IELTS Letter Writing: 10 Essential Tips

These IELTS letter writing tips are essential to follow to get a good score in task 1 for the general training paper. The list of tips below will help you understand all the different types of letters, how to write them, how to structure you letter and how to fulfill the task for a high score. You will have 20 mins for this task. Remember only students taking the General Training Paper in IELTS will be required to write a letter for task 1.

1. Instructions

You will be given instructions and three points to include in your letter. It is essential that you follow use the three points to structure your letter and provide the foundation for the information. If you fail to include all the points in your letter, your band score will be lower. Here is an example of the type of instructions you can get:

You recently had a holiday visiting your friends and you stayed in their house.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

  • thank your friend for staying with them
  • tell them what you enjoyed most about the holiday
  • explain you are sending photos of the holiday with the letter

Further instructions for all GT writing task 1 state:

  • you must write over 150 words (aim for between 160 and 180 to be safe)
  • you do NOT need to write an address on the letter
  • how to begin your letter. For example Dear Sir/ Madam, or Dear …. When you see ‘Dear ….’, this means you should write a name for the person from your imagination – see below for tips on this)

2. Types of IELTS Letter

There are three different types of letters: personal, semi-formal and formal. Each type of letter will use different language. It will have a different beginning and a different way of signing off. Your first task, before you start writing, is to decide which type of letter you must write by identifying the task given. Below are examples of the three different types of letters.

Personal

You would like to invite a foreign friend to visit you for your birthday

Write a letter inviting your friend. In your letter:

  • tell your friend about your birthday
  • explain how much the visit would mean to you
  • suggest that your friend stays at your house for the visit

 

Tips

A personal letter is to someone you know personally about a social situation or a personal situation.

 

Semi-formal

Your friend has a travel company and would like you to come and work with him.

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

  • explain what you know about your friends company
  • choose whether you accept or decline the offer
  • give reasons for your choice
Tips

A semi-formal letter is to someone you know about a formal or serious situation such as work

 

Formal

You are interested in applying for a scholarship program to study at a foreign University.

Write a letter to inquire about the course. In your letter:

  • explain which course your interested in
  • tell what you know about the University
  • explain why you should receive the scholarship
Tips

A formal letter is to someone you don’t know about a serious or formal situation

 

3. Letter Aims

Letters can be based on different content which will affect the style of the letter. Below is a list of some of the common contents for letters. Although there are hints about whether the letters are usually formal or not, please note that you will know the style by reading the instructions given to you.

  • complaints (usually formal)
  • invitations (usually personal or semi-formal)
  • applications or resignations (usually formal)
  • request (any style common)
  • making arrangements (often formal)
  • explanation (sometimes semi-formal or personal)
  • informative / news letter (often personal/ semi-formal but formal can also appear)
  • apology (could be any style)

 

 4. Letter Openings

Letters usually start with an opening statement which explains the reason for writing the letter. This opening statement varies depending on whether you are writing a formal or informal letter. Below are two examples of an opening statement. Can you spot which one is formal and which one is informal?

A)  I am writing this letter with regards to the scholarship program to study at London University which I read in Sunday Times on December 1st, 2014.

B)  It’s been so long since we last were in touch but I haven’t forgotten all the wonderful times we spent together last year. It’s my birthday coming up and I wanted to invite you over to stay at my place for the celebration.

C) I’m just writing to say thank you for the offer of joining your company.

Answer

A is formal, B is personal (informal) and C is semi-formal

 

5. Signing Off

Depending on the style and aim of the letter, you will need to adapt your final sentence or comment.

 

  • Dear Sir / Madame = Yours faithfully, 
  • Dear Mr Robson = Yours sincerely,
  • Hi Dave = See you soon, / Take care, / All the best,

Note: We use “Sir / Madame” when we don’t know the person’s name that we are writing to, for example when we write to the manager of a hotel. We use “Mr Robson” (with the title Mr or Mrs) when we are writing a formal letter but we know the name of the person we are writing to. We use no title and no last name when we write to a friend.

