DESIGNER:  Larissa
HOME SCHOOL: Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University
HOME CITY: Pyatigorsk
HOST UNIVERSITY: University of South Carolina
CONTACT INFORMATION (Optional): litoboika@mail.ru; larissagor@yahoo.com

Activity Specifics
PROFICIENCY LEVEL: Upper-Intermediate
FOCUS: Focus on active vocabulary learning
THEME: Letters of Complaint
TIME REQUIRED: 35-40 min.

1. Introduction and further training of euphemistic expressions used in business correspondence.
2. Teaching students to compose business letters that would sound polite and diplomatic.

A task sheet for each student with Letters 1.1 -2.2.


1. The teacher explains to the students the meaning of the term “euphemism”.

Warm-up Activity
2. Students in pairs try to decide what the following euphemisms refer to (Exercise 1):
∑       The Chairman was economical with the truth.
∑       This is not a non-risk policy.
∑       The company is in a non-profit situation.
∑       I think your figures are misleading.
∑       The disadvantaged senior citizens will benefit from this tax cut.

3.  Students discuss for several minutes the role of euphemisms in business practice.

Vocabulary Work
4. Students read the business letters and do the matching activity (Exercise 2).  

5. The correct answers are reported to the class and discussed. The teacher clarifies difficult points.
Correct Answers to Exercise 2:
1)l, 2)n, 3)a, 4)j, 5)d, 6)g, 7)b, 8)f, 9)e, 10)m, 11)i, 12)c, 13)h, 14)k .

Writing Activity
6. Students work in groups of 4. First each pair of students writes a short letter of complaint. Then the pairs exchange their letters and compose polite answers accepting or rejecting the complaint.

The teacher walks around while groups work at the exercises helping and assessing their performance.
After the lesson the groups hand in their letters for checking and marking. The teacher gives 2 marks: 1) for the letter in general (language, style, spelling, layout); 2) for the use of euphemistic expressions (whether the letter sounds polite or not).

NOTE: Some of the sentences in Exercise 1 were taken from John and Liz Soars. Headway Advanced. - Oxford University Press, 1989. The business letters were taken from Shirley Tailor, Leonard Gartside. Model Business Letters and Other Business Documents.- Moscow: "Prospect” Publishing House, 2005.

HANDOUT (1 for each student):

A euphemism is a polite way of expressing something thought to be unpleasant.

Exercise 1
What do you think the following euphemisms refer to?
∑       The Chairman was economical with the truth.
∑       This is not a non-risk policy.
∑       The company is in a non-profit situation.
∑       I think your figures are misleading.
∑       The disadvantaged senior citizens will benefit from this tax cut.

Exercise 2
Here are several business letters, in which people complain of some problem, accept or reject complaints. They use euphemisms to make their letter sound less rude and more diplomatic.
The euphemisms have been replaced by more straightforward expressions. Match the euphemisms to the correct place in the article.

Place in the text
1)      a particularly ungenerous way
2)      a repetition of the same kind of misunderstanding is now unlikely       
3)      are clearly not giving satisfaction
4)      for your inconvenience
5)      has caused us a good deal of concern and we are glad that you brought this matter to our notice
6)      of the difficulties you are having with
7)       of the quality which our earlier dealings with you have led us to expect
8)      the inconvenience
9)      they are not perfect
10)     to explain a most regrettable misunderstanding
11)     unsatisfactory
12)     unsuitable
13)     We sympathize with your problem but regret that we cannot accept your suggestion
14)     which caused us some annoyance

Dear Sirs
We have recently received several complaints from customers about your fountain pens. The pens (a) are very bad and in some cases we have had to refund the purchase price.
The pens are part of the batch of 500 supplied against our order number 8562 dated 28 March. This order was placed on the basis of a sample pen left by your representative. We have ourselves compared the performance of this sample with that of a number of the pens from this batch, and there is little doubt that many of them are faulty - some of them leak and others blot when writing.
The complaints we have received relate only to pens from the batch mentioned. Pens supplied before these have always been satisfactory.
We therefore wish to return the unsold balance, amounting to 377 pens.
Please replace them with pens (b) of good quality.
Please let us know what arrangements you wish us to make for the return of these (c) defective pens.
Yours faithfully

Dear Mr Freeman
Thank you for your letter dated 10 May pointing out faults in the pens supplied to your order number 8562. This (d) has given us a lot of trouble.
We have tested a number of pens from the production batch you mention, and agree that (e) they are of very poor quality. The defects have been traced to a fault in one of the machines which has now been rectified.
Please arrange to return to us your unsold balance of 377 pens; the cost of postage will be reimbursed in due course. We have already arranged for 400 pens to be sent to replace this unsold balance. The extra 23 pens are sent without charge, and will enable you to provide free replacement of any further pens about which you may receive complaints.
We apologize for (f) the trouble this has caused you.
Yours sincerely
General Manager

Dear Mr Freeman
We are sorry to learn from your letter of 10 May (g) of the poor quality of the pens supplied to your order number 8562.
All our pens are manufactured to be identical in design and performance and we cannot understand why some of them should have given trouble to your customers. It is normal practice for each pen to be individually examined by our Inspection Department before being passed into store. However, from what you say, it would seem that a number of the pens included in the latest batch escaped the usual examination.
(h) We reject your suggestion to take back all the unsold stock from the batch concerned.
Indeed there should be no need for this since it is unlikely that the number of faulty pens can be very large. We will gladly replace any pen found to be (i) defective, and on this particular batch are prepared to allow you a special discount of 5% to compensate (j) for any troubles you had because of these pens.
We trust you will accept this as being a fair and reasonable solution of this matter.
Yours sincerely
General Manager

Dear Ms Jackson
Thank you for your letter of 5 July. As you wish to know why we have placed no orders with you recently, I will point out a matter (k) which annoyed us greatly.        
On 21 April last year we sent you two orders, one for £274 and one for £142. Your terms at the time provided for free delivery of all orders for £300 or more, but although you delivered these two orders together we were charged with the cost of carriage.
As the orders were submitted on different forms, we grant that you had a perfect right to treat them as separate orders. However for all practical purposes they could very well have been treated as one, as they were placed on the same day and delivered at the same time. The fact that you did not do this seemed to us to be (l) a very mean way of treating a regular long-standing customer.
Having given you our explanation, we should welcome your comments.
Yours sincerely
General Manager

Dear Mr Allen
Thank you for your letter of 8 July. Your explanation gives us the opportunity (m) to find an excuse for our mistake.
Our charge for carriage on your last two orders arose because they were for goods dealt with by two separate departments, neither of which was aware that a separate order was being handled by another.
At that time these departments were each responsible for their own packing and dispatch arrangements. Since then this work has been taken over by a centralized packing and dispatch department so (n) we won’t make this mistake again.
I hope you will understand that the charge we made was quite unintentional. In the circumstances I hope you will feel able to renew your former custom.
Yours sincerely
Marketing Manager