Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020
ISSN Impreso: 1409-0112 ISSN Electrónico 2215-3586
Filosofía, Artes y Letras
Período Junio - Noviembre 2020
032. - 048.
DOI 10.15517/PA.V20I34.41834
Roy Emilio Gamboa Mena
The Rhetorical Style Structure of the Personal Letter Genre: Contemporary English,
Spanish, and Middle Ages Style Structures Compared
La estructura del estilo retórico del género de la carta personal: una comparación de las estructuras de
estilo contemporáneas del inglés, el español y el de la Edad Media
Roy Emilio Gamboa Mena1
Fecha de recepción: 23-9-2019
Fecha de aprobación: 2-03-2019
A look at rhetoric from a stylistic standpoint allows building an understanding of current rhetorical practices as evolved forms of
rhetoric. By following a qualitative research design described as content analysis by Leedy and Ormrod (2001), the present study
describes the style structure differences and similarities in contemporary personal letter writing in English and Spanish as com-
pared to the style structure of letter writing in the middle ages. It was concluded that personal letter writing in both English and
Spanish does not fully comply with the style structure cannon of letter writing established for each class. Furthermore, English
and Spanish contemporary personal letter writing are rather similar, and the style structure cannons for contemporary personal
letter writing in both English and Spanish can be traced back to that of the Middle Ages.
Key words: rhetoric, style, genre, letter style, letter genre
Una mirada a la retórica desde el punto de vista de la estructura de estilo puede ayudar a comprender las prácticas retóricas actuales
como formas evolucionadas. Siguiendo el diseño cualitativo llamado análisis de contenido según lo describen Leedy and Ormrod
(2001), el presente estudio describe las diferencias y similitudes en la estructura de estilo en la escritura contemporánea de cartas
personales en español y en inglés de manera comparativa con la estructura de estilo de escritura de cartas personales de la Edad
Media. Las conclusiones indican que la escritura de cartas personales contemporáneas en inglés y en español no cumple con los
cánones de la estructura de estilo para la escritura de cartas personales determinados para cada clase. Además, la escritura de
cartas personales contemporáneas en inglés y en español es muy similar y los cánones contemporáneos de la estructura de estilo
para la escritura de cartas personales en inglés y en español se pueden rastrear a los de la Edad Media.
Palabras clave: estilo, retórica, género, carta personal, género de carta
Magister en la Enseñanza del Inglés como Lengua Extranjera, profesor e investigador de la Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica. Correo
electrónico: roy.gamboamena@ucr.ac.cr
Filosofía, Artes y letras
I. Introducción
thought to include the contents of those words, images
and gestures as well as the style or form in which they
The study and analysis of rhetoric can be approached from
are presented.”. In turn, Foss (2018, p. 3) proposes rhetoric
many different perspectives, including style structure.
as “the human use of symbols to communicate.”. She
A look at rhetoric from a stylistic standpoint allows
explains that this definition includes three dimensions:
building an understanding of current rhetorical practices
humans as the creators of rhetoric, symbols as the
as evolved forms of rhetoric. Under this premise, the
medium for rhetoric, and communication as the purpose
present study was aimed at describing the style structure
of rhetoric.
differences and similarities in contemporary personal
letter writing in English and Spanish2 as compared to
2.2. Style
the style structure of letter writing in the middle ages.
To this end, contemporary personal letters in English and
Described as lexis by the ancient Greeks and as elocutio by
Spanish were examined and compared. After this, the two
the Romans, style is a significant component of rhetorical
letter types were compared for features of style structure
discourse. In ancient rhetoric, style is the third of the five
with St. Catherine of Siena’s Letter 15. This report begins
canons. It was the stage at which “the textual material was
by presenting relevant theory on rhetoric and style as a
stylized” (Burke 2017, p. na). According to Burke (2016),
platform upon which the present study rests. Then, a
the first form of stylization of a text by the third canon
brief discussion of the research methodology is presented,
was based on clarity, preciseness, and appropriateness.
