IELTS Writing

Formal & Informal English use in IELTS Letter Writing: Difference between informal & formal words in IELTS Writing

Know The Key Difference Between Formal & Informal English Use For Writing a Letter in the IELTS Exam

If you’re thinking of giving the IELTS general training test then make sure you know that the writing section of the IELTS contains two tasks. In the first task, you have to write a letter and in the second task, you have to write an essay.  

However, keep in mind that in task 2 of the writing section you have to maintain the formal language. On the other hand, in task 1 which includes letter writing your writing can be formal, semi-formal and informal. 

We have written this article to show the differences between informal and formal writings as there are many people who want to understand this. 

What is Informal and Formal Letter?

In writing task 1 of the IELTS general training you have to write a letter and your writing style must depend upon the question type. You need to write an informal or formal letter depending upon the following demands.

  • If in a question you are asked to write a letter to a person whom you know, then you have to write an informal letter. 
  • On the other hand, if the question asks you to write a letter to a person whom you do not know then you have to write a formal letter. 

However, keep in mind that English language formality differs depending upon the writing style you opt for. As the English language usage will never be similar for both formal and informal writing style. 

Let’s have a rapid look at the Do’s and Don’ts in the two different writing styles in the letter writing. 

Informal Writing Formal Writing
Practice Colloquial Words/Expressions Do Not practice Colloquial Words/Expressions
Use Contractions Do Not use Contractions
Use Abbreviations Do Not use Abbreviations
Write a letter in reference to the first/second/third person Always write the letter in reference to the third person
Use Clichés No Clichés
Use Imperative Voice Do not use Imperative Voice
Write in Active Voice Write in Passive Voice
Use Simple and short Sentences Use Complex and Long Sentences
Use the Exclamation Mark Don’t  use the Exclamation Mark

The difference in the Vocabulary words of Formal and Informal Letter Writing in IELTS Exam

The main difference between the two writing styles is the difference between the usage of vocabulary words. In the informal writings, we mostly use the words that we use daily in our conversations. Contrary to this, the words that are used in the business letter, books, contacts, etc are formal. So always be careful in using formal or informal words in your writings. 

For example,

Informal: Why didn’t you come to the party?

Formal:  I want to invite you to the party. 

The following are the words that you may take into consideration when you are writing the letters.

Informal Writing Formal Writing
Help Assistance
Buy Purchase
Need Require
Get Obtain
Also/Plus Moreover
Whole Entire
Enough Sufficient

Note: Keep in the mind, that usage of inappropriate words can cost you marks.

Abbreviations/Contractions in Formal and Informal Letter Writing in IELTS Test

In the formal writings, you are not allowed to use contractions and abbreviations while you can use them in the informal writings. 

For example,

Informal: You’re very lucky.

Formal: You are very lucky.

Informal: Switch on the washing machine.

Formal: Kindly switch on the washing machine. 

Thus, you should use the words according to the letter style. 

Usage of the Emphasizing words in Formal and Informal Letter Writing in IELTS Exam

There are words that you should use while emphasizing something. These words are known as the emphasizing words and they may vary depending upon the writing style. 

The following are some of the emphasizing words which you may use while writing a letter in task 1 of the IELTS general training. 

Informal Writing Formal Writing
Lots of/A lot of Many/Much
Heaps of A number of
Totally Completely
Really Definitely

Accurate Phrasal Verbs usage in Formal and Informal Letter Writing in IELTS

We make use of the phrasal verbs when we want to avoid the usage of very formal language. So, when you are writing a letter in a formal style then you can use phrasal verbs to convey the message in a way that is informal. Moreover, there are many phrasal verbs used in formal writings. 

For example.

Informal: Researchers did an experiment on the plants.

Formal: Researchers carried out an experiment on the plants. 

The following are some of the phrasal verbs used in the formal writings. 

informal Writing

Adhere to

Formal Writing

Enter on

Ascribe to Pertain to
Cast down Provide against
Carryout Point out
Brought about Complain of

So, always try to use the phrasal verbs in the formal letters as they represent the authoritative style of writing and also impress the examiner and you can get a good score.

Sentence Structure of Formal and Informal Letter Writing in IELTS Exam

One of the other differences between formal and informal writings is the difference between the structure of the sentences. In informal writings, you can write simple and short sentences. Moreover, you can also write the information in the form of points. 

On the other hand, informal writings, you have to write complex and long sentences. You have to be very clear about the information and have to explain every point extensively. 

For example,

Informal: Went to the village this weekend. Have lots of things to tell.

Formal: I went to a village this weekend. I have many things to express to you. 


Letter Expressions Difference between Formal and Informal Letter Writing in IELTS

The format of informal letters begins with the Dear+ Name of the Receiver and usually ends with the Best wishes + Your name 

On the other hand, the formal letter usually begins with the Dear Madam/Sir and it ends with the Yours Faithfully + Your full name. 


So, these were the differences between formal and informal letters. However, in order to have a firm grip on writing a letter, you must practice writing different type of letters on different topics before you actually go to give the test.

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