed because of dishonesty.

Knowing that certainly did not increase my confidence in that bank! When you account for the problem, be briefly informative as a courtesy to the customer.

> Act:

Do something! Tell the customer what you have done or will do. You may not be able to accede to a request like I demand a complete refund! At least say that you are investigating the issue or that you have passed therequest (not demand) to your management for their consideration.

> Assure:

Do not write this common, though meaningless and insincere sentence: Assuring you of our best service at all times. It’s a lie! Nobody can ever assure this.

Similarly don’t write

We assure you that this will never happen again.

If it does happen again, you are in double trouble!

Assure only what you are capable of delivering. Before assuring anything, ensure that you have both the Capacity (physical and legal) and the Commitment (from all parties in the organisation) to deliver.


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Mistakes in English 5

Some Malaysian expressions and words

which are not standard English:

running dog


Local use: The man horned loudly.

Standard English: The man sounded his horn loudly.

In standard English, horn is a noun, not a verb.


Local use: Chop this form, please.

Standard English: Please stamp this form.

In standard English, chop means “to cut into pieces”.


Local use: Please off the lights when you leave the room.

Standard English: Please switch off the lights when you leave the room.

In standard English, on and off are not verbs.


Local use: We cannot cut buses on this busy road.

Standard English: We cannot pass (or overtake) buses on this busy road.


Local use: Open the lights. Open the screw.

Standard English: Switch on the lights. Loosen the screw.

In standard English we cannot “open the lights”, though we can “open the door”.


Local use: I will follow you to the party,

Standard English: I will go with you to the party.

In standard English, follow means “to go behind”.


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Manglish: common mistakes

Some common mistakes made by Malaysian



Malaysians use words with the wrong meaning.

Here are some common mistakes


Wrong: Can you borrow me five ringgit?

Correct: Can you lend me five ringgit?


Wrong: He is living in Hotel Odeon. (The word refers to a place where one lives for a long time, as in a home)

Correct: He is staying in Hotel Odeon. (For a place one stays for a short time)


Wrong: The state of Malaysia. (This is a country)

Correct: The state of Malacca.


Wrong: They learn History and Mathematics. (Learning is used for skills such as cooking or driving)

Correct: They study History and Mathematics.


Wrong: They ate a lot of fishes for dinner.

Correct: They ate a lot of fish for dinner.


Wrong: The lady goes marketing to get food for her family. (Marketing means to sell something)

Correct: The lady goes shopping to get food for her family.

Other oddities in written Malaysian English include:


WrongIts cool in Fraser’s hill. (Its signifies something that belongs to the hill, eg: “its lush greenery”)

CorrectIt’s cool in Fraser’s hill. (It’s is a contraction of “it is”)


Wrong: Keep quite!

Correct: Keep quiet!


Wrong: His work is worst than yours. (A superlative adjective)

Correct: His work is worse than yours. (A comparative adjective)


Wrong: They walked passed the shop. (The past tense of the verb “pass”)

Correct: They walked past the shop. (This is a preposition. “Past” usually follows a verb eg: “He ran past the garden”)


Wrong: The lost of her handbag really stressed her.

(This is the past tense of “lose” and is a verb)

Correct: The loss of her bag really stressed her. (This is a noun)



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