Writing an IELTS Formal Letter

You will be given instructions and three points to include in your IELTS formal letter. It is essential that you include all 3 points

Your first task is to identify your audience; by this, I mean the person or people you are writing to. This is really important as it will help you decide on the formality of the language  and style of the letter,

Identifying the audience

You may ask yourself; ‘How will I know if I am supposed to write a semi-formal or formal style letter?’  Well, there are clues in the exam task to help you decide.

For example; if you know the person you are writing to or have met them before, such as your boss, or the manager of the hotel you talked to about your accommodation whilst on holiday, then the style would be semi-formal and you can greet the person by name.

In this exam task  (below) the audience is the manager of your insurance company and therefore you should use a formal style as you are writing to a person you do not know or have never met.

On a recent holiday you lost a valuable item, fortunately, you have travel insurance to cover the costs.

Write a letter to the manager of your insurance company. In your letter;

  • describe the item you lost
  • explain how you lost it
  • tell the insurance company what you would like them to do

IELTS Formal letter writing (General IELTS task 1)  is usually for one of the following reasons.

  • To ask for advice/assistance/ compensation
  • To complain about something
  • To apply, or resign from, a given position
  • To make a request
  • To apologise
  • To invite
  • To thank or to express your appreciation

There are certain points you must remember when writing an IELTS formal letter with regards to:

  • Greetings and signing off
  • Opening and closing statements
  • Paragraphs and  structure
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Punctuation

I will guide you through each of these sections individually with tips and some set phrases that you can learn and adapt to suit the format of the letter that you are asked to write.

  1. Semi-formal style greeting and signing off

Dear Mr. Grover,

I am writing to express my gratitude for ……

.

.

I am looking forward to ………..

Yours sincerely,

Mark Thomas

 

Formal style greeting and signing off

If you don’t know the person you are writing to or have never met them you should use a more formal greeting and sign off with, Yours faithfully, followed by your surname.

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am writing to express my gratitude for ……

.

.

I look forward to ……..

Yours faithfully,

Mr. M. Thomas

 2. Opening and Closing Statements.

It is important that you do not omit the opening and closing statements.

How you open your letter depends on the reason for the letter. It is best to open the letter with a short explanation for the purpose of the letter and end it with a request for action that relates to it.

For example, if you are writing to complain then you can begin with these phrases.

Dear Sir/ Madam,

  • I am writing to complain about …..
  • I wish to complain about
  • I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with ….
  • I am writing with regards to …….
  • I am writing in response to ….

Closing statements.

I would like to thank you in advance for…….

Thank you for giving your attention to this complaint/matter.

Tip

These phrases can be adapted to suit other types of formal letters too.

  1. Paragraphs and Structure

You must organise your letter into 4-5  paragraphs including the opening and closing statements. Before you begin writing spend some time deciding how you will effectively structure the letter and read each point carefully that you must include.

Think about where to put each point, i.e. are 2 points connected? If they are they could be linked together in the same paragraph.

Look at the example question below. In this question, the points are not connected and it will be clearer if they are separate points in 3 paragraphs: 

Bullet point 1 and supporting details

Bullet point 2 and supporting details

Bullet point 3 and supporting details

On a recent holiday, you lost a valuable item.  Fortunately, you have travel insurance to cover the costs.

Write a letter to the manager of your insurance company. In your letter;

  • describe the item you lost
  • explain how you lost it
  • tell the insurance company what you would like them to do

So the letter would look like this:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

I am writing to inform you about a digital camera that I lost whilst on holiday in Paris on June 10th this year.

The camera is an Olympus 9C,  which cost $ 500 when I purchased it in February 2017. It was in a black leather case, attached to a short brown strap.

I first noticed it was missing from my rucksack when I returned to our hotel called ‘Les Petit’  on Vinci Avenue at around 5pm. I believe it was taken from my bag while I was walking around the Grande Metro Station.

I would like to make a claim for this item and I kindly request that you send me details about how I should proceed.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours faithfully,

Mrs. J. Watson

  1. Grammar

Being polite and indirect questions.

Did you notice that the request in the letter was not in the usual question form?

I would like to make a claim for this item and I kindly request that you send me details about how I should proceed.  Instead of ‘ How should I proceed?

This is a polite or indirect question and the statement form is used after these polite phrases.

Could you tell/inform me what I should do? / how I should proceed? / who I should contact?  etc

I would like to know how long this procedure will take?

I would be grateful if you could/ would  …….

Remember even when you are writing a letter of complaint you must still be polite at all times. Check out more grammar tips here.

Check out the ultimate guide in writing an IELTS Informal Letter. Read here.

  1. Vocabulary

If you are aiming to get a high band the requirements for ‘Lexical Resource’ are that you use a wide range of vocabulary to convey precise meanings and skillfully use uncommon lexical items

What this means is that you must avoid using simple words and repeating the same words in your letter.

You have to show off what you know in just 150 words, so make every word count!

When you are writing try to think of a more formal word for the one you have written.  Words that we use when we speak in everyday conversation are not the words that will get you a high band.

Some examples of everyday verbs  and a more formal equivalent are:

  • Need – Require  
  • Take part –  Participate
  • Get – Acquire
  • Give – Administer
  • Look for – Research
  • Ask for – Appeal for
  • Write – Compose
  • Carry out – Conduct
  1. Punctuation 

In IELTS formal letter writing, you must not use contracted forms (e.g. it’s/ won’t etc)  and use long forms e.g.  It is … I will not …. We do not…

Remember to use a capital letter in the names of:

  • theatres, hotels, roads, streets and  avenues
  • countries, cities, languages and nationalities
  • days and months and the names of holidays, but not seasons ( seasons are  not proper nouns in English)

Remember to always edit your writing carefully for spelling mistakes, which can lower your band.

For more tips and advice about IELTS formal letter writing please follow this link https://youtu.be/4y_u4o5kp_w

 

Written by: Janet Wilson

One thought on “6 Best Tips in writing an IELTS Formal Letter”

  • Silvia Sembiring says:

    Hi guys, my PTE test score results are as follows:

    Communicative Skills:
    Listening – 90
    Reading – 83
    Speaking – 90
    Writing – 90

    Enabling Skills:
    Grammar – 90
    Oral Fluency – 90
    Pronunciation – 90
    Spelling – 90
    Vocabulary – 77
    Written Discourse – 90

    If you need help, email me at: sildude_92h@yahoo.com
    I’m currently located in Jakarta, Indonesia.

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