IELTS General: How to write an informal letter

informal writing ieltsGuide to writing an informal letter for IELTS general training.

You might have seen my post here about the differences in IELTS academic and IELTS general task 1 writing. The general training task 1 consists of writing a letter, it will be either formal or informal.

It’s a common belief that there is a third type of letter which is semi formal, however, the semi formal letter is usually to a friend in a business situation, or it could be work related such as to a work colleague. I believe that if you are writing to a friend it can always be informal.

There are various types of letters in IELTS general writing

  • a letter to a friend (informal)
  • a letter to your boss (formal)
  • a letter to a company (formal)
  • a letter of application (formal)
  • a letter of complaint (formal)
  • a letter to a teacher (could be both styles)
  • a letter of apology (formal)
  • a letter explaining something (could be both styles)
  • a letter of invitation (could be both styles)

Formal or Informal?

Which of these below do you think should be written in an informal style?

1.  Last month you had a holiday overseas and you stayed with some friends. They have just sent you some photos of the holiday.

Write a letter to your friends. In your letter:

  • thank them for the photos and the holiday
  • explain why you didn’t write earlier
  • invite them to come and stay with you

2. You have made a decision to leave your current job to work in a new company.

Write a letter of resignation to your boss. In your letter:

  • tell your boss about your decision to leave and explain why you are leaving
  • explain about how you feel about leaving and what you have learnt from your time with the company
  • request a letter of reference

 

If you chose number 1 then you are right. If the letter is to a friend it is always going to be informal. The second letter is to your boss so it will always be formal.

What is the structure for writing letters?

For both formal and informal the structure is the same and the format is always the same. There will always be 3 points to cover, and they must be written in paragraphs. See below for the 7 step structure.

Note that in the formal style you will open differently such as:

  • Dear Sir/Madam.
  • Dear Mr Smith,
  • Dear Ms Jones,

For a friend it will be informal style :

  • Dear Joe,
  • Dear Jane,
  • first names are acceptable.

ielts general writing

 

Opening an Informal letter

Using the example task in part 1 above, I will open the letter to friends. We always open with Dear + first name. In the writing test you need to make up a name. You must also give a quick opening statement or reason for writing the letter. see below.

example 1

Dear Mike and Sally.

I’ve been so busy that I only just got round to replying to your letter now…..

example 2

Dear Mike and Sally.

I’ve been non stop since I got back, so I thought I’d just drop a quick line….

 

Giving detail in an informal letter

Again using the example from the letter to friends, I will go into detail in this letter.

  • thank them for the photos and the holiday
  • explain why you didn’t write earlier
  • invite them to come and stay with you

Thanks a lot for your your letter and photos. I’m glad you brought your camera as I left mine in the hotel if you remember. Thanks again for taking the trouble to drive up to Queensland. I had a great time and that trip to Cairns was memorable, especially the diving at the barrier reef.

Sorry I didn’t get round to writing earlier but it’s been all go here since I got back. I’ve had a load of paperwork to sort out, I’m also looking at moving to a new flat soon so it’s taking a lot of my time.

You said you were both thinking of a trip to Europe next year. If you come to England, I’ll be glad to have you. I’m moving to a new flat and there will be a spare room for guests. It’d be great to have you over and it’s really nice in summer.

As you can see from the letter the tone is quite informal and relaxed. I picked out some informal colloquial phrases which would only be used for friends. Remember that in an informal letter it is very similar to a conversation and colloquial language is often used.

Informal phrases
Thanks a lot….
thanks again…
get round to writing  (find the time to write)
it’s all go here… (busy)
a load of paperwork ..(lots of documents etc)
sort out….. (arrange)
I’ll be glad to have you…..
It’d be great to have you over….

Contractions are always used in informal writing.

Contractions
I’m…
Didn’t…
I’ll… (I will..)
I’ve… (I have..)
It’s been.. (it has been )
It’s really nice…. (it is..)
It’d be great… (it would be..)

Signing off

Now it’s time to close the letter. There are various phrases we can use and some are colloquial in tone.

example 1:

Catch up again soon.

All the best
Ray

example: 2

Keep in touch

Cheers
Ray

example 3:

Look forward to catching up again at some point.

Regards
Ray

 

Planning your letter

Planning is important, I advise about 4 minutes to analyse the question, think of ideas, identify whether it is formal or informal, thinking of an opening line, paragraphing (3 paragraphs usually) also you can use contractions and colloquial expressions to make the letter appear friendly.

 

Model answer in full

1.  Last month you had a holiday overseas and you stayed with some friends. They have just sent you some photos of the holiday.

Write a letter to your friends, In your letter:

  • thank them for the photos and the holiday
  • explain why you didn’t write earlier
  • invite them to come and stay with you

Dear Mike and Sally.

I’ve been non stop since I got back, so I thought I’d just drop a quick line….

Thanks a lot for your your letter and photos. I’m glad you brought your camera as I left mine in the hotel if you remember. Thanks again for taking the trouble to drive up to Queensland. I had a great time and that trip to Cairns was memorable, especially the diving at the barrier reef.

Sorry I didn’t get round to writing earlier but it’s been all go here since I got back. I’ve had a load of paperwork to sort out, I’m also looking at moving to a new flat soon so it’s taking a lot of my time.

You said you were both thinking of a trip to Europe next year. If you come to England, I’ll be glad to have you. I’m moving to a new flat and there will be a spare room for guests. It’d be great to have you over and it’s really nice in summer.

Look forward to catching up again at some point.

All the best
Ray

(185 words)


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