Below are some examples of final comments before signing off, can you tell which ones are formal and which not?

It’ll be great to catch up again soon. Give my best to everyone in the family.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Answers
The first one is personal and the second one is formal

 

You should write a name at the end of your letter. You can use your name or you can invest one.

  • Dear Sir = Yours faithfully, Mr John Brown (here your name is John Brown and you use a title because it is formal)
  • Dear Mr Robson = Yours sincerely, Mrs Susan Harper (here your name is Susan Harper and you use a title because it is formal)
  • Hi Dave = See you soon, Liz (here you use your first name only because it is informal)

 

 

6. Grammar: Formal and Informal

Formal and informal (friendly) letters contain different language and style of writing. While informal letters can contain contractions (I’m writing …), these contractions are unacceptable in formal writing so you need to write the words in full (I am writing …. …).

In a formal letter, you could write “I am writing with regards to ….”. whereas for a semi-formal letter you can write “I’m writing about…” or “I’m writing to say..” or “I just want to let you know that..”. So, it is important to adapt your writing to suit the style of the letter. Also remember to use a range of different sentence structures in order to get a high score.

7. Vocabulary: Formal and Informal

For vocabulary, be very careful using academic language in a personal letter. This would be inappropriate and will reduce your band score rather than increase it. Here are some examples of the difference between formal and informal language:

  • You will be collected at the airport = I’ll pick you up at the airport
  • The next available appointment is on Thursday = how about we meet up on Thursday?
  • I would like to invite you to visit my house on…. = Why don’t you pop round to my place on …..
  • I highly recommend that you come in August = it’d be great if you came in August
  • Please respond at the earliest convenience = Get back to me as soon as you can
  • Unfortunately I will not be able to attend  on … = Sorry, but I won’t be able to make it on ….

8. Spelling and Punctuation

The examiner will check your accuracy in your spelling and your punctuation (this means your use of commas and full stops). If you make frequent errors in spelling or in punctuation it is unlikely to get over band score 6.

9. Structure and Paragraphs

You must also organise your letter into paragraphs. This is an essential part of your letter writing and the examiner will be marking you on your ability to use effective paragraphing. In IELTS writing task 1 (GT), the letter structure below is most common as it usually follows the three points which you must include in your letter. However you must adapt it to suit the task given to you by IELTS. So spend time reading the instructions and deciding your paragraphing.

Structure:

  • title
  • opening statement – reason for writing
  • body paragraph A (one point with detail)
  • body paragraph B (another point with detail)
  • body paragraph C (final point with detail)
  • closing statement (if needed)
  • signing off
  • name (choose a name or use your own)

10. Planning Your Letter

You should spend at least 3 or 4 minutes planning your letter. Covering all the points in your letter, adding details, using the appropriate style of letter writing and using paragraphs well count for about 50% of your marks. So it’s worth taking time to plan your letter well. Follow the points below for a well planned letter:

  1. read the instructions
  2. identify what style of letter you must write
  3. read through the points you must include in your letter
  4. think about how many paragraphs you will have and where to put each point
  5. plan what information you will add to each point
  6. decide how to open the letter
  7. think about the language you will use (both grammar and vocabulary) – it must suit the style of the letter
  8. decide how to close the letter
  9. plan the content of each body paragraph
  10. start writing

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Comments

  1. Hi liz

    I’m taking the ielts again this week and while reading your instructions about the task 1 of the writing section, I have a few questions:
    If i am writing an informal letter, to a friend, am i supposed to use an informal language?
    Will my band score go lower if I am using a more academic / formal language in writing an informal letter?
    Let’s say: If i write: ‘I would like to invite you for dinner at my new house’, instead of ‘why don’t you come over for dinner next friday?’

    Thanks for clearing this for me

    Lovi

    • If you use formal language in an informal letter, you will lose marks. Writing “I would like to invite you …” is formal. Avoid this in an informal letter in IELTS. Your task is to show the examiner that you know the difference between formal and informal styles.

