In this article, we look at how to write an IELTS Task 1 informal letter in 20 minutes.
Are you preparing for IELTS General Training? Keep reading for some example question topics and a model answer one student wrote, about losing a boring book after a fun weekend. It includes our top three phrases to help you score higher for vocabulary!
What is an informal letter?
An informal letter is a common IELTS Task 1 Writing skill for the General Training test. You won’t find this type of question in the Academic paper.
It’s written using informal/nonofficial language, typically to someone known to the writer. That means you need to select the right vocabulary words and phrases.
Informal letters can be written for any number of reasons, such as to share news or achievements, make requests or send information about an issue. They usually call the recipient by name and do not require a subject line.
Make sure you know how to approach task 1 writing questions. What features of informal letters should you demonstrate in your IELTS test?
1. They are more personal and friendly
Informal letters and friend personal letters are more personal and friendly than formal letters because they use words such as “we,” “our” or “you” to make them feel more friendly. They also have a more informal tone which makes them more appropriate for personal interactions.
Use the phrase, ‘How have you been since (your last visit)?’
It’s a less common phrase that’s a nice way to start off a letter.
2. They create a more relaxed environment
Writing an informal letter creates a more relaxed environment by using a tone that is appropriate for the individual and language or terminology they are likely to understand. By using a friendly, conversational tone, the writer can create a sense of comfort and familiarity with their reader which will help them feel at ease.
Use the phrase, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but……..’ about something interesting, annoying or unexpected.
3. They are more likely to be sincere
Writing letters in an informal style is beneficial because it is more likely to be sincere. When writing in a formal tone, the writer may feel constrained by the formality of their words and not be able to express their thoughts as clearly as they would like. Conversely, when writing in an informal style, writers are able to use language and terminology that is familiar and appropriate for the individual they are communicating with.
Use the phrase: (By the way,) I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you (calling me during the holidays).
This is a complex, correct sentence which can be used to fit almost every situation.
What are the most common topics for an IELTS task 1 informal letter?
Some of the most common topics include:
- Apologising for something you did wrong
- Thanking somebody for something
- Inviting someone for a meal, activity or a visit
- Asking for advice on something
- Recommending something
What are the step-by-step instructions on how to write an IELTS informal letter in 20 minutes?
Most IELTS task 1 writing questions follow this format: A main question and three bullet points.
You need to write at least 150 words in 20 minutes.
Sample Question IELTS Task 1 Informal Letter Question #1
You borrowed something from your classmate, but unfortunately, it got damaged. Write a letter to them.
In your letter, you should :
- apologize for what happened
- tell them how it got damaged
- say how you are going to make up for it.
Dear [First name only (of your classmate)]
Paragraph 1 – Mention the reason why you’re writing to them. (I’m so sorry to tell you that I accidentally broke the …)
Paragraph 2 – Talk about the 2nd bullet point with supporting details. (While I was running to catch the bus, I dropped my bag and…)
Paragraph 3 – Talk about the 3rd bullet point with supporting details. (I want you to know that I am going to buy a replacement, and…)
See you soon
(Your First name only)
Lastly, don’t forget to sign your informal letter. Choose a signature that is appropriate for the recipient, be it ‘With kind love’, ‘With kindness’, ‘Your best friend’, ‘Your son’, or ‘Lots of love’.
Sample IELTS Task 1 Informal Letter Question #2 (with model answer)
You stayed at a friend’s house last week and lost your book. Write a letter to your friend. In your letter, you should:
- Thank him/her for the good time you had.
- Describe your book.
- Tell your friend what you would like him/her to do with it if he/she finds it
Sample Answer to Question #2
How have you been since last weekend? I had a wonderful three days visiting you, and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated you taking time away from your studies. The kayaking trip was incredible and I can’t wait to upload all the photos and videos to Instagram. After spending so much time with me, I hope you managed to finish your college assignment ahead of the deadline and didn’t stay up too late to complete it.
You’re not going to believe this but unfortunately, I think I left my book at your place. It’s a novel called Remains of the Day and we’re reading it in English class. I can’t say I am enjoying it particularly but I’ll be in a ton of trouble if I don’t have it before class next week and I’d rather not fork out the money for another copy. Anyway, I’ve searched our whole house and realised I must have left it in your spare room, possibly in the drawer of the bedside table.
If you find it, could you ask your Dad if he could possibly drop it off at Mom’s office? It’s so convenient that they work together! I’ll owe you a coffee and cupcake as a thank you, next time we hang out.
Make sure you are aware of the scoring requirements for this task: here is some feedback for the sample above which shows what the IELTS examiners are looking for.
Sample Answer Feedback
- Task Achievement: The answer covers all bullet points with a fully developed response; the informal register (Hi, take care, I’d rather not fork out the money) is accurate.
- Coherence and Cohesion: Appropriate paragraphing is used, the organization of information in each paragraph is logical and linking phrases (unfortunately) are used appropriately.
- Lexical Resource: Natural, good range of less common vocabulary (I can’t say I’m enjoying it particularly, it’s so convenient that…), accurate use of phrasal verbs (drop it off, stay up too late)
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy: A wide range of structures used flexibly and accurately with no punctuation errors.
We hope that these tips will help you write an amazing informal letter for the IELTS exam.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Some of these questions were already covered in this blog post but I will still list them here (because not everyone carefully reads every paragraph) so here’s the TL;DR version.
What is the best way to write an informal letter for IELTS task 1?
- read the question carefully and make sure you paraphrase the keywords.
- Address the recipient directly in the opening paragraph, using their name.
- Use a friendly tone throughout the body of the letter and don’t use formal phrases such as ‘to whom it may concern’ or ‘yours faithfully’.
- Organise your letter in paragraphs with one paragraph for each bullet point from the question.
What should I include in the greeting of an informal letter?
In an informal letter, the greeting should include the sender’s name and any other personal information that is appropriate for the recipient to know.
It should also include a warm and friendly greeting such as “Hi”, “Hello”, or “Dear”. Other common greetings used in informal letters include:
- How are you?
- Nice to meet you!
- Thanks for your letter!
How do I write a closing paragraph for an informal letter?
- Sum up the purpose of the letter in your concluding paragraph. This can be a brief statement that summarizes the main points you have made throughout the letter or focus on what you want the recipient to do – let me know, write back, and make a choice.
- Say goodbye to the reader in a heartfelt and thoughtful manner, expressing your appreciation for their time and attention.
How long should an IELTS task 1 informal letter be?
You need to write at least 150 words or you will lose marks. 150-250 words are appropriate for the time you have on the test.
What words should I avoid when writing an informal letter?
When writing an informal letter, you should avoid using words that are too formal, as well as anything that might sound offensive.
- Formal language: Informal letters are meant to be casual, so you should avoid using overly formal language. Instead of saying “I hope this letter finds you well,” you could say “I hope you’re doing well.”
- Business language: Informal letters are not business documents, so you should avoid using business jargon or language that is too technical.
- Slang: While it’s okay to use some slang in informal letters, you should avoid using too much or using slang that the recipient might not understand.
- Offensive language: It’s important to be respectful and considerate in all of your communication, including informal letters. Avoid using language that could be offensive or hurtful to the recipient.
How should I sign off the informal letter?
- Choose the appropriate closing phrase to sign off your letter, such as “Lots of Love”, “Best Wishes” or “Kind Regards”.
- Sign your first name at the end of the letter. As it is an exam, there is no need to write your address or the date.