How To Get The Correct Tone For Your IELTS Letter

The most important question to as yourself is what type of language is my reader expecting to read. In other words, who are you writing for and what do you want impression do you wish to make on them.

For example, if you are writing to a friend and asking for a favour then you may wish to write in the same way as you would speak to them face to face:

Hello John,

I hope you are doing well. I'm really hoping you could do me a favour. I need someone to...

Or, if you were writing to a hotel manager to complain, you might wish to convey a feeling of anger and frustration:

Dear sirs,

I am writing to express my sincere disappointment regarding the complete inadequacy of your hotel facilities.

Notice, how much more formal some of those words were and how strongly the emotions were expressed 'sincere disappointment' and 'complete inadequacy', yet these are still formal words when compared to other informal phrases, such as, 'really upset' and 'totally rubbish'. Whilst the meaning is the same the level of formality is very different. If you had used those informal words the recipient may not take the complaint as seriously and an examiner would certainly mark you down for getting the wrong tone.

So, remember to ask yourself 'Who am I writing this for?' and 'What type of language are they expecting to read?'

In IELTS Writing Task 2 General you can safely choose an informal style if you are asked to write to a friend, or a formal style for anything else.


IELTS  General Writing Task 1 Example Question:

WRITING TASK 1 -You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

A friend has agreed to look after your house and pet while you are on holiday.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter:

• give contact details for when you are away

• give instructions about how to care for your pet

• describe other household duties

IELTS General Writing Task 1 Example Answer

Now, read this answer carefully and try and work out which five sentences are either too formal or too informal. Can you think of a more appropriate way to write those sentences?

Dear Carolyn,

Thank you for agreeing to house-sit for me. If an issue arises and you are in need of my advice whilst I am vacationing, one shall be residing within the grounds of the Imperial Hotel in Bundaberg.  If it’s well bad, dude, please buzz me on my dog n bone, which I’ll have stuffed in me pockets all the while. I’ve written the numbers on a sticky note which I’ve left on the fridge.

Feed me cat two times a day, each morning and evening chuck a load of cat biscuits in his dish. You will find these in the kitchen pantry. Furthermore, I would I appreciate it if you could possibly please check throughout the day to make sure he has a plentiful supply of fresh water. You can give him a small bowl of milk in the evening.

I want ya to put water on the plants too. The indoor ones in the lounge only need water once every few days but the plants on the balcony need to be watered daily unless there has been heavy rain. Finally, for security, I would be awfully grateful if you would not mind clearing my mail box every day and keeping the outside lights on through the duration of the night.

I look forward to seeing you on my return.

Yours, Katie

You can read the actual model answer provided by the British Council here. Were you able to identify the sentences that were either too formal or too informal?

Next, you should plan your paragraphs. Read how to plan your paragraphs here.