In this tutorial, we discuss standard letter writing structure in IELTS General Task 1.
We look at:
- Three different styles of writing in IELTS General Task 1.
- How to recognize and avoid common writing mistakes.
- Strategies for effective organization in letter writing.
The first thing you have to remember when working on Task 1 General writing is that it’s slightly different from the Academic Writing. The points described below will help you get a real high score for writing Task 1 in IELTS. For example, when you’ll be writing your personal statement for university or a job application.
- There are different styles of writing:
- Formal. This style is very diplomatic, the opening is: “Dear Sir/Madam,” and the closing line: “Respectfully yours,”.
Remember that you don’t have to worry about the formalities (writing the address).
- Semi-formal. This style corresponds more with the requirements of IELTS. It’s the style you use when writing to a University or a Company. The opening is: “Dear Sir/Madam,”. The closing line: “Very truly yours,”, “Very sincerely yours”, “Yours courteously”.
- Informal. You can also have this style in IELTS. It’s often used in companies, when colleagues talk with each other. The opening is: “Hello David,”, “Hello Mr. James,”. The closing line: “Best wishes,”, “Yours”, “Best regards”.
Even though the style is informal, there shouldn’t be any of the colloquial phrases. For example: “I totally agree” or stronger language “I find it super irritating”. It’s fine when you’re talking with your friends and relatives. In IELTS your letter should be of a bit higher level.
- Less informal. This is the style you use when communicating with your family and friends. It’s fine if there are contractions here. However, don’t make too many contractions.
For example: “I’m gonna sort it out next week”. (This is too much) It’s better to write: “I’m going to sort it out next week”.
You also can use contractions like “I wouldn’t”, “I don’t”. If you don’t use contractions in these cases, it will seem that you really want to emphasize something.
This style is more lively and direct. The opening is something like: “Hi, Dave!”. The possible closing lines are: “Love,”, “Hookes and Kisses,”, “Take care”.
- The organisation of your letter.
The best way to successfully organise your letter is to take into consideration the main points of the task (the bullets).
For example, if your task is to write a letter of complaint, you definitely need to include the following:
- Date and time when the incident happened.
- The reason for your complaint.
- What you would like from the company you are writing to.
It’s quite easy to structure your letter in accordance with these bullets, they are your three paragraphs.
You should also keep in mind that you’re to stay on topic, make your letter simple and clear.Your letter shouldn’t create any strain for a reader. It shouldn’t be over complicated with unnecessary details.
For example: “I would like a refund of 99 pounds plus VAT minus import duties. The import duties can be paid to my Swiss bank account and the VAT can be sent directly to an agent in customs in London”.
(This is technically complex. There is no point in writing a lengthy story) The following sounds better:
“I would like a refund to my bank account. Please, find the details attached”.
(This is solid, straightforward and easy to understand. The examiner will definitely get what the main message is)
It’s very important to include in your letter only essential details. For example, if according to the task you are to state your name, age and experience, you definitely need to include this information. However, you do not write about your birthday and experience you would like to get. Just follow the instructions that are provided in the task and write the closing line at the end. Your closing line should correspond with the style of your letter.
- Clearly state the purpose for writing.
You are to present it in the beginning of your letter. Have a look at the following examples:
- “Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing in respect to the incident that I had at the airport 2 weeks ago”.
- “Hi Jenny,
How are things going? I hope Polly is good. I just wanted to ask you about the new car you bought last week”. (This one is more informal)
- Write a letter for a reader, not for yourself.
This skill will help you get a high score for IELTS Writing. At the same time, it will also be helpful for you in future, when you’ll be writing different letters in English. You need to constantly keep the principle “You don’t write for yourself, you write for a reader” in your mind. This principle implies the following important point:
- Tone. It should be courteous. Avoid any confrontations, do not act as an antagonist. Let’s say you are dealing with a request letter where you ask for a refund.
For example: “If you do not give me a refund, I’ll contact the police in the next 24 hours”.
– It’s writer focused since these are the thoughts that are probably in your head. There is a clear threat.
“I would greatly appreciate it if you consider paying a full refund”.
– This one is more courteous. You are much more likely to get a response here.
Let’s say you’re writing a job application letter. For example: “I have three degrees and a lot of experience from my last job”. (Writer-focused)
“I have qualifications and experience that would definitely be helpful in your accounting department”. (The focus is switched to the reader)
When your letter is reader-focused, it’s more interesting and easier for the examiner to read. In case you think that in your letter the focus is all about you, try to switch it. Imagine you were the reader. What would you like to have in the letter?
One more example: “You will be delighted to know that your project has been considered”. (It’s Writer-focused since it’s written from the writer’s point of view. The writer thinks that the reader will be happy that his/her company has considered the project)
The following one has a different focus altogether. “Congratulations! Your project has been considered”.
- Check your letter.
Once you finished your letter check the following:
- Whether all the bullets of the task are covered or there is something missing. You simply review your work.
- Check the writing itself. Remember that first you focus on the biggest issues. You should look for grammar inconsistencies. Go through your letter and read each sentence aloud. During the exam do it in whisper to yourself.
- If you still have some time left, get to looking for smaller issues. Re-read your letter once again and see if there are any small mistakes that you know you do. If you don’t have any time left, don’t worry – it’s normal.
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