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An investigation into moves and metadiscourse in English job cover letters produced by Chinese learners of English

Henry Huang (黃丞甫)1 & Hsuan-Yu Tai (戴宣毓)2
1National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. 2Nationa Kaohsiun University of Science and Technology, Kaohsiung, Taiwan


Writing a high-quality English job cover letter is a challenging task, particularly when writers’ L1 is not English and they merely have limited work experience. When writing an English job cover letter, novice L2 writers need to employ various linguistic devices that they have not fully mastered to persuade employers. Meanwhile, they need to produce content, structure, and word usage that conform to the expectation of this culturally unfamiliar genre. While past decades have witnessed a vibrant growth of genre analysis, less attention has been directed to job cover letters produced by L2 learners. Hence, grounded in the framework of move analysis and metadiscourse analysis, the current research investigated patterns and metadiscoursal devices in job cover letters written by Chinese learners of English.

Fifty freshmen English majors from three freshmen composition classes at a university of science and technology in southern Taiwan participated in this study. They were required to produce a cover letter for the position of receptionist at a five-star hotel. Using move analysis, the researcher identified nine major moves, with self-introduction, reasons for applying, and evidence of eligibility being the most frequently used ones. However, other moves such as terms of address were considered lacking or inappropriate among the participants. In terms of metadiscourse, the participants tended to use self-mention, engagement markers, and hedges frequently, which could be explained by genre requirements and L1 cultural influences. In addition, the research revealed a relationship between moves and metadiscourse markers. In light of the findings, some pedagogical implications were proposed for genre-based instruction of cover letters.


cover letter, moves, metadiscourse

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023