IELTS Letter Writing tips

IELTS Letter Writing Tips: A Complete Guide to Achieve Best Score

August 26, 2020

The right approach and technique are the basic requirements to get a high score in the IELTS General Training Writing Task 1. Once you know all the right strategies, you will be able to deliver the best of your ability.

The following IELTS Letter Writing Tips will help you learn the knack of writing letters to get that perfect score you want for your eligibility requirement.

The Task at Hand

Letter writing is the first task of the IELTS General Writing Exam with barely 20 minutes in hand to ideate as well as write a letter that not only resonates with the reader but also is grammatically and lexically rich. 

General instructions will help you to find the type of letter. Every letter has a purpose and identifying that before you start writing it will help you understand the points to cover, the type of letter you're expected to write and pen it down strategically as well as effectively.

If you are not aware of how assessment for letter writing works then you can refer to the writing assessment criteria to get a complete understanding. 

Identifying the THREE Types of IELTS Letters

While most of us are aware of the first two i.e. Formal and Informal letters, there’s a third type as well - the Semi-formal letter; all of them are distinguished by their distinct beginning and signing off. Once you identify the type of letter by reading all the instructions, you can focus on the vocabulary and contractions to be used.

Here are the examples for all the types of letter writing:

1. IELTS Formal Letter

We are already familiar with what a formal letter is and how it sounds. 

In short, it is a letter addressed to someone whom you have never met or have a strictly formal relationship with about a serious and formal situation.

Formal letter writing topics can be broken down into 10 types in the IELTS exam:

  • A Complaint Letter
  • A Request Letter
  • A Review Letter
  • A Feedback Letter
  • A Resignation Letter
  • An Application Letter
  • An Apology Letter
  • An Arrangement Letter
  • An Explanation Letter
  • An Invitation Letter

An example of a Formal letter writing topic would be:

You are interested in applying for the scholarship program at a foreign university for your post-graduation.

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

  • Explain which course you are interested in
  • Address what you like about the university
  • Explain why you want to get admission to that university

2. IELTS Informal Letter

As the name suggests, it’s a personal letter about social and personal situations to someone you know or is close to you.

Unlike the formal letter topics, it is hard to group or classify the informal letter writing topics since there are many possibilities for topics when addressing a friend or someone we are close to. 

A fine example of Informal letter writing would be:

Write a letter inviting your friend to your wedding. In your letter:

  • Tell your friend about your wedding
  • Explain why their presence at your wedding is important to you
  • Suggest that they will stay with you at your place

3. IELTS Semi-formal Letter

While the difference between formal and informal letters is evident, a semi-formal letter is written when an informal entity converges into a formal situation i.e. you know that person, but the bonding is formal.

For example:

Your neighbours use loudspeakers, and that disturbs you. Write a complaint letter to the secretary of the society. In your letter:

  • Tell that your neighbours are bothering you with the loudspeakers
  • Explain the whole situation to your secretary
  • Ask for the secretary's help by intervening in the situation

The Art of Addressing

Letters are conversations composed to not only communicate but also to do so effectively with added flair. So, all letters are personal irrespective of their formal or informal tone because it is being written by us and for us (to communicate with others). This is why we need to learn how to address the person we wish to communicate with, and put them at ease before we get to the point.  

The Opening Statement

Your opening statement should explain your purpose for writing the letter. The purpose would differ based on the type of letter, and it will be easy for you to identify the letter type.

    IELTS Letter Writing Example
Answer: A - Formal Letter, B - Informal Letter, C - Semi-formal Letter

Signing Off

The signing off plays a vital role in the letter-writing task and would solely depend on the writing style and your purpose for writing the letter.

Familiarise yourself with the final statement for your letter that you can use in the IELTS Letter Writing exam. But before that, there are a few points that you need to keep in your mind.

Use 'Sir/Ma'am' when you are not aware of the addressee's name. When you know their names and write a formal letter, you use either 'full name' or 'Mr (Last name)' and in case of writing an informal letter, don't use their last name.

Have a look:

  • Formal Letter (When you don't know the name) - Dear Sir/Ma'am = Yours faithfully, Jack Smith
  • Formal Letter (When you know the name) - Dear Mr Smith = Yours sincerely, Mr Grey
  • Formal Letter & Semi-formal Letter (When you know the name) - Dear Will Smith = Yours sincerely
  • Informal Letter & Semi-formal Letter (When you know the name) - Hi Mike / Dear Mike = See you soon, / Take care, / All the best, Jack (Don't use the last name in the informal letter)
    IELTS Letter Writing Example
Answer: A - Informal Letter, B - Formal Letter

The Combination of Coherence and Cohesion

The body of the letter is where your creativity comes into play and this is the primary marker for your scores. One of the major factors that contribute to the fineness of your letter is the combined work of coherence and cohesion. While these two terms might sound complicated, they are basically the ability to be logical in presenting your idea/thought and the way you structure your sentences to do so respectively.

