IELTS Writing- an informal letter of apology

IELTS Writing- an informal letter of apology

This article is based on writing an informal letter for the GT exam, writing task 1.

What makes an informal letter, informal?

  • Much of the level of formality or lack of, will depend on who 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.

To do:

Use idioms

Use some phrasal verbs

Use contractions

Be aware of your tone, follow this link to read more on tone

To avoid:

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


  • Greeting
  • 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
  • Salutation

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

What is 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.

Dear Amy,

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.

Best wishes,