Language used in a letter depends on how formal the letter is. In the IELTS exam, there are three types of letter task are given: formal, semi-formal, and informal. The first thing you need to be sure that whether the question is actually asking you to write a formal, semi-formal, or informal letter.
Formal Letter: A formal letter in the IELTS exam might be a letter you are asked to write to an airline, or an insurance company, or a bank. The letter usually commences with the person’s title and surname, for instance Dear Mr Smith, Dear Mrs Jones, or Dear Miss Stephenson. When you are asked to write a very formal letter, or you do not know the person’s name, you should use Dear Sir, or Dear Madam. You may also write Dear Sir or Madam if you do not know anyone’s name of a company. If you are not sure whether the women you are writing to is married or not, you can use the title Ms. In British English, Dear Sirs is used when writing to a company.
However, there are certain etiquette needed to end a formal letter. That is to say, the way you open the letter, it determines the way of closing the letter. When you commence your letter with Dear Sir, Dear Madam, or Dear Sirs, you should finish with Yours faithfully. If you begin the letter using the person’s title and surname, such as Miss Smith, you should finish with Yours sincerely.
Take a look at the example question and model answer below:
You travelled by plane last week and your suitcase was lost. You have still heard nothing from the airline company.
• Write to the airline and explain what happened.
• Describe your suitcase and tell them what was in it.
• Find out what they are going to do about it.
The question is formal as we are not provided anyone’s name and the situation is very formal.
I was one of the passengers who took the flight from London to Sidney on February 2nd. Unfortunately, my suitcase did not come out after the flight. When I realized the loss after my arrival in Sidney, I reported it to Mr. David who was in charge at the luggage claim office. He promised to give me a call within next 24 hours, but this actually never happened.
My suitcase is the black colour Victorinox Spectra 2.0 with a size of 10 x 95 cm. Moreover, there is a scar in the right side of the suitcase. Some important documents, photographs, a laptop, a Sony camera and some cloths are in the suitcase, especially the documents are utterly important for my business purpose.
Although this incident took place 7 days ago, I did not get any response from your company as of now. Your poor customer service really made me frustrated. However, I want information on the suitcase that what steps you will take to find my suitcase.
So I would deeply appreciate it if you could give me a prompt positive reply at your most convenient.
Semi-formal: A semi-formal letter is a letter in the IELTS exam that you are asked to write a letter to a landlord, an employer, or a librarian, somebody that you know. Let us consider by a way of illustration a situation. Your employer name is Kurt Smith. In the situation, you should begin the letter using the person’s title and the last name, the surname, or the family name, for example Dear Mr Smith. Anyway, the way you start your letter determines the ending of your letter. That is to say, if you commence your letter using the person’s title and surname, it needs to be finished with Yours Sincerely. So, do not use the first name. Now,Let us imagine a woman whom you write to and her name is Emily Dickinson. If you know she is unmarried or single, you should write Miss Dickinson. If you know she is married or widow, then use Mrs Dickinson. However, you do not know if she is married or not, then you could write Ms Dickinson. The appropriate approach of ending a semi-formal letter is to finish with Yours sincerely.
Look at the example question and model answer below:
Write a letter to your landlord. In your letter explain:
• why you are writing to him
• why you cannot pay the rent
• when you will pay the rent.
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am John Walker, one of your tenants. The reason I am writing is to request you to allow me to pay my rent late this month.
I have been a tenant of your house for a couple of years and you do know that I have never been late to pay my rent and even many a time I have paid before the scheduled time. Unfortunately, I am in financial hardship right now. This is because, last month my mom got admitted to a hospital and had a surgery. I had to pay all the expenses of her treatment. So, you do understand that this unavoidable circumstance put me in the position that I cannot pay my rent this month on time.
I do understand this causes an inconvenience for you. But I give assurance that I will pay the rent by the 2nd of the next month as my brother sends the money. It, therefore, would be appreciating if consider my situation generously and allow me the necessary time to pay the rent.
I apologize for causing you this inconvenience. Hope this will not affect our relationship. Please contact me at 042 4583 6934 if you cannot manage it.
Informal: In the IELTS exam, you are asking to write a letter to your friends or relatives. You can start an informal letter using Dear and the person’s first name, for example Dear Kurt. When you are writing to a relative, you can use the person’s title, for instance Dear father. There, however, are various fashions in which you can end the letter. You can use Lots of love, or Love if you write to relatives or close friends. You can use Best wishes, Best regards, or All the best when writing to someone you know less well.
Notice the example question and model answer below:
Your parents will be celebrating their 40th anniversary next month. You are planning a big celebration, but you are not sure how to make the occasion really memorable.Write to your best friend, Joan, who is a professional event planner. In your letter:
• explain why the occasion is special
• ask for her assistance
• set up a time to meet at your friend’s convenience to discuss your plans
Dear friend Joan,
Hope this letter will find you in good shape. I am doing well here despite of being busy with study. Anyway, I am writing this letter in connection with 40th wedding anniversary of my parents.
As you know my family culture, we have several occasions to celebrate. Wedding anniversary is one of them. The day of the anniversary brings along with itself a day of union of family members, a day of fun for children, a day of festivity for the elders. I think you do understand the significance of the day.
However, the onus is on me to manage the whole event and make it memorable with sophisticated style and special touches. Since only few days are left and I am bit puzzled about the preparation. I know you have expertise in event management and I really need your assistance in this matter.
Do me a favour, will you? If it is possible, then I would come to your office discussing about the preparation. Please let me know your convenient time.
Looking forward to hearing you soon.
With best wishes,