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More Task 1 tips - formal and informal writing

In Task 1 you will be asked to write a letter. Depending on who you are writing to, you need to decide whether to write in a more formal or a more informal style.

Most everyday written communication in English uses a semi-formal style, where the tone is quite friendly, but some more formal expressions are used. However, we use a more formal style when we’re writing for professional reasons or to people we don’t know. We use an informal style with people we know well, for example, family members, relatives, friends or colleagues.

There are a number of differences between formal and informal English. For example, sentences are generally longer and more complex in formal writing. Language is often more impersonal, sometimes using passive voice. Vocabulary is often different too, with more words of Latin or French origin and fewer phrasal verbs. We don’t use contractions in formal writing, whereas in informal writing, we use them all the time. Here are some features of both styles of writing:

Formal Informal  
Dear Sir or Madam Dear Mala / Hi Mala beginning
I am writing with regard to… I’m writing about… purpose
I would like to invite you… Why don’t you come to … inviting
I would like to request… Do you have…? requesting
Please deliver the parcel to… It would be great if you could send it to… instruction
I would like to suggest that… I think you should… suggesting
I am / we are / did not I’m / we’re / didn’t contractions
Therefore / However So / Anyway linking
I look forward to hearing from you. Hope to hear from you soon! closing
Yours faithfully Best wishes / See you soon ending

Always begin by deciding who you are writing to. Should it be a formal or informal style? Never mix the two styles.

Do you have any favourite formal or informal language you like to use? Share your thoughts in the discussion below.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests

British Council

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