as well as a discussion of the findings. Finally, conclusions
Text appropriateness allowed three forms of stylistics:
and recommendations for further research are displayed.
high or florid style used in poetry and literature and
highly persuasive, the low or common style used in more
II. Theoretical considerations
mundane activities like every day communication, and
the middle style which was a combination of the other
2.1. Rhetoric
two and could be used in intermediate situations. In more
modern terms, style has been defined as “the peculiar
The history of rhetoric can be traced some 2400 years
manner in which a man expresses his conceptions, by
back to ancient Greece. “Classical scholars tend to agree
means of language” (Blair cited in Herrick 2013, p. 178).
that the formal condition of rhetoric, as a heuristic
In tun, Brummett (2008. P. xi) defines style by quoting
system, was first written down in the second quarter
Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Bilson as he says: “Style
of the fifth century BC (…)” (Burke 2017, p. na). Leaving
includes attitudes, assumptions and feelings about self
aside negative and flowery definitions, contemporary
and others, as they are expressed in language, dress, and
rhetoric is described as “the energy inherent in emotion
nonverbal behavior.”. Furthermore, style is protagonist in
and thought, transmitted through a system of signs,
determining the genre of a text. For example, Moessner
including language, to others to influence their decisions
(2001 p. 131) defines genre as “[the] particular style (…) of
or actions.” (George Kennedy cited in Henrrick 2013, p. 6).
a literary work …”. Thus, style shapes and defines genre.
Henrrick (2013, p. 8) goes on to explain rhetoric as “[…] the
intentional practice of effective symbolic expression”; and
2.3. Emergence of Letter writing as a genre
advocated a position under which “rhetorical discourse
is a particular type of communication possessing several
In European culture during the Middle Ages, the lack of
identifying characteristics” (p. 8). Meanwhile, Borchers
opportunity for public debate allowed for the advent of
and Hundley (2018, p. 5) assert that “Rhetoric includes
written texts as a suited mode of communication (Herrick
words, images, and gestures that are presented to an
2013, p. 128). Herrick (2013) also mentions the coming to
audience for some kind of purpose. Rhetoric is usually
existence of the printing press as encouraging this change
Letters in English and Spanish were chosen because it was the interest of the researcher to investigate differences and similarities in
the style structure of personal letter writing in these two languages as compared to that of the 15th century.
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
from oral rhetoric to written rhetoric. Also, according to
2.6. Contemporary Letter Writing in
Herrick (2013, p. 126), the consolidation of letter writing
as a genre took place during the tenth century because of
the establishment of composition as a separate branch of
Contemporary characteristics of letters in English
rhetoric and because letters were “the most efficient and
are discussed by Robert W. Bly in the Webster’s New
forceful verbal tools in government and policy making
world Letter Writing Handbook (2004). The list of
…” at the time.
recommendations is long and specific for each of the many
different types of letters within each letter category. For
2.4. Letter writing in the Middle Ages
example, in the personal letter category four subcategories
are listed and a total of 22 letter types are identified.
Letter writing as a rhetoric genre enjoyed a time of
In the case of personal letters, recommendations are
abundance during the Middle Ages. This abundance
given in terms of format, style, tone and voice; and
in letter writing resulted from the need to conceal
structure. Regarding format, the personal letterhead
friends’ secrets and to express better than messenger
is recommended and in general the simple format. “In
communications sent. (Faba cited in Herrick 2013).
simple format, all parts of the letter are flush left. The
According to Herrick (2013, p. 126), “letter writing was
letter is informal, without salutation or close.” (Bly 2004,
extensive during the Middle Ages (…)”. This meant that
p. 558). Depending on the circumstance, a formal or
“lawyers, public officials, secretaries and notaries all had
informal style is suggested while a personal, warm and
to understand the intricacies of the formal letter and
cordial tone is advised. Recommendations for structure
the official document.” (Herrick 2013, p. 126). Thus, the
vary, but it basically describes the organization of the
need to instruct in letter writing came about. To this end,
content in the body of the letter.
letter-writing manuals were created.
