How to write an application letter in Indian English

Pappu Patligali, our perennial hero, recently moved to India after spending years abroad working on various IT projects. Pappu studied in English-medium schools before completing his engineering degree from a state engineering college in Karnataka. In school, Pappu enjoyed reading novels written by Enid Blyton, but was not thrilled with studying English. He didn’t know why his teachers insisted that he study grammar from Wren & Martin, a book originally written for children of British officers in 1935 (during the reign of King George V) .

Pappu wrote in a very ornate style before moving abroad for higher studies. He soon learned how to write letters and emails in a more direct manner.

So, upon his return to India, he applied to join the local Housing Cooperative with the following letter:

Dear Sir/Madam:

My name is Pappu Patligali. I’ve recently moved into the neighborhood and I’d really like to join your Society as a full-time member. I’ve enclosed a completed application form along with all required fees. I’d really appreciate your help in expediting the process.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any further information. I look forward to meeting you in person!

Thanks in advance,

Sincerely,

Pappu Patligali

On submitting the letter, Pappu was told brusquely that he didn’t know how to write in English and that he needed to resubmit in triplicate with full particulars per the approved sample proforma letter. Of course, there was no use telling the Society’s members that the National Council of Educational Research and Training now publishes a textbook recommending that letters be written in a modern style.  Pappu just ended up showing his NRI ignorance.

Ultimately, Pappu followed the prescribed proforma and sent the following letter in triplicate:

Respected Sir:

Respectfully, I beg to state that I am Pappu Patligali, son of Sri Jhappu Patligali currently domiciled in Nayaghat within PS- Kotwali in District Uttar Dinajpur under the jurisdiction of your esteemed Society.  My permanent address is Village Rampur, of aforementioned District and police jurisdiction. It is hereby requested forthwith that I may please be enrolled as a Member of your Society under the provisions of Bye-laws and State Act of 1962 the Rules framed thereover and thereunder.

Therefore, I seek to humbly request herewith to deposit the prescribed amount as payment in cash the membership fee and the entrance fee today for which kindly money receipt from branch-office near Hanuman Mandir may please be issued on paper in my favour. Further, I am to forthwith state that I shall endeavour to solemnly and most faithfully abide by the rules and Bye-laws of the Society as Member of the Society with my firstborn forfeit and under pain of death (as per provisions articulated in Byelaw No. 221 Part C dated Jan 20, 1962).  Moreover, sir, it is my heartiest and most humble entreaty to you to kindly and most generously look into the matter and do the most needful at your earliest convenience.

I remain, yours obediently,

Full signature of Pappu Patligali

Place :

Date :-

(s/d attestation of first-class gazetted officer)

Needless to say Pappu’s letter is currently in a file under a stack of similar letters awaiting review by the Secretary of the Society.

Footnote: Although I’ve written both letters specifically for this post, I’ve been heavily influenced in the second letter by actual examples on the internet including this one.  If you have time, take a look at question 17 of the 2009 UPSC General Ability Test which asks test-takers to look at the following sentence: “Respectfully I beg to state that I am suffering from fever for the past fortnight.”

Read about Pappu’s next misadventure here.

© 2010-2012, Anirban


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64 thoughts on “How to write an application letter in Indian English

  1. Pappu Patligali..Ohh my gawd…the laugh killed my stomach :D

    QUite an “alankaar” flooded letter :)

    PS: Wren Martin–>a book originally written for children of British officers in 1935..nice trivia yaar..It is true naa ??

    • Haah… thanks for reading.

      I remember Wren & Martin being pretty old but that trivia is from Wikipedia. S Chand & Sons has made a lot of money from that one!

  2. hehhe…but unfortunately that is sooo true.After coming to UK(Queens country) I had to re learn English. People here have forgotten the complex English we still use in India. Loved ur post…hilarious :)

    • Thanks. I had to make a conscious effort to unlearn everything they shilled in English composition class. Now, I am ignorant to the merits of the present participle but getting by nicely enough.

  3. Dear Sir,

    While it may sound fantastically clichéd to write this comment in the very style that you have so effectively satired in your wonderful post, I regret to inform you that I cannot resist the temptation of doing just that, and consequently, I am endeavouring to write a sentence longer than I have ever written, and shall continue to do so for the rest of this comment.

    I would like to make clear that in my humble opinion, your blog post, as I have previously mentioned, is eloquent and hits the nail on the head, if you will be so kind as to pardon my use of that common adage. I cannot begin to wonder from where you have managed, nay succeeded, to find the patience and industry to write the second letter. It is magnificently, and shall probably serve as an example for bloggers in India, and the world over, for when they, in turn, endeavour to write posts, and shall forever stand as an example of the devotion and dedication that passionate bloggers sometimes put into their blogs.

    To put it succinctly, it was inspiring.

    Where’s the “Like” button on your blog? :P

    PS:
    What you’ve written is true. Thankfully, at XLRI, we had a course in “Managerial Communication”, in which the professor made it a point to ridicule colloquial English, and also made fun of some of the traditional forms of letter writing generally followed in India. While I personally think that my letters sometimes still conform to the “traditional values”, I have begun to write shorter letters that are more to the point.

    Ok, long enough. I think I’m stealing your thunder with this comment! :P

    • Gurdit, that was seriously inspired, man!

      As the BBC series “Yes Minster” demonstrated, the bowels of power in a parliamentary democracy lie in the self-serving bureaucracy. And bureaucracy functions through the art of delegating to the lowest peon who does nothing, and in the meantime cloaking incompetence in flowery language.

