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IELTS COURSES --> IELTS Lesson --> General training writing

Opening and Closing A Letter

Objective:  To learn how to open and close a letter for IELTS General Training Task 1.
There are three types of letter that you may come across in this task:
  • Formal
  • Semi-formal
  • Informal
Each of these open and close in a different way.
Opening and Closing a Formal Letter
A formal letter will usually be to some kind of company. 
For example:
  • Bank
  • Insurance Company
  • Airline
This means that you are usually writing to someone you do not know.
Opening the Letter
Dear + ?
·        Sir = you know it is a man
·        Madam = you know it is a woman
·        Sir / Madam = you don’t know
Closing the Letter
The way you open it determines how you close it.  You gave it a formal opening, and therefore it needs a formal closing. 
If you have opened a letter as above, then this is how you close it:
·        Yours faithfully,
Semi-formal Letter
A semi-formal letter will usually be to someone you know, or at least you know their name. 
For example:
  • Landlord
  • Employer
  • Librarian
  • Doctor
  • School Counsellor
Opening the Letter
To open the letter, you use the family or surname (not the first or full name).  They differ depending on whether it is to a man or a woman.
Example 1: To a man
Paul Jones = You know his name and it’s a man.
·        Dear Mr Jones,
Example 2: To a woman
Julie Smith – You know it’s a woman but is she married or not?
·        Dear Miss Smith, = You know she is unmarried or single.
·        Dear Mrs Smith, = You know she is married or a widow (married when her husband died).
·        Dear Ms Smith, = Neutral i.e. you don’t know if she’s married or not (best for IELTS as you will not know).
Closing the Letter
·        Yours sincerely,
An informal letter is to someone you know every well, like a friend or family.
·        Dear John,
·        Dear Mary,
·        Best wishes,
·        Best regards,


You should spend about 20 minutes on this task.

You live in a room in college which you share with another student. However, there are many problems with this arrangement and you find it very difficult to work.
Write a letter to the accommodation officer at the college. In the letter,
            • describe the situation
            • explain your problems and why it is difficult to work
            • say what kind of accommodation you would prefer
Write at least 150 words.
You do NOT need to write any addresses.
Begin your letter as follows:
Dear Sir or Madam,

Count: 0 word(s)
Band 7 sample
Accommodation Officer
13, Kings Road
Dear Sir,
I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with my roommate and request for another accommodation next term.
My main problem is that I cannot study in my room because my room-mate always has friends visiting. He also has parties, which usually ends early in the morning, several times a week. Furthermore, he often borrows my things without asking me. I cannot accept this situation any longer. Especially because I have very important exams next term and I really must study hard. This is why I would be very grateful if I could have another room next term. It would be most convenient for me not having to share my room with somebody else.
I am looking forward to hear from you soon.
Yours faithfully,

Examiner comment 

This answer is also short. Although ideas are often provided in the task rubric, candidates are at liberty to include some of their own ideas in their answers. In this case, the candidate has attempted to  incorporate some original material. The answer  reads  quite fluently, is well organised  and there  is good  use  of  conjunctions to  link  points. There  are some grammatical errors but these  do not  affect the  reader  greatly  and there is evidence of some  more complex  sentence 
Band 5 sample
5th, March 2013
Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with my room-mate. As you know, we share one room, I can not study in the room at all if I stay there.
She always has friend visiting and has parties in the room. They make lots of noise  and switch on the radio very loudly, for me this environment is very difficult to study and I need a quiet room. Even borrows my things without asking, it is very impolite.
I request you can give me a new room next term because I have been asked her has parties in other place many times they still have parties in the room. I really can not  stay in the same room with her.
I would be grateful if you could change me a single room.
Your faithfully,
Examiner comment 
The answer  is  below the word limit and there  is some repetition of the task rubric. (Length  is  a common problem  in General Training scripts.) Answers that are short lose marks because of inadequate content and may also lose marks because there is insufficient material in the answer for the examiner to give credit for accuracy and coherence. Despite these problems, the introduction to the  letter is appropriate and the  purpose of the writer is clear. The  points are not always linked together well and punctuation is sometimes faulty. The sentences are kept quite simple and mistakes occur as soon as more complex structures are attempted.
Total: 42 page(s)
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