Furthermore, a quick google search on how to write
2.5. The parts of Middle Ages’ letters
personal letters in English would give thousands of results
with all forms of information, from video tutorials to
Herricks (2013, p.129) discusses three parts a letter
pages featuring sample letters. All kinds of information
should contain according to letter-writing handbooks
on the topic is available. However, all of them agree in
of the Middle Ages. First, it should contain the greeting
presenting the personal letter as containing three parts:
or salutation, as it was called. This greeting, it was
opening, body and closing. Information about format and
recommended, needed to convey a friendly sentiment
style coincide for the most part with what Bly (2004)
that should be consistent with the social rank of the
discusses in his handbook.
persons communicating. The second part of the latter
was occupied by the body of it. It was to develop the
Figure two below shows the structure and format for a
content and details of the message. This could include
contemporary English personal letter that conforms to
the discussion of a problem, a request, a demand or an
the discussion above.
announcement. Third, the letter should finish with a
simple conclusion.
The structure of letter writing in the twelfth century,
according to Perelman (1991, p. 107), followed the
Bolognese Approved Format (BAF). Under such format,
the letter structure was salutation, captatio benevolentiae
(securing of good will), narrative, petition (presentation
of requests), and conclusion.
Filosofía, Artes y letras
Figure 1. Structure of the contemporary English personal letter
Source: http://gplusnick.com/personal-letter-format.html/personal-letter-writing-format-templates-good-letter-writing-for-personal-letter-format
2.7. Contemporary letter writing in
Lastly, the internet is full of sites that give recommendations
on how to write a personal letter in Spanish. However,
With regards to its structure, Pineda and Lemus (2005)
most of them basically discuss the same characteristics
list the following elements of the contemporary Spanish
listed by Pineda and Lemus (2005) above.
personal letter: place and date where the letter is written,
vocative, which is a greeting to the addressee; text or
Figure two below shows the format for a contemporary
body, which is the content; farewell and signature. Other
Spanish personal letter. This format comprehends the
than this, the advice is to keep the language simple as
elements presented above.
well as the style, keeping in mind the type of relationship
with the addressee.
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
Figure 2. Structure of the contemporary Spanish personal letter
Adapted from: https://www.portaleducativo.net/cuarto-basico/658/La-carta-personal-y-sus-partes
III. Methodology
of human communication (...)”, letters in the present case.
Likewise, the present research endeavor nourishes from
3.1. Purpose
documentary research as described by Cohen, Manion,
and Morrison (2007) since the data source consists of
As stated earlier, the present research endeavor purports
documents retrieved from different historical periods.
to describe the differences and similarities in rhetorical
The study is also exploratory as defined by Saunders,
style structure of contemporary personal letter writing
Lewis, and Thornhill (2009); for it does not intent to
in English and Spanish compared to the rhetorical
issue conclusive results, but rather it glimpses at the
style structure of letter writing in the Middle Ages as
realms of the rhetorical style structure of personal letter
exemplified by St. Catherine of Siena’s Letter 15.
writing by attempting a comparison based on a set of
style structure characteristics between personal letter
3.2. Design
writing in contemporary letter writing in English and
Spanish and the Middle Ages.
