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Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter


This paper suggests an example of genre analysis, which can be considered as a tool for investigating genre systems and teaching discursive competence. Genre analysis is an example of metadiscourse. “…metadiscourse provides a link between texts and cultures” (Hyland 58). Genre analysis is important for writing instructions because it suggests a deeper insight into the genre under consideration and gives an opportunity to develop an understanding of schemes and patterns, which are important for further productive writing.

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We would like to analyze not only surface forms and effects, which were intentionally designated by the writer to affect the reader, but also rhetorical dynamics and contexts in which they occur. Teaching “discursive competence” requires the knowledge of the communicative intent and the associated structure of language (Cheng and Mok 4). It concerns both generic and specific discourses. In the case of genre analysis students deal with generic discourse in terms of selected genre (a job application) and specific discourse of metadiscourse – analysis itself. This study is aimed to examine the choice of language medium, viz. the patterns, valid for all samples of the given genre. The genre, structure and register of the given texts are explored in this paper.

The text

The given texts represent a genre of professional communication in the field of HR, namely letters of application. The primary purpose of this written discourse is to inform the consumer of the genre on the writer’s skills and professionalism and to demonstrate the writer’s suitability for the applied position. Secondary communicative purpose implies influence on the consumer and persuasion to select writer’s letter of application among others.

The genre

The given texts are samples of generic written discourse because it “can be found in different workplace communication situations” (Cheng and Mok 8). These application letters belong to the genre chain representing genres involved in a job application. Thus, other genres will follow in the chain: CV, reply from the employer, invitation to the interview, the conclusion of the contract. The consumer of the genre (an employer) will summarize obtained discourses and revise specific aspects of them. “Thus the generic, linguistic and rhetorical choices that a writer makes will be influenced by the texts that precede or surround the text under construction, and will, in turn, have an effect on the final textual product” (Bremner 308).

This genre represents an interesting field of research for students. Primarily, it is widely used and is considerably important for students in their future life. Secondly, such data are available and can be used while teaching both genre analysis and writing.

Types of information, which can be found in the letters, reflect conventions of written discourse and correspondence. There can be distinguished an addressee, his contact information in the upper left circle, the form of address, the subject matter of the letter, description of writer’s qualifications, further contact information, farewell and signature. The content represents the conventional use of language as a medium of communication.

The Communicative Purpose

In terms of the given genre, the communication is encoded by means of application letter according to the standards procedure and conventional means, including (1) formatting the letter and (2) inclusion of appropriate information concerning the goal of communication – to draw the attention of an employer and made him act adequately. The communication is carried out, transmitted, and received by means of the abovementioned letter (a vehicle of communication) and context, which is valid in this very culture (envelope, post-office, distribution of letter, etc.). The message of communication is decoded by the receiver of the letter, and it is he who is supposed to act upon the communication, i.e. invite the applicant to the interview.

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Painter assumes some systems of options for meaning (177). In terms of register analysis the following language systems and patterns were identified in Text 1: (1) process type is relational (e.g. be, allow, appreciate) and material (obtain, provide, give). The content expresses transitive participation in a certain circumstance type: applying for a job, official business-like manner. The declarative mood is used, modality in the sentence “I would appreciate the opportunity” highlights the difference in statuses of writer and consumer. Polarity is surely positive. The whole text is intended to make a positive impression on the reader. Vocation is official: “Dear Ms. Benjamin”. The first person is used to underline the personal achievements of the applicant: “I am confident”, “I recently obtained”, “provided me with a strong background”, “I was responsible”. Speech function embraces statements and implied persuasion. Ordering of elements is marked: “my knowledge of employee training and development, initiative, and interpersonal skills in an interview”. Reference is backward: “it has also given me”, “this program”. Conjunction is represented by such words as As, While, Although in a preposition.

We cannot say that the genre of the given texts is formal. Although they are designed according to some conventional rules, written genre does not mean that it is purely formal. The lexis is neutral and does not contain some bookish or strictly formal elements.

