Functional Writing


  • Read the question carefully!

    • Do not ignore any details and do not change important facts in the situation.

    • Use all the points provided as omitting any point will lead to loss of marks

    • Types of function writing: letters, reports, accounts, newspaper or magazine articles, speeches

    • Read The Straits Times Forum section to the writing style for formal letters

Consider the following questions:

  1. Who am I writing for? [Audience]

      • They could be the public, principal, teacher, friend, company manager, town council etc

  2. Why am I writing this? [Purpose]

      • To give an account of something I witnessed, to complain about something, to explain, inform. instruct, convince and persuade, sell, etc

  3. How is this piece to be written? [Format]

      • report, letter, account, article. statement, review. speech etc

  4. What is the tone I should use? [Language]

    • formal, informal, persuasive, informative, argumentative etc

1. Formal Letter

  • Leave a line after each paragraph.

    • Paragraphs should all start from the left.

  • Below are the suggested structures for formal letters of different purposes.

  • If you are writing to somebody as representative of an organisation, include the name of YOUR organisation before the sender’s address and also YOUR position/ status in the company at the END after your name.

  • Use ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the recipient'’s name eg Dear Mr Tan

  • Use ‘Yours faithfully’ if you don’'t know the recipient’'s name

Eg. writing a letter to a newspaper

  • address your letter to the newspaper editor

    • give a heading

    • agree or disagree with a previous writer or write without referring to a letter already published (see the forum section of the straits times to see how it is written)

    • give reasons/evidence for your points

    • be polite

    • don't make accusations which you cannot prove

Sample O Level style question:

Some Open House suggestions have been added by other students. You will write a letter to the principal,

Mr Kenny, on the best suggestion for the Open House.

Memory Lane Video

We will use old footage or photographs of the school to show its development and progress. Interviews with

teachers and past students will pique newcomers' interest and help them know what we have built.

School Open House Party

We should invite guests to a party where we can mingle and chat as guides. Potential students will enjoy

the way we interact and the day will as a small party to remember the day.

Forum with Creative Handouts

Parents and potential students will surely need to ask questions. A 2 hour forum with the teachers and

present students fielding questions will definitely be helpful. We will turn the lecture studio into a funky place

with interesting posters, and give out creative souvenirs to help them remember their time here.

Write a letter between 250-350 words, written in a respectful tone.

2. Informal Letter

  • start by thanking your friend for a letter (if the letter is in reply from your friend)

    • eg Dear Sha Sha,

    • Many thanks for your letter of 3rd March, which arrived this morning.

  • Think of an excuse to make you finish the letter

    • eg. I must stop now because it's time for dinner and Mum needs this tabke

    • eg. Sorry, I've got to go now as I have to look after my baby brother.

  • For informal letter, you may use sign-off with other appropriate phrases such as ‘Your friend’ depending on the context of the letter.

  • Examples of phrases you can use in informal letters:

    • That reminds me...

    • Why don't we...

    • I'd better get going...

    • Thanks for your letter...

    • Please let me know...

    • I'm really sorry...

    • Love,

    • Could you do me a favour?

    • You'll be happy to know that...

Practise! Write letter of about 200-300 words for the following:

  1. Write a letter to a friend whom you have not seen or spoken to for in a long time. Tell him/her what you have been doing and ask how he/she are and what he/she has been doing recently.

  2. Write a letter to a friend you know has been having some problems. Ask him/her how he/she is doing and how you can help.