The study followed a qualitative research design described
as content analysis by Leedy and Ormrod (2010, p. 144). “A
content analysis is a detailed and systematic examination
of the contents of a particular body of material for the
purpose of identifying patterns (…)”. They go on to
highlight that content analysis is “performed in forms
Filosofía, Artes y letras
3.3. Data source
usage. Then, a comparison between the rhetorical style
structure findings for the English and the Spanish
Three letters comprise the data analyzed in the present
contemporary personal letters was made. Finally, the
study. The first letter is St. Catherine of Siena’s Letter 15
rhetorical style structure results for the contemporary
(To Consiglio, a Jew). The second letter is a contemporary
letters were compared against those of the Middle Ages.
personal letter written by the famous basketball player
Michael J. Jordan to his girlfriend Laquette at the
IV. Findings and discussion
time when he was 18 in 1981. The third letter is also
a contemporary personal letter written in 1977 by
4.1. St. Catherine of Siena, Letter 15: to
Fernando, one of the members of the Quilapayun group,
Consiglio, a Jew
a music band founded in the late 1960’s belonging to a
movement called Nueva Canción Chilena (New Chilean
Structure is the first element of style structure examined
Song), while in exile in France to the famous Chilean
in St. Catherine of Siena’s letter 15 (See appendix 2). In
painter Roberto Matta.
this regard, the letter was found to comply very accurately
with the BAF as described by Perelman. First, as expected,
It must be noted that for the purpose of the present study
the salutation is presented in the first line: “Praised be
contemporary is defined as the period between the late
Jesus Christ crucified, dear son of the glorious Virgin
20th and the early 21st centuries.
Mary.”. Second, the captatio benevolentiae starts in the
second line and extends to the beginning of the fourth
The choosing of the letters for analysis followed a non-
line: “Oh most delightful and very dear brother, … obliged
probability sampling approach: convenience sampling
by Christ crucified and by His sweet Mother Mary …”.
as defined by Etikan (2016). These three letters were
Third, the narrative portion of the letter is displayed
chosen because they were available for public access on
between the fourth and the twenty-second lines: “to
the internet and they met the criteria of having been
beseech you and press you …, but always shows mercy.”.
written in the time periods and the language3 required
Fourth, the petition is stated as expected towards the end
for the study. In the case of the contemporary letters,
between lines twenty-two and twenty-seven: “Therefore,
the two were written only four years apart which means
rise, my brother, … because your trial would be too great.”.
basically the same period.
It is important to note that the petition was announced
or introduced in the first lines of the narration: “… to
3.4. Data analysis
beseech you and press you to relinquish and abandon
your insensibility and the obscure unfaithfulness, in
A letter style structure checklist was created to assess
order to return and receive the Grace of holy baptism,
each letter for compliance with the letter style structure
…”. Arguable, this is one instance in which this letter
for the corresponding period (Middle Ages, contemporary
would break the BAF, but Perelman (1991) does not
English, contemporary Spanish) letter type (see appendix
offer details regarding the possibility of announcing the
1). Each letter was examined to identify these rhetorical
petition toward the beginning of the letter under the AFP.
style structure components: format, structure, tone, and
Fifth, as a closign to the letter, the conclusion starts in
voice. Format was treated as the layout or appearance
line twenty-seven and ends in line thirty-first: “Stay in
of the document. Structure, in turn, was understood as
the holy and sweet delight of God; … Praised be Christ
the method of organization of the ideas used in the letter.
crucified, and His most sweet Mother, glorious Virgin,
Tone was referred to as the writer’s mood as perceived by
Our Lady Holy Mary. Sweet Jesus, Jesus love.”.
his or her use of the language while voice was defined as
the writer’s personality as reflected by his / her language
St. Catherine of Siena’s Letter 15 was originally written in Italian but because the researcher is not fluent in this language the English
translation was used in the present study.
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
The second element of style structure that was looked at
format exhibited by the letter is characteristic of the time
in the letter is format. The letter appears to conform to
period as described in letter writing manuals of the time
the expectations of layout for Middle Ages written letters.
as presented by Perelman (1991).
That is, the letter’s format is in accordance to its time. It
must be admitted though, that the version assessed for
4.2. Michael J. Jordan to his girlfriend
the present study is a translation of the original published
in contemporary media. Therefore, there is no guaranty
that the design of the original letter was respected and
The first element of style structure explored in Michael
reproduced accurately.