      I encourage everyone to watch that series if possible. Another place I often come across contrived pompous language is The Economist. which is primarily written by Oxford hacks who need to demonstrate their erudition at every notice.

      A sentence from Sir Humphrey’s comment in “Yes Minister” will suffice to prove the point:

      “Well, it’s clear that the committee has agreed that your new policy is a really excellent plan but in view of some of the doubts being expressed, may I propose that I recall that after careful consideration, the considered view of the committee was that while they considered that the proposal met with broad approval in principle, that some of the principles were sufficiently fundamental in principle and some of the considerations so complex and finely balanced in practice, that, in principle, it was proposed that the sensible and prudent practice would be to submit the proposal for more detailed consideration, laying stress on the essential continuity of the new proposal with existing principles, and the principle of the principle arguments which the proposal proposes and propounds for their approval, in principle”.

      Thanks again, Gurdit. That was spectacular and it is thoughtful comments like yours that inspire me to keep writing. Applause!

  4. That it brought laughter and smiles may be cliched but that was gr8.However i thought the old queen’s english is passe and there’s more emphasis now on Communicative English.:)

  5. Ha ha….I’ve been through this nightmare before.But honestly speaking I couldn’t have done a better job on your second letter.I can only imagine as to how much of effort went into it.

    You know what?May be it has a greater purpose.May be it’ll serve as a standard template for all those GenYs out there from now on! :P

    • Thanks so much. I started writing and it all came back to me in an instant. I was tempted to go overboard and put in jokes but I limited myself to only one absurdity. Take care.

    • Thanks for reading, Moulee. I remember one good thing about Wren & Martin. My teachers were fond of assigning the exercises for homework.

      I never learned anything because I never did any of them. S Chand & Sons sold a small red answer-key book “for teachers” that anyone could buy. All the answers were in this book.

      Of course that meant that I was up the night before the final exam, but I somehow made my way through it!

  6. Double Dhamaka…. awesome post with kick ass comments …. enjoyed every bit of this experience. Terrific Anirban. I join the crowd in applauding your commitment to the purpose as mentioned in the aforesaid …. I give up. You know what I mean !!

    • Thanks LEB. I loved your recent post too!

      I was told to always use the “respected” salutation while writing to seniors professors etc.

      I found out later in life that using “dear” in the salutation was a formality and did not imply any degree of endearment.

    • Thanks for reading. Language is such an organic thing. My father’s generation watched on with trepidation as mine picked up Americanisms such as “cool” and “freaky”.

      There is definitely a transition. “Needful” is giving way to “necessary”. “Tasteful” to “tasty”.

      We still have peculiarities though. For example “your pass-out is not my look-out”

      Have a good weekend too!

  7. Cant stop laughing after reading your post.. cant stop yet after reading gurdit’s comment.. oh god! plz someone help me!!!!

    reminds of school..
    thnx for bringing back those bitter sweet memories..

    awesome post!! i applaud you for your efforts..

  8. “My name is” is for trash people. Aristrocrats write “Myself PAPPU PATLIGALI” (‘Myself’ at the start indicates that the person, whose name must be in block letters, is highly educated)

    • You know Raja, I started writing myself am —-, but i) I wanted to keep the letter grammatically correct and ii) surprisingly that line was correct in the letter from Orissa that I used as a starting point!

      Thanks for reading.

  9. What Research Dada. am completely in awe of your blog now. I can’t stop laughing. Even I remember doing Wren and Martin as the bible of everything english grammar in school.I being a West Bengal Board school student always thought bing flowery in your official letter helps.

    • Thanks. I was talking to a cousin the other day who also mentioned the fact that we were always told to write as flowery as possible. The ICSE chaps like me used Wren and Martin and Madhyamik chaps used a similar book called Ray and Martin. :)

      • tch. tch. is that the snob “icse has a better english curriculum” speaking? :D. seriously, i didn’t know about ray and martin though i gave “madhyomik”

  10. Hahahaha hilarious! Hey, I was taught this stuff As ‘letter writing in formal English’ in school! And I never managed to get good marks. Thank God for that! (I never opened a Wren & Martin – Thank God for that too!) Anyway I feel many schools still teach this, and most people still believe this is the ‘correct’ English.

    I recommend Michael Crichton’s book ‘The Great Train Robbery’ set in Victorian England as a reference for this “Queen’s English”. Quite gripping too, it is, as I may humbly beg to plead. hahaha whatever. But the book is awesome.

    • Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll look it up and read it. I’ve read many of Crichton’s books and look forward to reading more. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  12. hello sir
    just i looked into your site amaze i would like to know more about writing letter in professional so i if it is possible please send me the format of the letter by following e-mail address nparthipan.n@gmail.com and also i need how to form a sentence with examples.. please do the needful oblige it will be so grateful for you is there any mistake please forgive me

  13. Hi, I need to write an application to the university council to correct spelling mistake in my name that occur in my registration certificate. I don’t know how to write. Can you help me out?

  14. Thanks for this great post. I seriously like the content material you put up on your internet site. Added to my bookmarks for future visits.

  15. dear sir i dont know how to write letter..plz i request you show me how to write bank letter…like i wanna remove my joint account with my dad, remove completly i dont know how to write the letter …plz help me

  16. sir i write a letter to insurance company to change my nominee relationship, but i have not any idea to how write a letter to insurance company. please help me.

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