IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 – Formal vs Informal Letters

One of the trickiest parts of the IELTS writing task one General Training test is deciding whether or not to write a formal or informal letter. There are no direct instructions given in these type of questions as to which type of letter, you need to write, and students have to be aware of the specific cases in which a formal or informal letter is needed. In this article, you will learn about what exactly makes a letter formal or informal as well as how to understand which type of letter is required.

The General Training Writing Task 1 Format

During the IELTS General Training Writing test students have to write a letter of about 150 words within 20 minutes. The type of letter can range from either a formal, semi-formal or informal letter.

Formal Letters

A formal letter is usually written to people that you do not know at all. These are usually people who have a high rank in society such as newspaper editors, prospective employers or members of the local council. In these kinds of letters, the language you use should convey a sense of respect, politeness and formality. You should not use any sort of colloquialisms or contractions.

You should begin a formal letter with ‘Dear Sir or Dear Madam’ and sign of with ‘Yours faithfully or ‘Yours truthfully’.

Here are some other useful formal phrases:

  • I am writing to enquire about ….
  • I am writing to request ….
  • I am writing to explain why ….
  • I am writing to express interest in ….
  • I am writing to inform you that/about….
  • If you require any further information, feel free to contact me.
  • I look forward to your reply.
  • I look forward to hearing from you.
  • Once again, I apologise for any inconvenience.

An example of a formal letter and sample answer:

Writing Task 1

You should spend 20 minutes on this task.

You and your family are living in rented accommodation in an English-speaking country.

You are not satisfied with the condition of some of the furniture.

Write a letter to the landlord, in your letter

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Explain what is wrong with the furniture.
  • Say what action you would like the landlord to take.

Write at least 150 words.

You do not need to write any addresses.

Begin your letter as follows:

Dear…………. ,

Model Answer:

Dear Mr Smith,

I am your tenant from Flat 3, Riverside Street. We met each other when I signed the rental agreement in your office.

I have lived here for six months now and I am writing to complain about some of the furniture. As you may remember the dining table is in very poor condition and has uneven legs. It also does not match the dining chairs, as these are too low to be comfortable for a table of that height. However, you have not done so, and I would really like to resolve this matter as soon as possible.

If it’s more convenient to you, perhaps you could replace the table by finding one of a suitable height for the chairs. This would solve the problems without too much cost, so I hope you agree to this proposed solution.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

M.M Egil

Informal letters

An informal letter is a letter that you would write to someone you know quite well, like a friend or family member. The tone of this type of letter is more casual and there is greater room for informal language in the form of colloquialisms, abbreviated and contracted words.

Always start your letter with ‘Dear..’ followed by the first name of the friend, e.g. ‘Dear David,…’ You should also include a sentence or to inquiring about the well being of whomever you are writing to. You could write something like ‘ I’ve been so busy that I only got round to replying to you right now. Hope all is well with you and the family.’

You should also sign off your letters with one of the following phrases:

  • All the best
  • See you soon
  • Keep in touch

Here are some other useful informal phrases:

  • I’m writing to….
  • I just wanted to let you know that…
  • Thank you….
  • Thanks so much for…
  • I can’t thank you enough
  • I was delighted to hear that….
  • I was over the moon to hear about….
  • I was thrilled to find out that….
  • I’m so happy to hear that……….
  • I’m delighted to tell you that….
  • I thought you might like to know that…
  • I’m afraid I’ve some bad news to tell you.
  • I have a bit of bad news to share.

An example of an informal letter and sample answer:

Writing Task 1

You should spend 20 minutes on this task.

You are going to another country to study. You would like to do a part-time job while you are studying, so you want to ask a friend who lives there for some help.

Write a letter to this friend. In your letter

  • Give details of your study plans.
  • Explain why you want to get a part-time job.
  • Suggest how your friend could help you get a job.

Write at least 150 words.

You do not need to write any addresses.

Begin your letter as follows:

Dear…………. ,

Model Answer:

Dear Sally.

My departure date for New Zealand is drawing near, and I am busy with preparations. I have enrolled at an institution called ‘ABC English’ in wellington for a six-month advance course, full time. It is quite expensive, but I am hopeful of improving my pronunciation, especially.

To assist in covering the costs of my study, I aim to find a part-time job. Not only are the college fees rather high, but also, I know that the rental accommodations in the capital city will not be cheap, to say nothing of food and heating! So I would very much like to arrange some temporary employment before ii arrive.

I was wondering if you could ask among your friends or colleagues if anyone want a house cleaner, gardener or a nanny for their children. I know you have a wide social network in wellington which you could canvas for me if you wouldn’t mind. I’d be grateful.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes,


Jonathan has been teaching students to prepare for the IELTS and PTE Exams for more than 10+ years. He's taught English to students in various countries in the world including Singapore, China, Australia, Canada and Colombia.

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