J. Jordan’s letter to Laquetee was structure. The findings
show that this letter does not present some of the features
Tone is the third element of style structure examined
of structure defined for contemporary personal letters
in the letter. Evidence shows that the writer uses
in English. For example, there is no address of letter
an exhorting argumentative tone. For example, the
recipient, address of letter writer, nor date. Possibly,
introduction to the narration goes: “… to beseech you
the letter is very personal and informal in style which
and press you to…”. The choice of the words beseech and
could explain the absence of such elements. Nevertheless,
press speak of a very strong invitation, one that sounds
the letter does present some structural elements of
like a demand. Also, there are elements of argumentative
contemporary personal English letters. The first such
rhetoric that give shape to the tone used since the letter
element is greeting: “My Dearest Laquette”. Obviously,
uses forms of persuasion as a platform to launch the
there is a body in the letter. The body is introduced by
petition. For instance, “Do not resist any longer the Holy
a quick salutation: “how are you and your family doing,
Spirit who calls you, and do not despise Mary’s love for
fine I hope.”; and it finishes with a closing statement
you, nor the tears and prayers shed and said for you;
expressing a wish for a future encounter: “See you
because your trial would be too great.”.
next time around, which I hope comes soon.”. Another
element of the expected structure for this type of letter
Voice as a style structure element was also studied in the
that was found is the farewell: “With my best love”. The
letter. Voice reveals a religious person deeply concerned
last component of structure prescribed for personal
for the conversion of her fellow man. St. Catherine
contemporary English letters identified was the signature:
speaks from her own condition as a religious woman:
“Michael J. Jordan”.
“… ransomed, like me, by the precious blood of God’s
dear Son, …”. Besides, by resorting at the first-person
In terms of format as an element of style structure,
singular narrator in the letter, she bestowed intimacy
Jordan’s letter conforms to the expectations for this type
to the message and established a personal connection
of letter. The format is simple. Actually, the fact that some
with the addressee: “… since God does not want it so,
of the elements of structure are missing gives the letter a
nor do I, that you be blind when you die; but I ardently
further informal touch. Thus, the letter’s layout in general
desire you to receive the light of holy baptism, …”. Thus,
reveals a contemporary informal English letter.
communication form the first-person singular voice
perspective constitutes an emotional appeal that makes
In reference to tone as style structure defining component,
the letter highly persuasive from the style standpoint.
the letter exhibits a personal tone in general. At the
beginning, however, the tone is apologetic: “I decide to
In general terms, the presiding examination of St.
write you because I felt that I made you look pretty rotten
Catherine of Siena’s letter 15 shows that from the point
… I am sorry, and hope that you accept my apology.” (sic);
of view of style structure, this letter exhibits traits that
then it changes to a friendly relaxed one: “I was happy
are typical of Middle Ages’ personal letter writing rhetoric.
when you gave me my honest earn money …Please don’t
Because structurally it fully conforms to BAF, and the
let this go to your head. (smile)…” (sic).
Filosofía, Artes y letras
The last factor of style structure looked at in the letter
Format as an element of style structure was evaluated in
was voice. The letter was written using the first person
second place. It was found that the layout of Fernando’s
singular. Speaking from his own voice, Jordan created
correspondence is mostly the one expected for this type
intimacy and helped establish a more personal connection
of documents. But the location of the date centered at
with Laquette. In short, using first-person voice to write
the top of the first page, the exclusion of the name of the
the letter contributed to create an appropriate atmosphere
city where the letter was written, and the absence of a
for the intended purpose.
farewell formula at the end distort the fixed image of a
typical Spanish personal letter.
