Pitfalls to Avoid in IELTS Letter Writing (Part 1)

Letter writing may be a dying art, but even today a well-written note can leave a lasting impression on the reader. No wonder then that letter writing skills are still in demand.

In IELTS General Training Writing, one of the tasks to complete is a letter that may be personal, semi-formal, or formal in style. The test taker is presented with a situation and asked to respond to it, writing a minimum of 150 words.

Now, writing a letter isn’t exactly rocket science, but if not careful, you could easily lose marks in a test. Here are some pitfalls to avoid when you attempt the letter writing task in IELTS.

1. Purpose is unclear

Written without clear intention, a letter can leave the reader somewhat confused. They may come across a lot of information yet not understand what it is that the writer wants to achieve in the first place. So, read the task carefully so as to identify its requirements, including the main purpose. In IELTS, you’re likely to encounter common, everyday situations that require you to do some of the following: apologise to someone, enquire about something, make arrangements, invite someone, complain about someone or something, and explain something.

On beginning your response, use the first couple of sentences to make it clear why you’re writing. For instance, in a formal letter, beginning with a phrase such as I’m writing to… can make the purpose clear right from the outset.

2. Inappropriate tone

Sometimes test takers get the style of writing horribly wrong, using an inappropriate tone to compose the letter. A personal letter, for example, may have too many words and phrases that sound formal, or grammar structures that indicate a high degree of formality. In IELTS, use of inappropriate tone invites an immediate penalty, which would subsequently affect you overall writing score.

Naturally, it pays to think about who you’ve been asked to write to and how well you are supposed to know them. This should help you decide what style of writing would be appropriate. Once you identify the right tone, keep it consistent throughout the letter to achieve the desired effect on the reader. 

We’ll be back with more advice to help you avoid some of the most obvious pitfalls in letter writing.

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