Sample O Level style question:

Your grandfather, who lives in the United States, has offered to pay for your December holiday in USA. After comparing the various packages offered by the tour agencies, he identified two reasonably-priced packages with fun-filled activities :

  • Ripley’s Mysterious Journey (a 20-minute ride from grandfather’s house)

    • largest haunted mansion in USA

    • thrilling roller coaster rides

    • “A Night on Elm Street” Horror Tour

    • 190m high bungee jump

    • Frankenstein's Cafe

    • Various sidewalk cafes that offer international cuisine

  • Costner’s Waterworld (a 2-hour ride from grandfather’s house)

    • High-speed flume ride for the adventurous

    • 635m long artificial rapid river – longest in USA

    • artificial wave pool for tsunami effect

    • world's bubbliest jacuzzi

    • skyrider for a spectacular aerial view

    • famous fast food restaurants such as Carl’s Junior and Macdonald’s

Write a letter to your grandfather, thanking him for his kind offer. Tell him which attraction you have

chosen and explain in details your reasons for doing so. Remember your grandfather wants you to enjoy yourself and is concerned for your happiness. At the same time, he would like to spend some time with you.

Set your letter out correctly, in clear, accurate English, and use an affectionate tone which will show him how much you appreciate his offer and his interest. Your letter should be between 250 – 350 words.

Note: You may email me your letters for comments :)

3. Report Writing

  • show who the report is for and who wrote it

  • give a report heading

  • use formal language

  • use subheadings and numbered paragraphs when necessary

  • no need for formal greeting or ending

  • write the date

  • Use first person

  • Name of person to be in full

  • Don't need to sign your name.

  • No indentation (need a new line to indicate the start of every new paragraph)

A. General reports

To: (name of person the report is sent to)

From: (writer of report)

Date: (date the report was written)

B. Reports to authorities

Sample O Level style question:

The Superintendent wants you to look into a complaint case made by a mother of two children who go to St Mary's School. It regards South Street, a dangerous stretch of road near where she lives. You are the police inspector of that precinct. You have been asked to conduct an investigation, making observations about the road condition in that area. The Traffic Police Department you are in specialises in upholding road safety.

Below are the points highlighted by the mother:

  • heavy traffic during morning peak hours which coincide with the school children's arrival time

  • drivers exceed stipulated speed limit

  • narrow pavement for pedestrians

  • poor visibility round the bend

Write a report for your Superintendent, addressing each of the concerns highlighted by the mother. Explain in detail how these problems are hazardous to the residents, especially the school children.

Include in your report your suggestions on how to improve the traffic condition and improve safety. Your report should be between 250 – 350 words.

3. Informative Article

Eg. a web page on the school

  • Use a simple title eg Welcome to our Homepage

Use the following structure:

Paragraph 1: Brief history of the school

Paragraph 2: Details that is required of you in the question

4. News Article

  • generally, use short paragraphs - about 2 t0 5 lines per paragraph

  • Include a catchy headline and a byline


    • Byline eg

John Smith

Staff Writer

  • Include the following structure:

Paragraph 1: summarize the whole article

  • Eg. A mysterious object was seen in the night sky over Singapore, generating panic among the public.

  • Eg. Two men were killed and dozens injured when a fire swept through a night club in Moonlight Street last night.

Paragraph 2: Give series of events in chronological sequence

  • give details

  • use dialogues from one or more survivors or witnesses

Paragraph 3: Give general comments on incident

  • say what the police or government are going to do

5. Speeches

  • Use the following structure

  • Paragraph 1: salutations

      • introduce yourself

      • state purpose of speech

Eg. A very good morning to Mdm Tan, Mrs Li, Mr Joby and fellow students of Toa Payoh Secondary School. My name is Benny Tan of Sec 4E1 and I am here to speak in support of my friend, Lee Sha Sha of Sec 4E1 who is standing for elections to the Student Council.

Eg. Ladies and gentlemen, this evening it is my pleasure to welcome our guest speaker...

Subsequent paragraphs:

  • highlight the points that are given in the question. Maintain a persuasive tone throughout the speech


  • End with a personal or general comment

eg. I hope I have convinced you that Lee Sha Sha is an ideal candidate and should be elected to the Student Council.

Thank you.

  • you can write in the same way as you speak

      • using short forms: I'm, I'll, We'll, don't

      • using non sentences at times: Should we worry about the cost? No, not at all

      • sometimes mentioning the audience: And so you see, my friends, that this is not the only way to solve the problem

  • sum up at the end of your speech, or tell your audience what you want them to do eg vote for whoever.