All in all, the style structure in Michael J. Jordan’s
correspondence to Laquetee was identified to conform
The third component of style structure checked was
to the one expected for a contemporary informal personal
tone. It was identified as being personal but formal.
letter in English. Even though not all the elements of
Personal tone was achieved by the use of tu (familiar
structure defined for this letter type were present in
you) to address Eduardo. Yet, it was formal in terms of
Jordan’s missive, it was still considered typical for such
the subject being discussed and the use of elements such
a contemporary document. The format, tone and voice
as quotations from a previous letter written by Eduardo
were features where there was great compliance with the
to Fernando, for example, in line twenty-one: “yo amo
fundamentals of style structure of contemporary informal
la filosofía … (I love philosophy)”. The tone was also of
personal letters written in English.
disbelief and concern or preoccupation. Lines eighteen
and twenty-five illustrate such tone: “… no podía ceer que
4.3. Fernando’s letter to Roberto Matta
fuera una carta tuya… (I could not believe it was a letter
from you…), and “algo extraño veo en esa actitud. (I see
Similar to the two preceding letters, the first element
something strange in that attitude.)”.
of style structure analyzed in Fernando’s letter was
structure. The compliance of his letter with the
Lastly, voice as a style structure element was examined.
requirements established for a contemporary personal
The message in the letter was delivered from the first-
letter in Spanish was partially met. The heading was
person singular voice. Such strategy impregnated the
identified just as expected: “Querido Eduardo, (Dear
letter with an air of intimacy and connection. But because
Eduardo,)”. The date was included at the top of the first
of the tone used, the letter remained affectionately formal.
page, but the city was not. The body was divided into six
paragraphs and it begins right in the first line: “hoy recibí
As a whole, Fernando’s missive to Eduardo complies with
tu carta. Ha habido un mal entendido. (today I received
the style specification for contemporary personal Spanish
your letter. There has been a misunderstanding.)”; and
letters. The structure of the letter was found to mostly
it finishes in line ninety-one: “Es lo que yo entiendo por
fit the cannon for this type of documents. Likewise, the
amigos que se escriben. (this is what I understand for
format used largely coincided with the set specifications.
friends that write to one another.)”. Interestingly, there is
Finally, voice as a style structure element corresponded
no farewell in the letter even though, its use is very typical
with the letter type stipulations because of its personal
of Spanish letters of all kinds. Finally, the letter is signed
nature. In short, Fernando’s letter could be classified as
“Fernando”. Consequently, the structure requirements
a true contemporary personal Spanish letter in general
for the contemporary personal Spanish letter were only
terms, except for the discrepancies found in terms of
partially met by Fernando’s missive.
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
4.4. English and the Spanish contemporary
benevolentia, petition, and conclusion are two structure
personal letters
features that St. Catherine’s letter has but that neither
of the contemporary letters exhibit. In contrast, features
Evidence from the two letters analyzed suggest more
shared by all letters regarding structure are greeting
similarities than differences in terms of rhetorical style
or salutation and body or narrative. Second, fewer
structure between contemporary personal letters in
differences were identified in the three letters in terms
English and Spanish. First, neither letter fully complied
of format. The distribution of the three letters on the page
with the prescribed structure in its category. To illustrate,
looks somehow similar. However, it must be admitted that
the English letter did not feature the address of the
neither of the contemporary letters fully complied with
recipient, the address of the sender, nor the date. Likewise,
the prescription for this feature according to figures one
the Spanish letter did not include the city name where it
and two above. Third, tone was described as personal
was written nor a farewell. Nevertheless, the elements
for the two letter categories, namely contemporary
of structure that both did exhibit adjust to the style
and Middle Ages, which constitutes another similarity
patterns defined for the category to which they belong.
