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Writing a Formal Business Letter on the General Training IELTS!

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Letter writing is the first task of the Writing section for General Training IELTS and 20 minutes are allocated for it. There are quite a few different types of letter that can appear here, such as complaint letter, request for information, formal business letter or personal letter. No doubt, each letter has slightly different set of rules and ways of phrasing. Today, let’s take a look at some tips to write a perfect formal business letter!

Formal business letters include a range of letters written to someone in a formal setting such as to a boss, company manager, professor, bank etc. Start you letter by addressing the person you are writing to. If the person’s name is given in the question, then you can use ‘Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. etc’ followed by the surname. If you don’t know the person you are writing to, using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ will suffice.

Formal letters should be crisp and to the point. In the introduction, summarize your intentions for writing the letter. Using no more than 1–2 sentences, make your point and state who you are and why are you writing this letter. Here are a few examples of starting phrases:

I am writing in regard to…..
My name is XYZ and I’m writing this letter in order to….
With reference to your letter/phone call….
Thank you for your letter regarding….

Moving on to the body of the letter, you can explain in more detail the reason for writing the letter. Writing two paragraphs in the body helps you to build a story. In the first paragraph, elaborate your purpose by stating details such as when, why, how, what, with whom, etc. The second paragraph can contain the type of response you are seeking. You may state your suggestion or mention your expectation or give contact details, if required. Also, don’t forget to make sure that the paragraphs are well connected and have a logical flow.

Finally, end your letter with a closing line and sign off. Here are some templates of closing phrases that you can use:
I look forward to hearing from you.
I look forward to meeting you on…
Please advice as necessary.
Thank you for your help.

And for the sign off:

Yours sincerely, (If you know the name of the person you are writing to.)
XYZ.
Yours faithfully, (If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to.)
XYZ.

The IELTS graders mark the writing section for structure, vocabulary, grammar and fluency of language. A common mistake candidates often make is that they do not develop their paragraphs and put together a series of unrelated points. Coherence and cohesion can be achieved by planning your letter before you begin to write. Spare a couple of minutes at a beginning to think of points to write about and make a mind map to organize them.

Another powerful tool that increases cohesion is the usage of linking words. Using linking words for sequences (firstly, next, in conclusion), addition (so, as a result, therefore), emphasis (undoubtedly, indeed, in fact) or contrast (yet, however, while) etc. can help boost your scores. However, as an IELTS instructor, I’ve often seen candidates overuse linking words which does quite the opposite of the intended effect! So, make sure to use linking words wisely and aptly!

Lastly, punctuations—slice and splice your sentences, whenever needed! Learn the appropriate usage of punctuations as it makes your writing coherent. Hope this article will help you to write better letters. For additional assistance, we at ICON+ are always there to give you a helping hand! That’s all for now, guys!

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Applicable for ISAT/UKCAT/BMAT/MCAT courses