  2. Ahmed Zein says:

    Hi liz,
    you said before that is the question says, Start with Dear …….. , this means that i should invest a name however in other sites I see them saying Dear Sir/ Madam
    I am very confused .

    • This page shows that you start Dear Sir/ Madam when you don’t know who you are writing to and you start Dear …. (a name) when you know the person. The difference is between formal and informal letters.

  3. In order to write a letter to your boss regarding anything. Shall we consider this as a semiformal letter (since we know him/her well)? or consider as a formal letter? Becuase in both cases salutation and signing off will be different.Please reply asap.

  4. Hi Liz ,
    Greetings to you from the little nation of Vanuatu , in the south Pacific.

    Last week I have Just made up my mind to sit this very important IELTS exam , and targeting the General Training exam.

    This is fourth day revision, and I have chosen to use your videos and other resources for my exam preparation. Excellent tips & advice you have provided for us students and they really give me courage & confidence to sit the IELTS Examination this Thursday 3rd November 2016.

    May our Lord will reward you great blessings.
    Thank you very Much.
    Nono

  5. Hi Liz,
    Could you please tell me writing a letter to the owner of an apartment for requesting the same apartment for rent in this vacation and ask from him/her to do some repairs that have been noticed in last year would be semi-formal or formal letter?

    Thank you

  6. Vishav Singh says:

    Hello Liz
    I need to ask you one thing that, should we use title with own name.. when signing off a letter.

    Such as:

    Dear Sir
    ——————–
    Yours faithfully
    Mr. Vishav

    I have listen somewhere in my working life that we can’t give title with own name when writing to someone else.

    what do you say ?

    thanks

  7. Nice blog. Thanks Liz, you rock!!!

  8. Abiodun Laleye says:

    Hi Liz. Thanks a lot for the tips. They’ve been most informative for me. Very useful indeed.

  9. THANKS VERY MUCH LIZ .

  10. Matas Milukas says:

    In part 4. Letters Openings, section B, I think that there is a typo. (ieltsliz.com/ielts-letter-writing-essential-tips)

    You have written “It’s mt birthday” but I think that you actually wanted to write “It’s my birthday”. (Otherwise, correct me if I am wrong 🙂 )

    By the way, great website!

  11. Dear Liz,

    Thanks for your blog. It was helped me a lot. But I still have one question. It will be glad if you can answer. For the begining, I didnt know much about the IELTS test so I came into a class and the teacher taught me about IELTS for academic test. But after I took advice from my friend, he said I should test in Gerenal Training. So, where do I begin? Should I find another class or practice by myself?

    Once again. Thanks for your blog.

  12. Dear Liz

    Thanks for yr blog it is helping us alot.
    I want to know is letter to a neighbor is semi-formal? If yes, it means we can use contractiions. Right?
    Thanks

    • A letter to a neighbour can be informal or semi formal depending on how well you know your neighbour and the topic. Yes, you can use contractions.

  13. Hi Liz,

    Thank you very much for your wonderful blog.
    i have one question.
    In personal or semi-formal letter can i use formal vocabulary, like for example… I am writing instead of I’m writing

    Thank you,

    • In personal letters, you can use contractions. In semi formal letters it depends how well you know the person and what the letter is about – ie work or leisure.

  14. Tony Joseph says:

    Hi Liz,
    I already have a patterned mind set on the steps for letter writing paragraphing:
    Introduction (making an emphatic statement on my intention), ‘Firstly’ (for second paragraph), ‘Also’ (in my third paragraph), ‘Finally’ (in the fourth paragraph) and ‘In conclusion’ (in the fifth and last paragraph- summarizing the letter with an overall opinionated statement).
    Hope I’m on course with this?

    Tony

  15. Hi Liz,

    This is just a quick question regarding indentation. Is indenting no longer required in writing letters and essays? Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Tyr

  16. Hi Liz,

    I went through the guidance on Writing Task 1. I have attended IELTS examination twice last year and scored 8 for L/S/R but for writing my score is 7. I want to improve my writing skills especially on essay writing. It would be helpful if you can provide me the required guidance on the ways to improve my self on formation of Essays.