between them. Forth, voice is another feature common
For instance, greeting, body, farewell and signature in the
to the two letter categories. The narration in each letter
case of the English letter; and greeting, body and signature
was conducted from the first-person singular perspective,
in the case of the Spanish letter. Second, regarding format
giving an intimate personal air to the letters. To sum
the two letters resembled typical missives of their class. A
up, more similarities than differences in rhetorical style
feature to highlight as a difference between the two letters
structure between the contemporary and the Middle Ages
is the degree of informality as suggested by the format. In
letters were suggested by the analysis of the data. The
this case, the Spanish letter was identified to be a bit more
degree of similarity acknowledged between contemporary
formal. Third, in terms of tone, the two letters proved to
and Middle Ages’ rhetorical style structure is evidence that
be different. The English letter was assessed as having
the Middle Ages cannon for letter writing has exercised
an apologetic tone at the beginning which switched to a
an evident influence in the contemporary cannons of
more friendly relaxed one later. Meanwhile, the Spanish
personal letter writing.
letter’s tone was labeled as a bit formal, showing disbelief
and concern. Fourth, voice was a feature that the two
V. Conclusions
letters seemingly share. First-person singular was used
in both letters, which created the effect of intimacy and
Rhetorical discourse as a field of enquiry can be
connection with the receiver. Conclusively, despite the
approached from many different angles. The features
clear differences suggested in terms of style structure
of style structure in rhetorical discourse is one such
features (see figures one and two) such as structure
perspective. The present research endeavor intended
and format for each letter class, the analysis of Michael
to provide resources to fuel the discussion of rhetorical
Jordan’s letter and Fernando’s letter contribute evidence
discourse in the letter genre. This was done by describing
that there are more similarities than differences in terms
the rhetorical style structure differences and similarities
of style between the contemporary English personal letter
in contemporary personal letter writing in English and
and its Spanish counterpart.
Spanish, as compared to the rhetorical style structure of
letter writing in the Middle Ages which was exemplified
4.5. Contemporary English and Spanish vs
by St. Catherine of Siena’s Letter 15. Furthermore,
Middle Ages personal letters
findings suggested that personal letter writing in both
English and Spanish does not fully comply with the style
Examination of Jordan’s, Fernando’s and St. Catherine
structure cannon of letter writing established for each
of Siena’s letters showed similarities and differences in
class. Also, English and Spanish contemporary personal
rhetorical style structure between the contemporary
letter writing is rather similar, and the style structure
and the Middle Ages personal letters. First, captatio
cannons for contemporary personal letter writing in both
Filosofía, Artes y letras
English and Spanish can be traced back to that of the
VII. Reference List
Middle Ages. Finally, it was proposed that further studies
should be conducted. Such research ought to include a
Bly, R. W. (2004). Webster’s New world Letter Writing
larger sample for each letter class to make the conclusions
Handbook. Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis.
more generalizable. Furthermore, the issue should be
approached from other perspectives than rhetorical style
Borchers, T. and Hundley, H. (2018). Rhetorical Theory.
structure to attain a more comprehensive understanding
An Introduction. 2nd ed. Waveland Press, Long
of the situation of rhetorical discourse in contemporary
Grove, IL.
letter genre.
Brummett, B. (2018). A Rhetoric of Style. Southern Illinois
VI. Limitations and suggestions for further
University Press, Corbondale.
Burke, M. (2017). The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics.
The following limitations are acknowledged for the
Routledge Handbooks in English Language
present study:
Studies. Routledge, New York.
• Because this study only included rhetorical style
Cohen, L, Manion, L and Morrison, K. (2017). Research
structure features of letter writing as a working
Methods in Education. Sixth ed. Routledge, New
variable, the conclusions are limited to rhetorical
style structure only.
Etikan, I. (2016). “Comparison of Convenience Sampling
The study was exploratory in nature and had
and Purposive Sampling.”, American Journal of
a limited scope and depth, which makes the
Theoretical and Applied Statistics, vol. 5, no. 1,
conclusions only suggestive.
p. 1-4 0.11648/j.ajtas.20160501.11.
Only one letter was analyzed for each letter
class. This causes the sample to be very
Foss, S. K. (2018). Rhetorical Criticism. Exploration and
unrepresentative of the whole and makes it
Practice, 5th ed. Long Waveland Press, Grove, IL.
difficult to generalize the conclusions.
