GT Writing letter 1: Key principles in a formal style letter (complaining, explaining, suggestin)

You are living in a University residence, and you have a problem with the high levels of noise from a new campus restaurant which is open late at night. Write a letter to the governor of the University.

In your letter,
Complain about the situation
Say why this is a problem
And propose ways to reduce the noise

Begin your letter ‘Dear ——–’
Do not write any addresses
Write at least 150 words

Band 9 model letter 1

Dear Mr Smith,
I am writing regarding the amount of noise coming from the new canteen which has just opened near my University residence. Although I am pleased that we have this facility, the restaurant remains open up to midnight each night, and as a result there is considerable talking, shouting and the sound of motorbikes continuing until about 12.30 each night.

This causes me and my neighbours in the residence a serious problem, because at that time we are either trying to sleep, or in some cases trying to study in our bedrooms. In both cases, the noise and commotion disturbs us, making us tired in the mornings or affecting the progress of our studies. I am sure you will appreciate that this is a very worrying situation for us all.

I would like to suggest that the campus authorities restrict the canteen’s opening to 11pm at the latest on weekdays, leaving it at midnight during the weekend. I propose that we also put up some signs reminding users to be considerate and to keep their noise to an absolute minimum. These are simple steps which would make us all very grateful indeed.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Kind Regards,

Claudia Maggioni

(206 words)

Why is this a Band 9 letter?

Recipient: The candidate has understood that the recipient is a more senior person. She has used a greeting (‘Dear Mr Smith’) and an ending (‘Kind Regards’) which are appropriate and realistic for this recipient.

Style: The English used is formal in style, with formal words such as ‘regarding, remains,considerable, commotion, appreciate, restrict.’ There are no contractions (eg ‘don’t, can’t’ etc) and no informal phrases (eg ‘drives me crazy’ or ‘keeps me up all night.’)

The candidate has used some classic formal phrases to make her point, especially:

‘I am writing regarding . . .’

‘I am sure you will appreciate that . . .’

‘May I suggest that . . .’

‘Thank you for your attention to this important matter.’

The candidate has written in a calm and professional way, and has also made a positive comment (‘Although I am pleased that we have this facility . . .’) which is a feature of formal writing in English.

Content: This candidate has answered all the points in the task; she has complained about the noise,explained why it’s a problem, and suggested some ways to reduce it.

The three content ideas are separated into three paragraphs, making it clear for the examiner to see the three ideas at work.

The candidate has invented a few details of the situation (the motorbikes, the students trying to sleep or study); these details are realistic, relevant and not too complicated or dramatic.In the ‘suggesting’ paragraph, the candidate’s suggestions are realistic (meaning they could be agreed in real life.)

The letter is over 150 words, but not excessively. Around 200 to 220 words is the ideal length for an IELTS GT letter.

Summary of model letter 1

Although this is only our first model letter, we have identified some of the most important points about writing a Band 9 IELTS GT formal style letter:

Decide on the recipient, the style and the combination of different content for your Task, and organise your letter on this basis. Use our system of the white boxes and the blue circle to help you decide.

Use a simple but formal style greeting and ending (model letter 3 in this book has more information about this.)

Use formal style language, vocabulary and phrases. This book has many examples of formal letters to help you with this. As a general rule, don’t use phrasal verbs (eg ‘to put up, to give in, to hand out’ etc); try to use Latin-based words instead (‘to increase, to submit, to distribute’ etc.)

Only use contractions in a personal letter, never in a formal letter.

Write in a calm way, with no humour or drama. It is surprising how many IELTS GT candidates try to make jokes in formal letters; you will always lose marks for this.

In formal letters, don’t use exclamation marks (‘!’) even if you might do this in other languages. In English, this would be confusing for the recipient. You can use exclamation marks (once only) in personal letters, as we explain in the next section in this book.

If the letter is a complaint, try to make a positive comment too, in addition to all the negatives. This makes the letter more balanced and realistic.

It is very important to separate your content ideas into clear paragraphs so that the examiner can see them immediately. The best way to do this is to leave a one line gap on the paper between the paragraphs, as in our model letter above.

Invent some realistic and relevant content details of the situation; this means things which would be possible in real life, without lots of specific detail.

Remember, this was an example of a formal style letter. Our next example is about a letter for a different type of situation.