Task one of the IELTS writing exam includes different types of letters. The most common ones are to write a letter to ask for information, respond to a request for information, to make a complaint, to thank someone or to make an apology. The usual subject areas are related to finding accommodation, difficulties with accommodation, making travel arrangements, planning holidays, thanking friends or relatives for holidays, and responding to requests for social events.
The other factor to take note of in this section is whether it is a semi-formal letter to someone you know or a more formal letter to someone you don’t know. This influences the tone or attitude of the letter. If you are writing to a friend or someone who is known to you, you might choose to use a more friendly tone, whereas this should be avoided if you are writing to a stranger.
[My ebook gives model answers and vocabulary for each of these types of letters]
Formality of letters
Certain styles of letters are required for certain occasions. When deciding what style of letter to write, consider the audience of the letter, and the purpose of the letter. Turning first to the audience in the exam you will have to write a letter to a business, acquaintance, or friend or family member.
The body of a letter written to a business or a person you don’t know well is written in formal language, unlike the more casual and friendly language of a letter to a friend or family member.
These letters are to acquaintances, friends or family and so the tone should be friendlier than with a letter to a business. An appropriate tone is an important element of task achievement.
I suggest you do not write this type of letter in the IELTS exam. These are letters written to very close friends and have features such as slang and abbreviations of words. You should NEVER use overly informal language or texting language such as wanna, cos, and LOL. Using the right tone influences the TASK score for your letter.
The reason why I suggest you do not write this way is because it may lower your score for task achievement as it is easy for the tone to be inappropriate. In addition, it may decrease your score for vocabulary because many features of informal writing use unsophisticated language. It’s always better to be too formal than not formal enough!
Use “Yours sincerely” when you know the person you are addressing, i.e. Mr. Smith. Use “Yours faithfully” when you are starting your letter with Dear Sir/Madam, or a similar construction.