Herrick, J. (2013). The History and Theory of Rhetoric:
Suggestions for future research include the following:
An Introduction, 5th ed. Pearson Education, Inc.,
In order to arrive at more relevant conclusions, it is
New Jersey.
necessary to study a larger number of letter samples from
each letter class. Also, it is advisable that more rhetorical
Moessner, L. (2001). “Genre, Text Type, Style, Register:
features are included as variables in the study, so that
A Terminological Maze?”, European Journal of
a better understanding of the rhetoric of contemporary
English Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, p. 131. EBSCOhost,
letter writing is gained.
Leedy, P. D. and Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Practical Research.
Planning and Design, 9th ed. Pearson Education
Inc., New Jersey.
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
Perelman, L. (1991). “The Medieval Art of Letter writing:
Rhetoric as an Institutional Expression”, in
Textual Dynamics of the Professions: Historical
and Contemporary studies of Writing in
Professional Communities, Bazrman, C & James,
P (ed). Wisconsin University Press, Wisconsin,
pp. 97-119.
Pineda, M. I. and Lemus, F. J. (2005). Taller de Lectura y
Redacción I. Pearson Education, Mexico.
Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2009). Research
Methods for Business Students, 5th ed. Pearson
Education Limited, Essex.
Filosofía, Artes y letras
Appendix 1
Letter Style Checklist
Letter Style Checklist
The Medieval letter
Structure: for each criterion under structure write yes if the criterion is present and write no if it is not found.
2. Write a description of the format, tone and voice identified under the corresponding criterion.
C a p t a t i o
Letter Style Checklist
The Contemporary English Letter
Structure: for each criterion under structure write yes if the criterion is present and write no if it is not found.
2. Write a description of the format, tone and voice identified under the corresponding criterion.
Address of
of letter
letter recipient
Letter Style Checklist
The Contemporary Spanish letter
Structure: for each criterion under structure write yes if the criterion is present and write no if it is not found.
3. Write a description of the format, tone and voice identified under the corresponding criterion.
City and
Heading: greeting
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
Appendix 2
St. Catherine Of Siena Letter 15
Sourrce: http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20001027_caterina_en.html
Filosofía, Artes y letras
Appendix 3
Contemporary personal letter in English
Sourrce: https://www.fastcompany.com/1669022/12-hand-written-love-letters-from-famous-people-from-henry-viii-to-michael-jordan
My Dearest Laquette
to the game on my birthday because my father is taking
the whole basketball team out to eat on my birthday.
How are you and your family doing, fine I hope. I am
Please don’t be mad because I am trying get down there
in my Adv. Chemistry class writing you a letter, so that
a week from Feb. 14. If I do get the chance to come please
tell you how much I care for you. I decide to write you
have some activity for us to do together.
because I felt that I made you look pretty rotten after the
last night. I want to tell you that I am sorry, and hope that
I want you to know that my feeling for you has not change
you except my apologie. I know that you feelings was hurt
(joke) I am finally getting use to going with a girl
whenever I loss my necklace or had it stolen.
much smaller than I. I hope you my hint. Well I have spent
my time very wisely by write to you. I hope you write
I was really happy when you gave me my honest earn
back soon. Well I must go, the period is almost over. See
money that I won off the bet. I want to thank you for
you next time around, which I hope comes soon.
letting me hold your annual. I show it to everyone at
school. Everyone think you are a very pretty young lady
With my Best Love
and I had to agree because it is very true. Please don’t let
this go to your head. (smile) I sorry to say that I can’t go
Michael J. Jordan
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente
Appendix 4
Contemporary personal letter in Spanish
SOURCE: http://amp.ing.puc.cl/index.php/carta-personal-de-fernando
Filosofía, Artes y letras
Revista Pensamiento Actual - Vol 20 - No. 34 2020 - Universidad de Costa Rica - Sede de Occidente