IELTS (General Training) Writing Task 1: Letter Writing

Types of Letters: Personal, Semi-Formal, Formal

-apology (adopt a style suitable to the person whom your are writing)
-complaints (formal or semi-formal)
-explanation (semi-formal or personal)
-invitations (personal or semi-formal)
-making arrangements (formal)
-news letter, letter to the editor, etc. (formal)
-request (adopt a style suitable to the person whom your are writing)
-resignations or applications (formal)

1. Personal. A personal letter is written for someone with whom you have a personal relationship and with whom you easily share your home life. For example, close friends or relatives.

Personal Letter:

You have come to know that an old friend is visiting your city.
Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • explain how excited you are to meet your friend
  • offer to take your friend around the city
  • invite your friend to stay at your house

In a personal letter, use a personal, warm, friendly and a casual tone. You can write contractions. Don’t write any title like Mr. or Ms. or Mrs., and neither write the surname nor the full name. Use only the first name. For example, Dear Sophia, or Dear John, or Hi Susan, or Howdy Peter, or you may even invent any name of your choice. If it is explicitly stated that you should start with Dear, then strictly follow the instructions and start with Dear …  and not Hi or Howdy.

Open the letter stating the reason for your writing. For example, It’s great to know that you are coming here. OR A long time has passed and I’m extremely excited to meet you again!

Subsequently, write three paragraphs for the three bullet points. All the paragraphs should be cohesive and coherent.

Thereafter, write a closing line. For example, I’ll pick you up at the station or at the airport OR Let me know your itinerary OR Get back to me as fast as you can OR It’ll be great to catch up with you and yes, do give my best wishes to all family members.

Then sign off with your first name only. For example:

See you soon.

Martha

Note: Write a variety of sentence structures. Aim for around 170 words, but certainly not less than 150 words or more than 200 words.

2. Semi-formal Letter

The word “semi-formal” means that it is both informal and formal, something like informally formal. A semi-formal letter is written for someone whom you know informally but in a formal setting. For example, colleagues at work.

Semi-Formal Letter:

Your colleague, who used to work with you at a company, has left the job and opened up his own company. Your colleague is inviting you to join his company.

Write a letter replying to this offer. In your letter:

  • congratulate him for his entrepreneurial effort.
  • state whether you can or cannot accept his offer.
  • provide reasons for your choice.

In a semi-formal letter, use a warm but a formal tone. You can write some contractions since it is not altogether formal; nonetheless, avoidance of contractions may be better. Don’t write any title like Mr. or Ms. or Mrs., and neither write the surname nor the full name. Use only the first name. For example, Dear Richard, or Hi Mary. If it is explicitly stated that you should start with Dear, then strictly follow the instructions and start with Dear …  and not Hi.

Open the letter stating the reason for your writing. For example, I am writing to congratulate you on your entrepreneurial effort and thank you for your offer. OR It came as a happy surprise to know that you have started your own company and I am writing about your offer OR I just want to write about your offer OR I wanted to let you know about my decision regarding your offer.

Subsequently, write three paragraphs for the three bullet points. All the paragraphs should be cohesive and coherent.

Thereafter, write a closing line. For example, All the best OR Wishing you the best.

Then sign off with your first name only. For example:

Wishing you the best,

Martha

Note: Write a variety of sentence structures. Aim for around 170 words, but certainly not less than 150 words or more than 200 words.

3. Formal Letter

A formal letter is written to someone whom you know and interact in a formal way. For example, your boss/ manager/ teacher/ etc. A formal letter is also written to all those persons whom you do not know. For example, hotel manager/ local council/ customer care services/ government officials/ etc.

Formal Letter:

You are staying at a hotel and the air-conditioning in your room is not working. Write a letter to the hotel manager. In your letter:

  • explain the situation and the trouble that you are facing
  • offer your willingness to change the room, if required
  • request for a prompt solution

If you do not know the name, write Dear Sir/Madam. In this example, the name of the hotel manager is not given. Thus, start with Dear Sir/Madam. Use Madam and not Madame (Madame is French for My Dame). If the gender of the manager is known, then start with the appropriate gender like either Dear Sir or Dear Madam. The gender may be known from the question itself, for example, “Write a letter to the hotel manager, informing him about the following:“. From the pronoun “him”, it may be known that the hotel manager is a male. If the gender is not known, then write Dear Sir/Madam.

