Part of your General IELTS writing exam involves writing a formal or informal letter. This article instructions and informs you on how to produce a letter of advice.
A letter of advice is likely to have you helping someone with a particular problem. The problem could be various things, such as moving abroad, accepting a job offer, work problems and many other scenarios.
One of the best things you can do to ensure you write an excellent letter of advice is to use a good range of modal verbs. It would be tiresome to read too many 'should's', so show the examiner how flexible you can be with your modal verbs and use of English.
In this post you will
- Recap on essential information about task 1
- Understand what a letter of advice is
- Pick up some exam tips
- Purchase common phrases and task language
- Develop your understanding with an IELTS sample question and model response
A quick recap about Task 1
- You are expected to write about 150 words in 20 minutes
- You have to address the points given as these are scored under Task Achievement
- Each point doesn't have to be equally explored but all must be addressed
- Write your letter in the same order as the bullet points
- Your first sentence should communicate the subject of the letter
- Adapt your language to the question type, whether it be advice, forming a complaint, applying for a job, etc
A quick note on structure
The structure of your letter should be in line with the main points that are given in the task.
- Introduction and addressing the main idea within the letter. Let’s say it’s about giving your friend advice on a problem at work;
‘It’s great to hear from you Laura, and I’m pleased you reached out. I understand it must be difficult at work at the moment. I’ve been in a similar situation myself and similarly found it stressful. I do think there are solutions to how we can fix this.’
2. The following paragraphs should link to the other main points. For example, let's say one issue is that their colleague received a bonus on the same project they worked on.
'My advice would be to speak to your line manager. Whilst this may seem tough to do, it could have the results you are wanting. More often than not, we avoid the communication we know we need to have, especially in the workplace. I know I've done this before as well. Why don't you try arranging a meeting to talk about how you feel?'
3. An appropriate sign off
You don’t need an additional conclusion paragraph because this is a letter and not an essay.
Is a letter of advice formal or informal?
For the majority of situations, a letter of advice is going to be informal because the recipient is likely to be someone you know (we are talking hypothetically here), but there may be the odd chance that it has some formality to it, and then you will need to adapt your tone to a semi-formal tone.
Common phrases and language usage for giving advice
Modals are a common and appropriate way of expressing language around advice. ‘Should’ is a particularly common modal verb and is sometimes misplaced or overused. So when using this, think about what other modals you can use and try not to repeat ‘should’ often, there are plenty of other ways to express advice.
Modal verbs are useful to use, and as I expressed earlier, avoid over-using 'should' as this suggests a lack of grammatical awareness and vocabulary.
Some of the most common modal verbs are:
'Will, might, should, ought to, had better, may, must, would, shall, could, must have, would have, could have, might have, should have, may have'
Other useful phrases for giving advice:
- How about
- Let's consider
- Have you thought of
- I've been in a similar position before
- I can relate to this problem
- It is usually a good idea to
- My suggestion is
- Why don't you
- Why not try
- Have you tried
Letter of advice sample
A friend has written to you asking for advice about a problem at work. You have had a similar problem in the past.
Write a letter to your friend. In your letter,
- tell your friend you can relate and understand the problem
- explain what happened to you in the past
- suggest possible solutions to the problem
I am sorry to hear you're going through a rough patch with work. I understand and appreciate what you're going through. When I first started my job, I felt the same as you do now. I hope by me telling you about it, it can alleviate some worry for you.
When I first started working at the school, I struggled to form a connection with my co-workers and it felt quite isolating. They seemed to have a tight bond between them and I felt excluded from this. I thought to myself how unusual this was, as I hadn't previously experienced this. Over time, it was getting to me and my work was suffering as a result. I found it hard to focus and be productive. My natural reaction was so isolate myself further, and I thought this was the only way to cope.
At first I spoke to my manager in confidence and he was sympathetic and gave me some advice. I made small and incremental efforts with my colleagues, and started to spend more time with them outside of work. My efforts were reciprocated and I felt a lot better. Once a connection was established, it meant work was much easier and I was able to be better at my job too.
My suggestion would be to spend some time with your colleagues outside of work. This made the biggest difference and I'm sure it will have positive outcomes for you as well.
Keep me up to date with how things go.