What makes an informal letter, informal?
- Much of the level of formality or lack of, will depend on whom it is addressed to. If it is your friend, this is a clear signal that the letter is informal
- It is informal if you are writing to someone you know very well
- The letter is about something personal to you, and not about a business or professional matter
- You share aspects of your personal life (for example, in this sample letter you can see that the person mentions their partner’s name and mentions their partner’s profession, in their invitation to his event as a way of making up for their absence)
I.e. if the letter is a letter of advice, as opposed to a letter of complaint, the tone will be different. And a letter of application will differ to that of a letter of resignation. Always try to imagine what the tone would sound like if it were being spoken.
- Apply a structure and use cohesive paragraphing
- You can use one-two formal idioms
- Use some phrasal verbs
- Use contractions
- Make sure you are addressing the topic and staying connected to the task
- Slang words
- Texting language
- Language that is too formal ‘I would be highly appreciative if/ As I understand it/ We ought to keep in touch about this… etc.
- Paragraph 1- short sentence addressing the purpose of the letter
- Paragraph 2- Discuss the first bullet point
- Paragraph 3- Discuss the second bullet point
- Paragraph 4- Discuss the third bullet point
- Paragraph 5- Final sentence
Five paragraphs may seem like a lot for a letter. But these paragraphs are short. Some of them are single lines, but we address them as paragraphs just to get a clear understanding on structure for writing task 1.
What should I do before I write?
1. Highlight key words in the question
2. Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of the letter is (argue, inform, request, instruction, arrangement, apology, application, complaint, advice?)
3. Think of ideas for each stage of the letter (structure)
4. Review your letter and evaluate how well your ideas meet the structure and correct any mistakes
An example of an informal letter
Your friend invited you to their child’s birthday party, but you can’t make it (unable to attend)
Write a letter apologising for your absence
Be sure to include this in your letter:
- State why you cannot go
- Explain why you haven’t told them sooner
- Suggest another time to meet
Write a minimum of 150 words. You do not need to include an address.
I hope you’re well. Unfortunately, I cannot make it to Alfie’s birthday tomorrow afternoon.
I was looking forward to seeing you but unfortunately, something has come up with the apartment. As its holiday season, we are inundated with bookings and it's been a hectic period.
Our current guest reported an issue with the boiler. We are booked up until the winter and we want to ensure this problem is removed, especially as the colder months begin. It’s important for us that our reviews and feedback are positive.
You might be wondering why I didn’t let you know sooner. Up until last night, we thought everything was smooth sailing with the apartment. At around 5pm, we had a call from our guests who reported the problem. I tried to get Mark to go round and fix it himself, but he was asked to stay on late at work. I was between a rock and a hard place. I spent the best part of two hours finding a plumber who was free on such short notice.
On a more positive note, Mark’s gallery is having an exhibition nest week. I can bring a couple of friends and would love it if you came along.
I’m so sorry about tomorrow but I hope to see you next Saturday.
6 Key take-aways
1. Addressing the Recipient: Begin by addressing the recipient in an appropriate manner. Use the correct name and any necessary salutations, such as "Dear" or "Hi."
2. Develop Relevant Content: Just like in any writing task, relevance is key. Share opinions that the recipient can connect with, based on the task given to you. In other words, if the letter is about not being to attend a friend's birthday and you give the reason- you don't need to over-explain and begin to talk about other reasons, which may not be relevant.
3. Organise with Paragraphs: Use paragraphs to structure your letter logically. Each paragraph should focus on a specific topic or idea, making it easier for the reader to follow your thoughts.
4. Appropriate Language: While informality is encouraged, ensure your language is still appropriate. Avoid using slang or overly casual language that might compromise the clarity of your message.
5. Closing: Conclude your letter with an appropriate closing. Use appropriate sign-offs like "Best wishes," "Take care," or even a personal touch like "Looking forward to your reply."
6. Grammar and Vocabulary: Despite the informal tone, maintaining proper grammar and using a varied vocabulary demonstrates your language proficiency. Check this with proofreading for clear, polished writing.
In conclusion, IELTS Task 1 informal letter writing assesses your ability to communicate effectively in a casual yet precise manner. Mastering this skill allows you to engage in various real-life scenarios where an informal tone is necessary. By following the above guidelines, you can confidently tackle this task and write a great letter in the IELTS exam.