Genre is involved in social processes and serves as a vehicle for achieving certain socially relevant purposes. In terms of register analysis and investigation of the situational contexts, field, tenor and mode of the texts have been examined. Concerning the field, the texts deal with job applications. As for the tenor analysis, the status of the consumer is higher because the applicant addresses him and tries to persuade in competency for the proposed position. It is the asymmetric distribution of power. The tone is formal and business-like for the sake of objectivity and demonstration of writer’s negotiating skills. In terms of mode, the texts are written, represent print distant communication, the feedback is delayed.

Types of Content

Now it is necessary “…to characterize the rhetorical context by revealing some of the expectation and understandings of the audience for whom a text was written” (Hyland 58). According to Mann, Matthiessen and Thompson, “a theory of text structure describes what sorts of parts texts have, and the principles of a combination of parts into entire texts” (41). We have defined such text spans in Text 1: addressee, vocation, subject-matter of the letter, education, practice, suggestion for further consideration, farewell and signature. Each span is limited by one paragraph and linked by means of referencing and conjunctions As, While, Although, which contribute to text coherence. Implications for Teaching

As genre analysis of the letter of application has shown its importance and relevance for teaching writing, it can be recommended for use in academic studies.

Students as members of academic community should master genre analysis, because it is an example of metadiscourse. “…metadiscourse offers a way of understanding the interpersonal resources writers use to organize texts coherently and to convey their personality, credibility, reader sensitivity and relationship to the message” (Hyland 59). Students should develop discursive competence in the scope of textual competency, which implies language use for efficient applying for a job. Generic competency shows the response to used conventions and letter writing in a proper way. Social competency is developed by means of participating in social contexts, e.g. applying for a job, and expressing one social identity designing such a letter, which describes own achievements. It is necessary to emphasize the importance of primary (letter of application) and secondary (genre analysis) genres.

Genre unites communicative events to achieve some communicative purpose. Thus, teaching activity should be not only content-based, but also event-based. Interaction is needed to provide feedback, and joint work on the genres is offered. The students are divided into two groups, and each group selects a genre. One group is supposed to provide primary writing, and the secondary one is supposed to analyze provided samples. Thus, students will achieve the purpose of writing and analysis. Moreover, they will be involved in the cultural context, because they will evaluate whose application letter is better in terms of its impression on the employer.

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This paper has described the genre of letter of application for a job. It has developed the thesis of genres in the social process using an example of an application letter. It has suggested interactive activity to evaluate both the writing and evaluating skills of students. This study was aimed to prove the importance of genre analysis, because “This will provide the learner with insights into the English-speaking” (Painter 172). Thus, the importance of genre analysis and its profit is beyond any doubt.

Works Cited

Bremner, Stephen. Intertextuality and business communication textbooks: Why students need more textual support. English for Specific Purposes, 2008. 27: 306-321.

Cheng, W., and Mok, E. Discourse processes and products: Land surveyors in Hong Kong. English for Specific Purposes, 2007. doi: 10.1016/j.esp.2007.

Hyland, Ken. Metadiscourse: Exploring interaction in writing. London: Continuum, 2005.

Mann, William C., Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen, and Sandra A. Thompson. “Rhetorical structure theory and text analysis.” Discourse description: Diverse linguistic analyses of a fund-raising text. Ed. William C. Mann and Sandra A. Thompson. Pragmatics & Beyond New Series, 16. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1992. 39-78.

Painter, Clare. “Understanding Genre and Register: Implications for Language Teaching.” Analyzing English in a Global Context: A Reader. Ed. A. Burns and C. Coffin. London: Routledge, 2001. 167-180.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 7). Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter.

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"Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter." StudyCorgi, 7 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter." December 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter." December 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter." December 7, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Discourse in Language Teaching: The Genre of Letter'. 7 December.

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