If the name can be known from the question then write the name. For example, assuming the given name is Jonathan Smith. Then, you may start as Dear Mr. Smith (use Mr. with the surname) or Dear Jonathan Smith (do not use Mr. with the full name). Generally, with full names, titles are not written. Hence, you do not use Mr. with the full name; nonetheless, it is correct to write Dear Mr. Jonathan Smith.

Open the letter in a formal tone. For example, I am writing this letter with regards to the faulty air-conditioning in my room number 2F3. (Note: In formal letters, do not use contractions. Do not write ‘ I’m ‘ rather write ‘I am’.)

Then you write three short paragraphs, one each for the bullet points. Be aware of cohesion and coherence.

Thereafter, close the letter formally. For example, Awaiting your prompt response OR  I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sign off always with your full name. Do not write the first name or the surname only.  If you do not want to use your own name, invent some name. For example:

Yours faithfully,

Mrs. Rebecca Hodgson

OR

Yours sincerely,

Alfred Brooks

Note: Write a variety of sentence structures. Aim for around 170 words, but certainly not less than 150 words or more than 200 words.

OBSERVING THE FOLLOWING WILL GET A HIGH BAND SCORE

Formatting:

  1. Understand what type of letter is required – Formal, semi-formal, or informal. Your vocabulary and tone of the letter should match according to the type of the letter required.
  2. The total number of words should be between 170-190 words.
  3. The opening line should just state the reason or the purpose of the letter. No details should be present. The details are present in the paragraphs for the given bullet points.
  4. Each bullet point should be addressed in a separate paragraph. So, if there are three bullet points, then there should be three paragraphs. The first paragraph should address the first bullet point. The second paragraph should address the second bullet point. The third paragraph should address the third bullet point.
  5. The closing line should be according to the type of letter.
  6. Signing off the letter should be done according to the type of the letter. If the starting is Dear Sir, then the ending should be Yours faithfully. If the starting is Dear Mr. Smith, then the ending should be Yours sincerely.  If the starting is Dear Rebecca, then the ending may be See you soon. In formal and semi-formal letters write your full name. In informal letters, just write your first name.
  7. Keep the entire letter left aligned.

Grammar:

  1. Use a variety of sentences. Simple sentence, compound sentence, complex sentence, compound-complex sentence, and complex-compound sentence. Use conjunctions correctly (with proper punctuation) and appropriately (do not use any conjunction where another type of conjunction may be more suitable. For example, do not use a coordinating conjunction, where a subordinating conjunction, or a correlative conjunction may be better suited.)
  2. Use active voice. You may use passive voice, once or twice, if required. If both voices are used correctly, you will get a higher score. If used incorrectly, your score will drop drastically. Hence, attempt both voices or tense shifts, only if you are absolutely confident of using them. Even if you don’t use them you can still get a high score; nevertheless, using them increases the likelihood of getting the highest score.
  3. Use present tense. A tense shift, if you can do so correctly, will get a higher score.
  4. Use collocations and appositives, correctly.
  5. Use referencing (that, this, it, etc.).
  6. Use the correct order in sentences (subject, verb, object) and among words (verb adverb/ adjective noun)
  7. Use a different opening word for each sentence.
  8. Paraphrase successfully.
  9. Never make spelling or punctuation mistakes.
  10. Never make mistakes in articles (a, an, the) or prepositions (on, in, at, etc.)
  11. Never make mistakes in modal verbs (can-could; will-would; shall-should; may-might; and must).
  12. Never use contractions in formal letters. In informal letters, you may use simple contractions like it’s, don’t, haven’t, etc. Generally, contractions are used in speaking and not in writing.
  13. Avoid using idioms in writing. Idioms should be used generously in speaking. Nonetheless, you may use proverbs in writing provided they fit contextually.
  14. Avoid wordiness. Try to say more with less words. The writing should be succinct and concise.
  15. Avoid uncommon long words. For example, words like antidisestablishmentarianism, or floccinaucinihilipilification, or discombobulation. Such words simply display, at best, a scholar’s humour, or at worst, mere lexical ephemera.
  16. Avoid spending more than 20 minutes on Task 1.
  17. Always proofread what you have written. Finish the task about 2 or 3 minutes early, so that you get time to proofread.

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