In this tutorial, ex-examiner Robert answers an IELTS General Task 1 formal letter writing topic.
Listen and you will learn:
- One thing IELTS examiners look out for in Task 1 Letters
- How to start your letter in a strong way
- Sample answer to a recent IELTS task 1 Letter writing topic
- How to end your General Task 1 Letter correctly
One thing IELTS examiners look out for in your task 1 answer
Now, one thing the examiners are looking out for is what they call the correct “tone”.
This means whether we can use the right kind of language, the right expressions, when we are writing to strangers, to friends or to something in-between, what we could call “acquaintances”, people or institutions that are familiar to us but not really friends.
Today’s question is a formal letter chosen from recent IELTS Task 1 letter writing topics from October 2022.
This letter should be formal and distant. Your tone has to respect that.
Read the question below:
You recently discovered that there are plans to build a new airport in your area and you are not happy with it. Write a letter to the local authority. In your letter,
- Say how you found out about the plans
- Explain what problems your neighbourhood will face
- Suggest some possible solutions to those problems.
How to start your letter in a strong way
A good strong start to any letter is vital. Most recommend that we state in the first sentence information as who we are and why we are writing.
Now, in “real life” in this particular case, we would undoubtedly name the area where we live right at the beginning and its proximity to the new airport plan as well as our general opinion with regard to this plan, all in the first sentence.
It’s not necessary to state our name because that would be at the end of the letter where we sign.
Here, we are “not happy” but that doesn’t mean we can be aggressive or impolite in our letter.
We need to be polite, formal and direct. When we think of politeness and formality in English or any language, the first thing that comes to my mind is a modality, all those verbs such as would, should, could, and might, among others.
Today’s tutorial will focus on how to start and finish a letter like this.
I am writing to you to …..(verb)
To what? Well, to say that I am not happy with something. How can I say that in more formal terms? Let’s try:-
I am writing to you to express my …..(my what? I need a noun)
At this point, I am entering the world of synonyms. I am not happy. Am I just going to use “unhappiness”? I’m not sure I like that because it sounds too subjective and emotional. How about:
dissatisfaction, disappointment, disquiet…
You know all I did was google synonyms for “unhappiness” and when I got lots of “sadness”, “sorrow”, and “despondency” that made me feel I needed to contact a psychologist as soon as possible, so I thought maybe the idea of being unhappy or dissatisfied with a decision made by others was where I should be looking. Result? Dissatisfaction and some other synonyms.
So, let’s continue:
I am writing to you to express my dissatisfaction with the ……
With what? It’s getting easier. All I need now is to mention the airport building plans. Here goes:
I am writing to you to express my dissatisfaction with the plans to construct an airport ….(where?)
Right, I have mentioned that I live in the area where they plan to build this airport. Should I give it a name to make it sound more authentic?
Yes, it’s a good idea. Choose something simple, in English. Why not “Highview” or something with “field”…Newfield, Greenfield. I’m going with Highview.
I am writing to you to express my dissatisfaction with the plans to construct an airport in the Highview area where I live. (I took the simplest way).
Of course, I am immediately thinking of other ways to write this. What if I start out by mentioning where I live before going on to say how I feel?
What if I changed “dissatisfaction” to “opposition” or “objection”? I’m beginning to sound more militant, more political. Am I part of a movement against these plans or am I just an individual who feels unhappy?
As a resident of the Highfield district, I am writing to you to express my objection to the proposal to construct an airport in the area.
I’m having a good day with synonyms. I live there, I am a resident. You have plans, you have proposals.
Sample answer to a recent IELTS task 1 letter writing topic
Now that we have an opening sentence, we need to follow the three bullet points.
Here is what I noted down some points to include:
- How you found out: read a press release from the local authority on their website
- Explain problems for the neighbourhood: Quiet residential area, many young children and elderly; noise, contamination; increased traffic, road system inadequate to handle the increase
- Suggest some possible solutions: seek an alternative site, there is one 15 km north of Highview; but if not, build a by-pass from the city centre to the airport, avoiding traffic through the main streets
It’s enough. We only want to write a maximum of around 200-220 or so words so we don’t want too much information.
Here I am looking for clarity and my skill at connecting ideas together and the chance to show off some good vocabulary as well as some complex grammatical structures.
I learnt of your aims recently when logging on to the Council website and reading the press release and was surprised that you had failed to consult the residents of the area beforehand. As you know, Highview is a residential zone with many families with school-age children as well as a considerable elderly population. An airport so close to their homes and schools would be extremely detrimental to their health because of atmospheric contamination and noise levels. Moreover, the fact that the streets in Highview are narrow would cause terrible traffic congestion.
I would therefore suggest that you seek an alternative site. Might I recommend you look into the Greenfield area 15 km to the north which not only is flat but also very sparsely populated. However, if that option is not possible, you could consider constructing a by-pass from the city centre to the airport, thus avoiding the main streets of Highview altogether.
How to end your General Task 1 letter correctly
Remember to finish this letter respecting the tone.
Well, I know that if I’m writing to someone I don’t know, let’s say that this letter, for example, is addressed to “The Planning Committee” or perhaps to the “Head of the Planning Committee”.
I might even have his or her name but it’s unlikely I “know” that person and so the traditional way to sign off is with “Yours faithfully” and then, on the next line, my name.
But, before that, I want to politely say “goodbye”. Usually, a perfect way to end a formal letter is with: I look forward to …..(something)
That “something” can be a gerund (I look forward to hearing from you) or a noun (I look forward to your reply/your comments).
Also, here, if you really want to impress the examiner, how about making a proposal yourself in this last part. It would be your final suggestion. An excellent idea would be to suggest a public meeting to discuss the plans.
If I may, I would suggest that the Council calls for a public meeting to discuss these proposals with local residents.
I look forward to your reply,
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