    Thanks,
    Rins

  17. Hi Liz,

    What if I end my letter without writing yours sincerely and a name. How would it impact on the overall band score.

    • It will affect the score for Task Achievement.

      • It eventually did impact. I scored 6 in writing.

        Also can you please advise if we can write date at the end of letter. Further, is it necessary to put commas after the title and sign off?

        • You don’t need dates with your letter and you don’t need commas after the title of signing off.

          • Thanks again.
            Is there a penalty to write location in the body section of a letter. Or is it just the signoff where one must not mention any address?

    • It will definitely have an impact- as you state- on your writing. A great tennis player serves his last serve of the match with the same velocity as his first one. So, your last sentence or words should be as appropriate as your fist ones.
      .

  18. hello! what about tense forms in GT letter writing? I mean using Past Simple Tense instead of Present Perfect Tense. Is it correct or not?

    • How can you bring mathematical formulas in writing a language. Different situations require different responses and the formation of the tenses will depend on that. Just try and keep things simple and to the point and get your views acrross.

  19. parvinder says:

    Hi Liz.

    First of all, i would like to thank you for videos and articles which are very informative.
    I have attempted IELTS twice.I scored around 8 band in L/S/R but unfortunately i couldn’t score 7 in writing.In first attempt i thought it could be spelling mistakes or poor hand writing as i am more into typing rather writing.In second attempt i religiously followed your tips proper paragraph structure and salutations,i also took extra care of legibility of writing and spelling mistake but i again scored 6.5.
    Could you please suggest what approach shall i choose to score 7.5 in writing.I believe there is certainly something wrong (very basic) which i am missing to correct again and again.

    I was wondering if you could please assess my writing or provide me online coaching.
    I believe if i prepare for 8 band i will surely make it to Band 7 at least.

    Regards,

    Parvinder

    • See my advanced writing task 2 lessons which explain in great depth the techniques needed for a high score: http://subscriptions.viddler.com/IELTSLizStore.
      All the best
      Liz

      • Dear Ms Liz,
        I am a beneficiar from your IELTS material. However, I have a request and admiration to share.
        Please share IELTS Letter (GT) model answers. The link provided does not lead to any source, rather leads to an error page.
        I wonder if you have a pen name by Monica sorrenson whose teaching methodolgy is quite similiar to yours. Nevertheless, please accept my expression of gratitude for sharing such useful information.
        Yours sincerely, Mr Kadian

        • I’ve just up-dated the links. Try again and see if they work. No, that isn’t my pen name 🙂

          • Hello Mam,
            Please also post model answers for each kind of lettter as you have posted for academic writings. That are explained thoroughly and I need help in general writing task 1

    • Content, your problem is that you are, perhaps, moving away from the core of the topic and meandering here and there.Remember, upto Band 6 or 6.5, the grammatical accuracies are more important but as you move upward, the content of your writing as conjoined with the topic given, becomes extremely important. Paragraphing and understanding the basic principles underlying the effects of the ideas generated through paragraphs and their appropriateness becomes the important issue, at this juncture of Band 7 and beyond.

  20. Hi Liz,
    Good day! Can I have a copy of IELTS letter writing?

    Thanks,
    honey

  21. Hi Liz,
    Good day!
    Can i have a copy of IELTS letter writing?

  22. Hi Liz,
    Are contractions mandatory in semiformal letter just like informal case ?

    Regards,
    Subi

  23. Hi liz
    I want ask about if there is difference between sincerely and faithfully?
    Thank you

  24. What is the character for each of them (formal, informal and semi-formal)?

  25. Hi liz
    How can I know the differenc between formal, informal, semi-formal and personal?

    • There are only three kinds as stated above. you will know when you read the instructions if it is to someone you know well, you know a little or someone you don’t know.
      Liz

  26. Dear Liz,

    I will be taking my IELTS exam this saturday in Malaysia. I am terrified…

    Anyway, I would like to ask you for some advice. As for IELTS, we do not need to include the person’s address and our own address in a formal letter? Or it depends fully on the question? Please advise.

    Thank you.

