General Training: Writing Task 1
Planning & Formal vs Informal

Watch our video on how to format / organize your writing task 1 and choosing the correct style: Formal or informal

Planning

I cannot stress enough the importance of planning. Candidates often think that 20 minutes is not enough time to complete the task and rush straight into writing the answer. 

Planning your answer will keep you on topic and ensure that you have included everything that’s needed to score well, especially in Task achievement. Planning actually saves time because when it comes to writing the answer you already know the content. 

Take several minutes to read and fully understand the task because there is a lot of information in the situation for General Training task 1. 

Formal vs Informal

First of all, decide who you are writing to. This will be included in the situation. Who you are writing to will determine the style or tone of your letter whether it is formal or informal. 

Example

Write a letter to the manager...

Write a letter to your friend...

Write a letter to the company...

According to some sources, there are 3 possible tones, formal, semi-formal and informal depending on who you are writing to and your relationship with them. 

Don’t spend time thinking about the difference between semi-formal and formal. It’s too confusing and time consuming. When writing your letter, choose either formal or informal.

You might have an instruction that tells you to write a letter to your neighbour and you might think this should be informal because you are friendly with your neighbour.

However, this is not always true and it depends on the content of the letter. For instance, if you are writing to your neighbour to complain about the noise coming from their place, it would be formal style. 

Keep in simple. If the instructions say “write a letter to your friend”, it is informal. For all other people or organizations, you are writing to, it is formal.
 

Example: Informal

You will take a short holiday in London next month and you would like to spend some time with a friend who lives there.

Write a letter to your friend

 

Example: Formal

You bought a set of speakers from a store recently and discovered that they were not working properly.

 

Write a letter to the store

 

Example: Formal

 

You have been doing some voluntary work to help your local community. However, now you are unable to do continue doing this work.

 

Write a letter to the manager...

 

The type of language you use, depends on whether the letter is formal or informal. Some differences between formal and informal language....

Using the appropriate style/tone in all parts of the letter is graded in the Task achievement criterion.

Task Achievement

Band 7: ... with the tone consistent and appropriate.

 

Task Achievement

Band 4: The tone may be inappropriate

 

Once you have decided on the appropriate style, according to who you are writing to, then continue to plan using the following steps. 

            1. WHO are you writing to?

             2. What’s the STYLE/TONE of the letter?

             3. What is the PURPOSE of the letter?

             4. What INFORMATION NEEDS TO BE INCLUDED?

             5. CLOSING the letter.

             6. SIGN OFF

Example…

                                 Source: Cambridge English IELTS past papers

When writing, organize your answer into 6 paragraphs. Leave a space between each paragraph.