Sample O Level style question 1:

The teacher will pick 2 pairs to present each of the topic below. These pairs play the role of a student committee who will persuade the class for an activity during the holidays. The class may also choose two more people to be part of the ground to speak up during the dialogue session. The class has to decide, at the end of 10 -15 minutes, the activity that will benefit the class best during the holidays.

A Business Course

A two-day workshop, the business course will provide learning for basic money management, business ideas and a look into how systems are run in the world today that affects everyday trade. Students will also get a hands on project to develop a group business idea.

A First Aid Course

Held overnight at a retreat, the first aid course will teach students how to give aid in life threatening

situations, and provide tips on how to treat ailments and wounds. The students will also go through a life simulation of a dangerous situation and provide first aid on the spot for practice.

Sample O Level style question 2:

The principal of your school has agreed to hold a week’s course in the December vacation for senior students like yourself. You will be given instructions on a useful course that is not already covered in the school curriculum. The subject will be chosen by you and your classmates. You and your classmates now have to decide on a course for your class, based in the following suggestions received:

A Humanitarian Programme

I’d like to suggest that we join a Humanitarian Programme in a neighbouring country. Singapore teenagers lead a sheltered and affluent life. Learning to help others in times of need will help us see life outside of our comfort zone and teach us important lessons.

A Marathon Challenge

Why don't we take the chance to keep fit? We know the importance of staying healthy. Doing a marathon as a class can build team work, and perserverance. We will have a good memory of this challenge long after we leave the school. If we win, we can donate the prize money to the school or a charity.

Tuition for Underprivileged Children

Can we use our skills and learning to help underprivileged children in Singapore? Children in

disadvantaged backgrounds often need help in their academia but do not have the money for tuition. We can offer our time and help develop their knowledge. Who knows? We may even forge a lasting friendship.

Write a speech in which you explain to your classmates which of the three courses you prefer and

your reasons for your choice. Try to persuade them to support you and convince them that your choice is the course that should be provided.

Sample O Level style question 3:

Introducing A Guest Speaker

You are advised to write between 250 and 300 words for this section. You should read the information carefully and plan your answer before beginning to write.

Your school has invited someone to speak during a school event to award outstanding student leaders, and you have been asked to give a speech introducing the guest speaker. Write the speech, with the following points in mind :

  • Who the person is

  • What his/her achievements are

  • What topic he/she will be talking about

  • Why he/she has the credentials for the talking

You are to address the speech to a school of students, so be sure not to be overly formal. You may begin as follows : Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very pleased to introduce a very special guest...

6. Debate speech

  • start by addressing the chair and your guests and audience

      • eg Madam Chair, honoured guests, fellow students...

    • say which side of the debate you are on

      • eg I am delighted to support the motion that some of our streets be closed to all vehicles from 7.30am to 6.30pm and I urge you to vote in favour of the motion

      • eg Like any other reasonable person, I am bound to oppose the proposal to ban vehicles from our streets. I urge you to oppose the motion and to...

  • put forward your ideas in support of your position.

    • anticipate the main points of the opposition and show that they are wrong

    • remember to use speech forms

  • finish your speech by repeating that you want your listeners to vote for or against the motion

7. Making a police statement

  • start by identifying yourself:

      • name and address

      • when and where something happened

    • if you were a witness and heard somebody say something, quote the exact words which the person said (don't use reported speech)

    • describe what happened from the beginning to the end

    • describe the people involved in the accident if necessary (describe the criminals/drivers/victims but not the appearance of firemen or the police etc)

    • no need for greeting or formal ending. just sign your name at the end of the statement


I am Jane Zhen Shan Lin and I live in Block 123, #15-323, Toa Payoh Road, Singapore 123323 (make this up!)

