Writing an IELTS Semi-Formal Letter

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

Consider the sample question below:

You are working for a company. You need to take some time off and want to ask your manager about this.

Write a letter to your manager.

In your letter:

  • Explain why you want to take time off
  • Give details of the amount of time you need
  • Suggest how your work could be covered while you are away.

In this exam task, the audience is your manager and therefore you should use a semi-formal style as you are writing to a person you know, but not very well.

 

Tip#1 Semi-formal letters are sent to people that we do not know well. They are more polite than an informal letter and are written in a neutral style, not too formal nor too informal.

Greetings and signing off  in IELTS Semi-Formal Letter

This depends on the overall formality of your IELTS Semi-Formal letter. You may decide to greet with:

Dear Mr Jones, or Dear Tom,

Sign off with:

Kind regards,

(and your name)

or

Best wishes,

(and your name)

 

Opening and Closing Statements

Tip #2  It is important that you do not omit the opening and closing statements.

How you open your IELTS Semi-Formal 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.

 

Opening Statement

For example, if you are writing to ask for some time off work then you can begin with the request directly:

Dear Mr Jones,

I am writing to request a few days of unpaid leave in March.

Try to paraphrase the exam question and do not just copy it or words from it.

 

Closing statements

I would be very grateful if you could allow me to take these four days off as it is very important to my parents that I attend and Id appreciate it if you could let me know by the end of the week.

There are certain points you must remember when writing a semi-formal letter with regards to:

  • Paragraphs and  structure
  • Vocabulary (Lexical resource)
  • Punctuation

I will now 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.

 

Tip #3 Paragraphs and Structure

You must organise your IELTS Semi-Formal 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 bullet point carefully.

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. Your structure should be:

Bullet point 1 and supporting details

Bullet point 2 and supporting details

Bullet point 3 and supporting details

 

Consider the IELTS Semi-Formal Letter sample question: 

You are working for a company. You need to take some time off  and want to ask your manager about his

Write a letter to your manager. In your letter

  • Explain why you want to take time off
  • Give details of the amount of time you need
  • Suggest how your work could be covered while you are away.

So the letter would look something like this:

Dear Mr Jones,

I am writing to request a few days of unpaid leave in March.

It is my parents’ wedding anniversary on 22nd March and they are planning to celebrate their special day with their children and grandchildren in a cottage, which they have rented to accommodate all the family.

To participate in this special occasion I would need to be away from work for four days, from Tuesday 19th to Friday 22nd. My schedule for that week is relatively light apart from two meetings with clients. Anna would be able to attend the meetings in my place, as she has dealt with both of these clients in the past. I have no other meetings nor any other urgent work that needs to be completed at that time.

I would be very grateful if you could allow me to take these four days off as it is very important to my parents that I attend and I would appreciate it if you could let me know by the end of the week.

Kind regards,

Tom Watson

 

Tip#4 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 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!

The register of this letter should be semi-formal or neutral style, which is characterized by:

  •  Less colloquial language – e.g. Thank you very much for your letter (instead of: Thanks for your letter.)
  •  Less frequent use of short forms, phrasal verbs and idioms – e.g. I am writing to request information about…….(instead of: I thought I’d drop you a line to ask about…)
  • A polite, respectful tone – e.g. I was wondering if you could ...(instead of: Can you ……)

Formal, semi-formal/ neutral, informal phrases and expressions:

Informal  Neutral/ Semi-formal  Formal 
What do you need? Please let us know your requirements Please inform us of your requirements
Many thanks for ..

Thanks for your letter

Thank you for your letter Thank you for your letter dated 12th May
Sorry, I can’t make it to the ….. I am sorry but I will not be able to come to …. Please accept my apologies for …… I am afraid I will be unable to attend the …./ please accept my sincere apologies for …
(I’m) So sorry to tell you that … I am sorry to say that I/we  …….. We/I regret to inform you that ….
I promise to +verb.

I promise + that clause

I/ we can assure you that ….. Please be assured that …..
Could / would you ……? I was wondering if you could / would……..? We would greatly appreciate your help/ assistance in this matter.
Don’t forget ….. We/ I would like to remind you that ….. We/ I would like to remind you that …..
But …. Also…. So…. However, In addition, Therefore, However, In addition, Therefore,
Can you …… please…..? Could you please ……? I would be grateful if you could…..
I’m sorry for putting you out. I am sorry for inconveniencing you Please accept our/ my apologies for…. (any inconvenience)

 

Tip #5 Abbreviations

You may occasionally want to abbreviate but do not use ‘text language ‘ (BTW, FYI) in the exam, even in the informal letter to a friend.

It’s okay to use these abbreviations though in your informal and semi-formal letter:

i.e.  = I’m going to explain what I mean using different words.

e.g. = I am going to give an example.

Etc. = and other similar things

 

Tip #6 Punctuation

In semi-formal letter writing you can use contracted forms, e.g. it’s/ won’t, don’t etc ) but this depends on 2 things:

  • Who you are writing to
  • The overall formality of the letter.

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 score. You can also watch this video by Jay that gives you a SUPER STRUCTURE for the IELTS Semi-Formal Letter.

For more tips and advice about IELTS letter writing please take a look at the E2language blogs on formal and informal letter writing too.

 

Written by Janet Wilson

4 thoughts on “Top 6 Tips to write an IELTS Semi-formal Letter”

  • Vandana Agrawal says:

    Can we use question sentences for a formal or semi-formal letter? will that help score a better band score or should it be avoided for a letter at all?

    • 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.

    • 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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