    • You never write an address at the top of your letter. If the instructions ask you to give your address, then you put it in a sentence in a body paragraph. For example, “I am writing to complain about the noise on my street. I currently live at 54 South Street.” You can see it is not a full address, just the details that are relevant to the letter.
      Liz

  27. Hi Liz,
    I am thankful to you that you provide such a great platform where we can practice and enhance our skills for IELTS. I am preparing for General Ielts and i want to know about different types of Letters that you have shared , But i didn’t find mode answers of all , I want to ask where can i get model answers of that or can you suggest some students with whom we can share our letter writing that you shared for practice as you dont have time to check and mark our letters,
    Thanks and keep working for us.

  28. Hi Liz,
    It was asked to write a letter to a school teacher apologizing not to returning a book borrowed from her and explaining the reason. Is this a formal or informal letter?
    Thanks in advance
    Sandun

    • This is a semi-formal letter. You need to put the name of the teacher instead of using “sir”. This means the content is formal but as you know your teacher quite well it is more relaxed in style.
      Liz

  29. Hello Liz

    wish you are doing very well,

    Actually this is my first participation ,and I have one question please.

    when I am sending a letter formal or personal , Can i use one of these phrases ,for example :

    Dear Liz,

    1- trust your are doing very well
    2- I wish my letter find you very well

    and then complete the rest of letter

    • Both have incorrect grammar. Also you need to adapt your letter depending on the instructions and aims.
      All the best
      Liz

  30. R Radhakrishnan says:

    Hi Liz,

    Good day to you. I need your expert advise and a clarification on GT writing task 1 – Letters;
    I came across a question, where they have requested to write a letter to friend and invite him to a party and to provide the Date and the Venue;
    However the instructions part of the question states no need to mention addresses; in this scenario, do i have to provide the address of the party in my body of the letter or should I not mention it.
    I am aware, that not following the instructions will result in less marks allotted to me and would be grateful if you could clarify this and provide a suitable solution for this scenario.
    Awaiting your earliest response.
    Thanks
    R. Radhakrishnan.

    • The instructions tell you that you don’t need to write a full address which is normally written in the top corner of any letter before the start of the letter. The date and venue which you need to write in your letter is not a full address (there is no need for the postcode or even city). You can just write the name of the place and the street with a number. And that information is written inside the body of the letter.
      All the best

  31. Hi Liz,
    Do I always have to start the letter with” Dear….” ?
    I mean, if it is a formal letter and I don’t know the name of the person, can I start with something like”To the mamagement of….”
    Or it is better to keep it simple and start with ” Dear …” in all types of letters?

    Thanks in advance

  32. Hi Liz,
    I appeared for general training IELTS test on 29th Sepetember,2015.
    I have a doubt regarding letter writing.
    One of the instructions say:
    You do NOT need write any address.
    But in the introduction i mentioned the address as follows:

    Dear Mathew Hogward

    I am Scarlette Jonathan, recently shifted to your South East road aparrment number SJ001C.

    Does this affect my band score in task 1?
    Does this make my task 1 neglected?

    I covered all the points in my letter and i am sure there were no spelling, punctuation and
    grammar miskates.
    ButI got only 6 bands in writing module.
    My essay was also well structured.
    I would be grateful if you could post a reply to my query!

    Your lessons are a great help!
    Thank you Liz!

    • If the task requires you to write about your accommodation, it is fine to put the street and number inside the letter – in fact it is necessary. What the instructions mean is that you don’t need to write your address in the top left corner of the paper before starting the letter.
      All the best
      Liz

  33. Zainub Bahar says:

    Dear Liz,

    Writing task 1 of GT Pakistan 29th August, 2015:
    You recently moved to an apartment where you are facing a some of problems, write a letter to owner to inform him and suggest solution.

    Explain the apartment is very good
    describe your problem
    suggest a solution

    Dear…….,

    WHAT TYPE OF LETTER IT IS, AS YOU MENTIONED COMPLAINTS ARE USUALLY FORMAL. I WROTE IT IN SEMI-FORMAL WAY HAVING NO CONTRACTIONS AND FORMAL VOCAB.