At about 5.30pm on Friday, 12th May, I was standing outside the Lee Mah Jewellery Shop at 453 Newton Road when a large black car...

7. Brochure/Leaflet

Underlined title:________________________

Introduction to the topic:

  • brief history of the company

  • refer to context provided in the question paper


  • provide various solutions to the problem/topic

  • list of goods/services that the company provides

Name of company/organisation

  • business address

  • contact number

  • website

8. Situational writing

4 main types of topic are possible

  1. using given notes as the basis of an answer

  2. writing an answer based on a picture (with or without notes)

  3. writing an answer based on a series of pictures eg robbery, accident etc

  4. studying a number of different suggestions

a. Using notes


  1. who am I supposed to be in the topic?

  2. What am I supposed to do?

  3. Who am I writing to?

  4. What format must I use?

  • it may be necessary to rearrange the notes to get a more logical order

  • check whether you have to use all the information given in the notes or you can omit some

  • check if you can add other relevant information

b. Using a picture

  • say what the scene shows and then go into detail, perhaps in order of importance

  • look for the main point in the picture eg an injured person, a fire, a statue etc. Then describe what you seem moving outwards from the main point

  • work from the foreground to the background or from left to right

c. Using a series of pictures

Study the question and see what information you can add. If possible, add

  • names of people involved

  • time and date

  • name of the place where the action occurred

  • these details will make it easier to give an account of the incident, especially if many people are involved

  • consider using relevant dialogues

  • pace yourself to ensure you allocate equal time to each picture

d. choosing from a number of ideas or suggestions

eg deciding the best use of a new school building and writing a report to explain your choice

eg. deciding the best place to hold a school event and writing a letter to explain your choice

  • Pick the one which is easiest for you to write about

Need more help in composition and functional writing? Consider getting a tutor who can help monitor your progress and give you guidance to help you improve. And of course, you have to read up more on your own as well.



You are advised to write between 150 and 200 words for this section. You should read the information carefully and plan your answer before beginning to write.

During a school holiday you made friends with a Canadian student who was visiting Singapore for a short time. You arranged to meet her at the airport, to say goodbye, on the day she was returning to Canada. Unfortunately, you were delayed on your way to the airport, and by the time you got there, her plane had left.

Write an email to your friend

- apologising for your failure to say goodbye

- explaining the reasons you were delayed

- saying how much you enjoyed her stay

- talk about one or more particularly memorable places the two of you visited

Useful Words and Phrases

    1. To indicare more info

      • besides

      • furthermore

      • in addition

      • indeed

      • in fact

      • moreover

      • secondly, thirdly, etc

    2. To indicate an example

      • for example

      • for instance

      • in particular

      • particularly

      • specifically

      • to demonstrate

      • to illustrate

    3. To indicate a cause or reason

      • as

      • because

      • because of

      • due to

      • for the reason that

      • since

    4. To indicate a result or effect

      • accordingly

      • finally

      • consequently

      • hence

      • so

      • thus

      • therefore

    5. To indicate a purpose or reason why

      • for fear that

      • in the hope that

      • in order to

      • so

      • so that

      • with this in mind

    6. To compare or contrast

      • although

      • however

      • in comparison

      • in contrast

    7. Addition

      • also

      • again

      • as well as

      • besides

      • coupled with

      • furthermore

      • in addition

      • likewise

      • moreover

      • similarly

    8. Consequence

      • accordingly

      • as a result

      • consequently

      • for this purpose

      • hence

      • otherwise

      • subsequently

      • therefore

      • thus

      • thereupon

    9. Generalising

      • as a rule

      • as usual

      • for the most part

      • generally

      • generally speaking

      • usually

      • ordinarily

    10. Exemplifying

      • chiefly

      • especially

      • for instance

      • in particular

      • markedly

      • namely

      • particularly

      • including

      • specifically

      • such as

    11. Illustration

  • for example

  • for instance

  • for one thing

  • as an illustration

  • illustrated with

  • as an example

  • in this case