Best IELTS advice for writing effective letters.

depositphotos_7932028-Quill-pen-and-ink-well-with-paper-scroll‘But what will I have to write a letter about?’ was the first question a new student asked me about IELTS Writing Task 1 recently. I’m sure there are many of you who are new to IELTS who are wondering the same thing.

The letter you are required to write in IELTS Task 1 often falls in to one of the following types:

a. You have to APOLOGISE to someone
b. You have to COMPLAIN about something
c. You must REQUEST information
d. You have to THANK someone
e. You have to APPLY FOR A JOB
f. You have to INVITE someone to do something.

Here are some examples of the letter types above:-

a. You are an international student and have borrowed a book from the local public library. You left the book on a bus and when you contacted the bus company, they could not find it.

Write a letter to the librarian explaining the situation and asking what you should do.

b. You are working in the UK for three months and have hired a car for the period. The air conditioner has stopped working. You phoned the car rental company a week ago but it has still not been repaired.

Write a letter to the manager of the car rental company. In your letter:
• Introduce yourself
• Explain the situation
• Say what action you would like the company to take.

c. You are a student who wants to apply to Meridian College. You are experiencing financial problems at the moment.

Write a letter to the Principal of the College explaining your situation and ask for information on scholarships or other means of financial help available.

d. Last month you had a holiday overseas where you stayed with some friends. They have just sent you some photos of your holiday.

Write a letter to your friends. In your letter:
• Thank them for the photos and for the holiday
• Explain why you didn’t write earlier
• Invite them to come and stay with you.

e. You want to apply for a job as a housekeeper for a private home. Write a letter to Mrs. Wilson describing your previous experience and explaining why you would be suitable for the job.

f. You are getting married. Write a letter to an English-speaking friend to invite him/her to the wedding.

In your letter:
• Describe the person you are going to marry
• Tell him/her what will happen on the wedding day
• Explain why it is important for him/her to be at the wedding.

The purpose of the letter you are writing will often determine the type of language you use. Equally important; you must decide if the letter is a formal letter or an informal letter; this will also determine the type of language you use.

In the next post, I will give you some language phrases and expressions to use in the different letter types. For now I would like to give you the four step procedure for writing letters that I give my students.

Step 1
Read and understand the task; understand the topic; the question and the requirements.

Step 2
Plan what you are going to write: greet; state the purpose; give/request information; request action; close and sign off.

Step 3
Write your answer on the answer sheet.
• Write a greeting
• State your purpose (why you are writing)
• Give/request information
• Request action
• Close
• Sign off.

Step 4
Check your writing; check the content; the language; and the presentation.

Understanding WHY you are writing the letter (your purpose) will help keep you on track and make sure you answer the question (marked in Task Achievement).

Don’t forget to check out some of the other posts on formal letters and informal letters on this site.

Here’s to the best IELTS score possible!

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