So, if your reader is able to make complete sense of what you have intended to communicate through that letter it means that you are coherent and your ability to do that without having to elaborate on everything in detail shows your cohesion skills. Thus, two primary writing tips for you would be:

Right Structure

IELTS aspirants often make mistakes by writing all the points into a single paragraph. It would be best if you organised your thoughts into different paragraphs.

The examiner will also assess your ability to use effective paragraphing. Here is the most used standard structure for the IELTS Letter Writing that you can also use in the exam.

In those three body paragraphs, you can explain all the points given in the instruction. Go through the structure once to know how a perfect letter should be for the IELTS exam.

Right Structure for a Letter

  • Title
  • Opening Statement - Purpose for writing the letter
  • Body Paragraph 1 (Describe the first point)
  • Body Paragraph 2 (Describe the second point)
  • Body Paragraph 3 (Describe the third point)
  • Closing statement
  • Signing off
  • Name
The best advice to work on your structure would be to try and attempt as many sample letters as possible i.e. consisting of a varying range of topics.  You can make use of the IELTS Tutorials Exam Practice Apps  to practice for free and enhance your skill to the brink.

Effective Planning

Your planning should start even before you begin with your writing. There is no harm to invest initial 3-5 minutes for the planning to write a letter because once you start writing a letter, there is no turning back for making any strategy.

Below is the format that you can use for your IELTS Letter Writing so that you can plan well before your exam.

  • Check all the given instructions for the letter-writing
  • Identify the type of letter you will write
  • Know what all points you will include in your letter writing
  • Decide how many paragraphs you will need for your letter to put each point
  • Think about the opening statement for the letter
  • Select the perfect writing style and the language that you will use (both grammar and vocabulary) - according to the type of letter
  • Think about the signing off
  • Make a proper plan to design the content for each paragraph
  • Start writing

Understanding the Mechanism 

While you focus on increasing your vocabulary, it is important to learn the apt situations to use them as well as synonyms can be confusing and more so their use that varies with situations. This is why you need to keep these two things in mind:

Vocabulary - Your Lexical Resource

Be careful with the use of words for formal and informal letters.

Find below some examples to know the main difference between the formal and informal ways of writing a letter.

  • The meeting is scheduled for Thursday; please be on time = We can meet this Thursday. See you soon.
  • I would like you to accept my resignation letter = Join me this weekend for the concert.
  • Unfortunately, I would not be able to join you at the conference = Sorry, this time it's not possible for me to join you.

Spelling and Punctuation

Wrong spellings and punctuations will result in a low IELTS writing score. Spend the last 2 minutes reviewing your letter to check for any errors in the spelling and punctuation.

Grammar - Awareness and Accuracy

The biggest question arises with the usage of contractions because many IELTS aspirants are not aware of it.

It would help if you remembered that contractions be used only in informal letters because contractions don't look. Therefore you cannot use contractions in the formal letters.

Be more formal while writing the formal letter, for example, "I am writing this letter with regards to...". On the other hand for semi-formal, write "I am writing this letter about…" and for informal letter write "I want to say…".

The goal should be to adapt to the right style for writing a letter. Use a variety of grammatical sentence types and structures to fetch the high score for the IELTS Writing Task 1.

IELTS Letter Writing Strategies:

  • Divide your 20 minutes into planning, writing and evaluating. Spend the first 3-5 minutes into planning, 12-15 minutes into writing and last 2-3 minutes for assessing your writing to find an error.
  • Also, do not cross the time limit above 20 minutes because the last 40 minutes will be needed in the IELTS Writing Task 2, which is your essay writing task. You need to take care of the word limit, which is between 150-180 words. Do not cross the word limit; otherwise, you will also lose scores for doing this.
  • Use a variety of sentence structures because the examiner will score you based on your grammatical range and accuracy.
  • Avoid repetitive words in your essay; it is not a good sign.
  • Include all the instructions in the letter; otherwise, your band score will be lower.

Now that you know all the essential tips for the IELTS Letter Writing from the General Training; you must practice a lot to get a good grip over your writing skills.

In case, you are not able to judge your letter on your own, then we can help you out with our IELTS Writing Evaluation service and conquer all your challenges with expert guidance.