If you are preparing for IELTS General Training Test, you would definitely be aware that the IELTS General Writing comprises of two tasks.

  • Task 1: Write a letter
  • Task 2: Write an essay

Task 2 in Writing Module is always formal whereas Task 1 can be either informal or formal.

This post is specifically dedicated to those IELTS aspirants who are trying to comprehend what actually IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 demands them to do.

For Task 1 in IELTS Test, you have to write a letter. You need to decide which style you will opt for in reliance to the type of question asked – Informal or Formal. Basically, the instructions demand either of the following things –

  • If you are asked to write to someone you know, you have to respond in form of an informal letter.
  • On the contrary, if you are asked to write to someone you don’t know, you must respond in form of a formal letter.

The levels of formality in English Language differs depending on the style you choose to write. That is, use of English will not be the same for Informal as well as Formal Writing.

Well, this post highlights several main differences between informal and formal writing in IELTS. So, you should not be a stranger to the intricacies as to when to use which type of English.

Quick look on Do’s & Don’ts of writing Informal and Formal Letters in IELTS General Writing

Informal Formal

Use Colloquial Words/Expressions

No Colloquial Words/Expressions

Use Contractions

No Contractions

Use Abbreviations

No Abbreviations

Write in reference to first/second/third person

Write in reference to third person

Use Clichés

No Clichés

Use Imperative Voice

Avoid use of Imperative Voice

Use Active Voice

Use Passive Voice

Short and Simple Sentences

Long and Complex Sentences

Use Exclamation Mark

Avoid use of Exclamation Mark

Let’s understand these points with appropriate example.

1. Main difference between Formal & Informal English lies in use of VOCABULARY

Words that we use to convey message in our day-to-day conversation are informal words. While the words used in books, contracts, or business letters are formal words. So, you should be careful in using them while writing informal and formal letters.

For example,

Informal: Why don’t you pop around my house?

Formal: I would like to invite you to visit my house.

Here are some more words that you can take into consideration while writing letters.

Informal Formal















Inappropriate use of these words will reduce your Band Score.

2. Style of writing that accepts Abbreviations/Contractions and the one that doesn’t

In Informal Writing, you can use abbreviations as well as contractions. But, you cannot use them in case of Formal Writing.

For example,

Informal: I’m waiting for you.

Formal: I am waiting for you.

Informal: Turn on the TV.

Formal: Kindly turn on the television.

Thus, it is important that you adapt your writing in such a way that it suits the style of the letter.

3. Words that can be used to emphasize what you want to convey

When you want to make something clear or draw attention of the reader, you can use emphasizing words. Again, depending on the style of writing, these words vary.

Have a look at some of the below listed words and make their appropriate use while drafting your letter.

Informal Formal

Lots of/A lot of


Heaps of

A number of





4. Appropriate use of Phrasal Verbs is important

To avoid over-formal language, we make use of phrasal verbs. But what happens when you need to write a formal letter? Though we think of phrasal verbs as means of conveying in an informal way, there are many of them that can be appropriately used for formal writing.

Well, here is an example.

Informal: Researchers did a survey.

Formal: Researchers carried out a survey.

Some more phrasal verbs that you can use for Formal Writing are –

Adhere to Enter on
Ascribe to Pertain to
Cast down Provide against
Carry out Point out
Brought about Complain of

So, don’t omit use of phrasal verbs while writing Formal letters. These phrasal verbs contribute to an authoritative style and hence may impress the reader.

5. Sentence Structure differs on the basis of Formal & Informal Writing

In Informal Letter Writing, you can write short and simple sentences. Sometimes, you can even make points so that the reader gets a crisp idea.

Whereas, in Formal Letter writing, sentences are long and complicated. You need to be as thorough as possible with your response. Each point you write needs to be elaborated.

For example,

Informal: Went to Barcelona for the weekend. Lots to tell you.

Formal: We went to Barcelona for the weekend. We have many things to tell you.

6. Letter Expressions also vary depending on the style of writing you opt for

Informal letters begin with Dear + Name of the Receiver and ends with Best Wishes/Regards + Your First Name.

Formal letters begin with Dear Sir/Madam and ends with Yours Faithfully + Full Name.

These are some of the common differences that you must take care of while writing an informal or formal letter. Practise drafting as many letters as you can before you appear for the actual IELTS Test. You can even get your letters corrected from experts by using the IELTS Writing Correction Service offered by IELTS Tutorials. Sign Up to avail the services and study the evaluation of your letter properly, note down your mistakes, improve them, and make sure that you don’t repeat them.

So, ensure that you prepare well and then appear for your IELTS Exam.

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