The General Training IELTS involves writing a letter as task 1 in the Writing section. The letter has to be written in 20 minutes so that there is ample time left for task 2, essay writing. Now, there are quite a few different types of letters that can appear on your test (complaint, request for info, personal or formal business letter) and most people tend to find formal business letters to be the most challenging to write. Let’s review some useful tips and phrases that you can use to write an excellent formal business letter on your IELTS exam!
Formal letters range from job applications to announcements to acknowledgement. Since you will be writing the letter by hand, it is good to follow a structure. Real letters require adding the address in the upper right corner of the page. However, the IELTS Writing section usually states that an address is not required. You need to, however, address the person(s) you are writing to.
If you do not know the person you are writing to, you can start your letter with the salutation ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. Write this in the beginning of a line and continue your letter on the next one. If you do know the person you are writing to, then you can use ‘Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr.’ etc. If you do not know the marital status of a woman, you can address her with ‘Ms.’
So far, so easy. What do you need to do next? It is very important to include all the points from your task. Firstly, you need to say why you are writing the letter. Useful opening lines are: ‘I am writing to inquire about…’, ‘I write to apologize for…’, ‘I am writing to apply for…’ and so on, depending on the topic. If this is not the first letter you have written to the particular person or organization you can start with, ‘Thank you for your letter regarding…’, ‘Further to our meeting last week…’.
Next, depending on the topic, you might be writing a letter in which you make a request, make a complaint, enclose documents and apply for a job. More useful phrases to indicate the purpose of writing are, ‘I would be grateful if you could…’, ‘I am interested in…’, ‘I am pleased to inform you…’, ‘I regret to inform you…’, ‘I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with…’, ‘Please find enclosed my resume/document…’.
The end of your letter is also very important. Whether you refer to a future contact or you just want to find the most formal way to end a letter, you can use one of the following phrases, ‘I look forward to meeting you…’, ‘Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need…’, ‘Thank you in advance for your time…’, ‘I would appreciate a reply at your earliest convenience…’. If you end your letter with ‘Sincerely Yours’ or ‘Regards’—make sure you leave a couple of lines and write a name below.
Try to keep business letters as formal as possible and make sure every new idea is written in the form of a new paragraph. And remember, learning a few phrases will make your task much easier! Good luck!