I forgot to mention last week that I had published another video lesson for General IELTS writing task 1. The video is at the bottom of this web page.
If you're preparing for the General IELTS test, you can now watch my latest video for writing task 1 here.
In this lesson I explain that you can forget about "semi-formal" letters. You just need to know when to write a formal letter and when to write an informal letter.
I've just published my second video lesson for General Writing task 1. You can find it at the bottom of this website.
In the lesson, I write a formal letter at band 9 level, and I talk about the use of "less common" vocabulary, as well as the use of some typical phrases to begin and end formal letters. I'm afraid this lesson isn't a free one.
Tomorrow I'll share a video lesson about formal letters for General Writing Task 1. If you're doing the General test, think about the question below.
Would you write a formal or informal letter to the following people?
1. a hotel manager
2. your boss
3. the local council
4. your child's teacher
5. a friend
6. a work colleague
7. a neighbour
I've just published my first video lesson for General Writing Task 1. You can watch it for free here.
In the lesson, I explain the seven steps that you should follow when writing your letter. I also answer some questions that people asked me about the letter task.
I was planning to publish a video lesson for General Writing task 1 today, but I haven't managed to finish it on time. I'll publish it later this week.
Before I finish the lesson, you have the opportunity to ask me any questions about GT task 1 (the letter writing task) in the 'comments' below. Let me know if there's anything that you are particularly worried about and would like me to include in the video.
When writing a GT task 1 letter, I normally begin with a sentence to introduce the purpose of the letter.
A student asked me for help with the "purpose" sentence for the question below:
Although the overall purpose of the letter isn't stated in the question, I think we can still write a good purpose sentence. Here's an example:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing to give you some feedback after the party that my company recently held at your hotel.
We haven't looked at a General Writing task 1 for a while, so here's one from Cambridge IELTS book 11:
This is a formal letter task, and you would begin with "Dear Sir or Madam". I would probably start with a sentence that explains why I'm writing the letter (e.g. I'm writing with regard to...), and then I would write a short paragraph about each of the bullet points.
I'll show you my full answer tomorrow.
Someone asked me a useful question about 'semi-formal' letters. I've summarised the student's question here:
The task in my test was to write to a colleague. In my letter, I used some informal language e.g. I greeted the colleague in a friendly way and I used contractions (I'm, don't, isn't). However, I also included some formal language when asking the colleague to speak at a conference. Is this mix of informal and formal ok?
In this lesson I wrote that we can forget about "semi-formal" letters. However, in the situation described above, I think it's fine to include both formal and informal language. You can write to a colleague in an informal style, but you may use some formal language when discussing work-related issues. This is what we do in 'real life', so I think it's perfectly acceptable in an IELTS task.
Here are some questions that a student asked me about General Writing task 1:
1. Should I write the date at the top of a formal letter?
No, in the IELTS test you should not write the date or your address.
2. Should I use indentation at the start of a new paragraph?
You can either indent or miss a line. Just make sure it's clear that you have begun a new paragraph. Personally, I think missing a line is clearer.
3. Should I end the letter with "Yours..." on the left or on the right?
Always end the letter on the left. Have a look at my letters on this page.
4. Should I sign the letter before writing my name?
No, don't sign your name. You don't even need to put your real name. Personally, I use a first name (e.g. John) for informal letters, and a full name (e.g. John Smith) for formal letters.
Can you correct and improve the following sentences, which were written by students below last week's General Writing lesson?
Several people have asked for another lesson about letter writing for the General Training test. Let's look at one of the questions from Cambridge IELTS book 10:
I would call this a "thank you" letter task. Before writing your letter, have a look at some "thank you" letters by searching online. There's a good example here.
I haven't done a lesson about the General Writing test for a while, so here's a recent exam question that a student sent me. I'll share my answer next week.
Remember that the examiner is looking for the following things:
Here are some formal phrases that I've used in previous lessons. See if you can use them in your own letters:
Beginning the letter by explaining why you are writing:
Requesting or suggesting something:
Ending the letter with a request for action:
Here's my full answer for last week's general writing question:
Dear Mr. Smith,
I am writing to ask for some time off work next month.
The reason for this ______ is that my brother is getting married. His future wife is Australian, and the wedding will take ______ in her home city, Melbourne. As the brother of the groom, I cannot miss such a special occasion.
To attend the ceremony and make the ______ trip from the UK, I would need at least five days off work. However, I would like to take the opportunity to do some sightseeing in Australia, and so I am hoping that you will allow me to take a full two weeks’ ______, from the 1st to the 15th of May.
I have spoken to my co-workers, and it seems that Peter Jones would be best ______ to cover my project commitments while I am away. I will ______ detailed instructions for him on my desk.
I hope that my request does not cause you any inconvenience.
Fill the gaps with the words below:
- leave (verb)
- leave (noun)
If you're doing the general IELTS test, try this writing task 1 question from Cambridge book 9, page 117:
This should be a formal letter, so start with "Dear Mr. Smith" (Mr. or Mrs. and any surname). Then write a short paragraph for each of the three bullet points in the task box above. End the letter with "Yours sincerely" and a full name (you don't need to use your own name).
It might help if you do a quick plan before you start writing. Just spend a couple of minutes thinking of ideas for each bullet point.
Here are some mistakes that you should avoid in writing task 1 of the GT test:
Avoid these mistakes, and you are on the way to writing a good letter!
Here's a general writing task 1 question from Cambridge IELTS book 9:
The question tells you to begin with "Dear Sir or Madam", so we know that it needs to be a formal letter. After that, you just need 3 short paragraphs to cover the bullet points in the question, followed by a formal letter ending.
I'll write my sample answer for next week.
Let's compare some of the formal and informal features in the two letters that you can see if you click here.
One of the first things that the examiner will notice in your letter is its 'tone'. In other words, is your letter written in an appropriately formal or informal way, depending on the person you are addressing?
Compare the tone of the two letters in the document linked below. Make a list of the formal and informal features that you find. Click here to see the document.