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The right tone & vocabulary for letters

writing task 1 general ielts mega

The tone of the letter (Formal or Informal) must be suitable to the topic/situation.
Read the two following letters and their analysis below each letter. The first letter is an informal letter and the second one is a formal one. Compare the tone and vocabulary used in each letter carefully.

 

The first sample, the informal letter

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

Sample Answer

Dear John and Jane,

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m just writing to thank you both for the holiday and for the photos you sent.

The photos arrived this morning in the post. They reminded me what a great time I had during my stay with you last month. You really were fantastic hosts, and I couldn’t have asked for better guides to show me around.

Sorry I didn’t write to you earlier, but I’ve been working flat out since the moment I arrived home. Do you remember I told you I had an assignment to finish? Well, the deadline was two weeks earlier than I thought it was!

Anyway, I’m back to normal now and I’ve handed in all of my assignments. In fact, now that I’m free, why don’t you both come and stay? There’s a spare room here, so you’re welcome to use it whenever you like.

Hope to see you soon,

Peter

(158 words)

 

Analysis task:

  • Is the ‘tone’ of the letter appropriate? In other words, is it written in an informal style?
  • Can you find examples of style or tone?
  • Is the purpose of the letter clear? Are all of the points covered?
  • Is the letter well-organised? Are the points developed in a logical way?
    Can you find any examples of linking or referencing?
  • Can you find examples of good, relevant vocabulary? Is the vocabulary appropriate for an informal letter?
  • Are there any grammar mistakes?

 

 

The second sample, the formal letter

You recently bought a piece of equipment for your kitchen but it did not work. You phoned the shop but no action was taken.

Write a letter to the shop manager. In your letter

  • describe the problem with the equipment
  • explain what happened when you phoned the shop
  • say what you would like the manager to do

Sample Answer

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing with regard to an appliance that I recently bought from your shop.

On the 10th May I bought a new washing machine, and it was installed the following day.

However, when I tried to wash some clothes, I noticed that the machine failed to spin during the washing cycle. Consequently, it leaves clothes wet but not clean.

When I phoned your shop to report the problem, I spoke to an assistant who did not know the procedure for repairs or returns. He assured me that he would report the issue to the store manager, and that I would be contacted the same day. That was two days ago, and I am still waiting for your call.

As the appliance is under warranty, I am entitled to ask for it to be repaired or replaced. I have decided that I would like a replacement washing machine. I would also like you to phone me personally when you receive this letter.

I await your prompt response.

Yours faithfully,

John Smith

(175 words)

 

Analysis Task:

  • Is the ‘tone’ of the letter appropriate? In other words, is it written in a formal style? Can you find examples of style or tone?
  • Is the purpose of the letter clear? Are all of the points covered?
  • Is the letter well-organised? Are the points developed in a logical way?
    Can you find any examples of linking or referencing?
  • Can you find examples of good, relevant vocabulary? Is the vocabulary appropriate for a formal letter?
  • Are there any grammar mistakes?

 

Formal Vs. Informal

Informal letter:

  • Beginning: Dear + first name
  • Friendly greeting: I hope this letter finds you well.
  • Contractions: I’m, didn’t, couldn’t, there’s…
  • Questions: Do you remember…? Why don’t you…?
  • Exclamation: …earlier than I thought it was!
  • Linking: Well, Anyway, so, and
  • Phrases: had a great time, couldn’t have asked for, working flat out, back to normal
  • Ending: Hope to see you soon + first name

Formal letter:

  • Beginning: Dear Sir or Madam
  • No greeting necessary
  • No contractions: I am, did not…
  • Normally avoid direct questions: “I would like” instead of “Can I have?”
  • No exclamation marks (!)
  • Linking: However, Consequently, and, also
  • Phrases and vocabulary: with regard to, appliance, it was installed, the following day, failed to (meaning “didn’t”), procedure, he assured me, report the issue, contacted, under warranty, I am entitled to, replacement, phone me personally
  • Ending: I await your prompt response, Yours faithfully + full name

Note: Both letters also contain ‘neutral’ vocabulary that can be used in any type of letter. For example, words like ‘hosts’, ‘deadline’ or ‘assignment’ are not highlighted because they could be used in both formal and informal contexts.

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