    I ALSO INVESTED OWNER’S NAME AND MY NAME. IS IT RIGHT?

    Thanking in anticipation for your reply.

    • This is a formal letter. The landlord is not your friend and the situation is serious. Any complaint letter is formal. Well done avoiding contractions. You put your name at the end of the letter and the landlord’s name after “Dear..” at the start of the letter.
      All the best
      Liz

  34. Hi Liz,

    KUDOS!

    Wonderful tips…as i m a ielts trainer ur tips r very handy. I have been going thrugh ur blog gor the first time. I just went through ur tips for letter writing. They seem to be very benificial. I would be delighted to have a few more tips and sample answers on my mail.

    Yours sincerely,
    Rani

    • I’m glad the lesson was useful, Rani. I’ll post more model letters at some point but I can’t say exactly when.
      All the best
      Liz

  35. Dhruba Baral says:

    Dear Liz,
    I am looking forward to appearing the ielts test for the first time. I´m sort of an aspirant who has no excess to preparation classes but has an ex excess to the internet. Is it enough? Or should I get enrolled to such classes mandatorily? Is it compulsory to go through the books prescribed or the online courses are enough?
    Expecting a genuine suggestion,
    DHRUBA

    • I will be very direct. If there is a chance of professional IELTS training then of course it is worth it. But not many schools are good – you need to select carefully. However, training in IELTS is not enough. You must have the right level of English to match your score. For example, in the message above, you have used incorrect vocabulary “excess” (you mean access), “get enrolled” (should be just enroll), prescribed (recommended) – and there are more mistakes still. This means you will struggle to get over band 6 due to your frequent errors. So, work on your level of English until you can produce accurate language suitable for the band score you want. When your English is stronger, learn IELTS skills in any way possible.
      Liz

  36. Hi there,
    In this capitalistic world where everyone has a price and nothing is free,your website is nothing less then a blessing!!
    Am planing to take IELTS G.T actually thinking for the past 1 year but never appeared (phobia i gueess).I think my English is not up to the mark.I need 7 band in all areas for my Immigration.My grammar and writing the worst.As far as speaking is concerned I stammer and it just shatters my confidence.Its terrible when you want say but you cant say it and i stuck at crucial time.
    I need some suggestions what you think how much time I need to get 7 band?? especially in writing and speaking.I can write on some issues like taboo issues,music,sprituality but strangely i cant write a letter or essay.

    Sorry for being so long but as i read you blog i came to know you are a humble person so i hope you wouldnot mind..

    As hope is a good thing I hope you will reply to my boring and long letter/essay whatever you call it.Thanks
    I

    • You seem to have a good level of English with the odd error which means you have the potential for around 7. If your stammer is part of your natural way of speaking, then it shouldn’t affect your score. But if it is due to nerves, then you will need to find a way to tackle it. One way is to develop so many ideas and answers for questions, that you will feel confident when the examiner asks a question. Of course, you can’t predict all questions but you can predict a range of common topics and you can practice all the common questions – have a technique of expanding each type of question. For part 2, you will need to have a particularly strong technique.

      For writing, the key will be not only ideas, but also structure, linking devices and knowing what the instructions require of you and how to present your answer. Take a look at my model essays. Look through all my free posts and videos in each of the main sections for tips, common questions, model answers etc.

      How long will it take? You will have a better idea how long you need to prepare once you see the topics you must prepare for and the types of questions.
      All the best
      Liz

  37. Thanks Liz.
    Very helpful and useful tips.
    Please, give the explanation on difference between “Sincerely” and “Faithfully”. In what style can we use them and how?

  38. Manjush says:

    Hi Liz.
    Your all sessions are excellent and very helpful to al IELTS students.

    Cheers
    Manjush

  39. Merry Christmas & happy new year
    My level in English is not strong & I hope to help me to be better

  40. Is it correct to write “…with regardS to…”?

  41. Merry Christmas and Happy new year to you, Liz. Great lesson as always!

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