GT Writing letter 3: Formal style greetings & endings; complaining, explaining, requesting

You have received a bill from a mobile phone (or cell phone) company for international call charges relating to a time when you did not use your phone for international calls.

Write a letter to the company,
complaining about this
giving your reasons
asking for the bill to be changed

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

Before you read the explanation and model letter, ask yourself the questions about recipient, style and content of this task.

Explanation of the Task

Recipient: This is a person that the writer does not know and has not met. It is a formal, professional situation.

Style: The style will be formal, emphasising the fact that the writer is a customer and has a complaint.It is important to avoid humour or drama in letters like this.

Content:The Task asks for: complaining (about the bill), explaining (why the bill is wrong), and requesting (a revised bill.) In IELTS GT letters, don’t invent too many complicated details about the situation, even if you know a lot about the topic (eg all the different call rates and time zones etc.) Try to keep the details quite simple.

Band 9 model letter 3

Dear Sir or Madam,
I have been a satisfied customer for several years, but I am writing regarding the cell phone bill I received on 17 th March 2015, which includes a total of $900 for international call charges. In fact,
these charges are completely unjustified, for the following reason.

At no time have I used this phone to make international calls, either to my home country or to any other country. I used the phone purely for local calls and for calls to government departments in London, which are national calls. I have checked my call summary, and there is no record of any international connections. As you see, there is no possible reason for me to be charged for international calls, and this is easily confirmed by my phone records.

I therefore request that you withdraw these charges and change my bill accordingly. I also ask you to confirm to me in writing that this has been actioned, by sending a copy of the revised bill to me at this address.

I look forward to receiving your confirmation that all is in order.

Kind Regards,

Mandeep Singh

(188 words)

Why is this a Band 9 letter?


Formal greetings (the ‘Dear ——-’ part)

In formal letters (letters to people you don’t know, or people in authority) you will usually begin with ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms Smith.’ Choose which you prefer from ‘Mr/Mrs/ Ms’ – the examiner will not mind which one.

‘Ms’ is used for women to avoid saying either ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss.’ These days, the word ‘Miss’ is not normally used to address adult women in writing.

Remember to put a comma (,) after ‘Smith’ like this:

Dear Mr Smith,

If you wish, you can change the name ‘Smith’ for another surname, but make this a very simple one!
Use an English surname, because this shows the examiner that you are thinking in an English-speaking context.
Don’t waste time thinking of an imaginary surname – just use ‘Smith’ (or the other English surname you prefer) for all your formal letters in Tasks where in reality you would know the person’s name.

In IELTS GT, you will usually use ‘Dear + Mr/Mrs/Ms + surname’ for formal letters. It is rare to begin a letter in English with ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’

However, this is one Task where you might say ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’ If the Task tells you to write to a large organisation, ask yourself if in real life you might know the name of the person you are writing to. In this example, it’s possible that in reality you might not know the name of the ‘complaints department manager’ or similar; therefore, it’s acceptable to write ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’ Remember,though, that such Tasks are less common than tasks where you would know the person’s name, so normally you will use ‘Mr/Mrs/Ms Smith.’

Remember to put a comma (,) after ‘Madam’ like this:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Remember that the words ‘Mr/Mrs/Ms/Sir/Madam’ all begin with a capital letter when used in a letter greeting.

Formal endings (the ‘goodbye’ part)

In a formal letter, try to finish your letter with two things.

First, a ‘call to action’sentence which tells the reader politely what you want them to do.

The easiest way to do this is to write ‘I look forward to + ing or + noun.’ For example:

‘I look forward to receiving your confirmation/to receiving a refund/to learning of your proposal.’

Or with a noun instead of ‘+ ing’:

‘I look forward to your confirmation/to a refund/to your proposal.’

Try to use the ‘+ ing’ form if possible, because it will impress the examiner more.

Try not to write ‘I look forward to hearing from you.’ This is because it looks like a memorised phrase, and the examiner may not appreciate this. Examiners don’t like to see phrases which are
clichés or possibly memorised. See the last section of this book (‘10 Things Not To Do’) for more advice on what an IELTS examiner does NOT like to see in a GT letter!

Other ways to write a classic ‘call to action’sentence are:
‘I would appreciate your reply with a confirmation/a refund/ a proposal as I have requested.’

‘Please respond as soon as possible, outlining your confirmation/your refund/ your proposal in this matter.’

‘As you will appreciate, this is an urgent matter, and I look forward to your prompt reply.’

‘Thank you for your help, and I await the information requested with interest.’

After your ‘call to action’sentence, you only need to write ‘Kind Regards’ and your first name +surname.It is possible that your English teacher taught you to use phrases such as ‘Yours Faithfully’ (for ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ letters) and ‘Yours Sincerely’ (for ‘Dear Mr Smith’ letters.) It is fine to do this, but it’s not necessary! Both types of letter can be concluded with ‘Kind Regards.’

Remember to put a comma after ‘Regards’ like this:

Kind Regards,

Mandeep Singh

Use your real first name + surname in the way it appears on your IELTS candidate paper. Don’t use an imaginary name at the end, because this makes the letter unrealistic.
Don’t put a full stop (.) after your name, because this is not a sentence.
Don’t put any other titles or information about yourself with your name; for example, don’t write:
‘Mr Mandeep Singh’
‘Mandeep Singh (customer since 2012)’
‘Your loyal customer, Mandeep Singh’

This is because it is not normal to add such information at the end when writing in English; it is a good idea to tell them that you have been a customer since 2012, but put this in the main letter!


In this letter, the candidate has used elements which are clear to understand, without using too much detail. The three content ideas are organised in three clear sections. The language used is quite strong (eg ‘I therefore request’) but it is always polite and professional.

The candidate shows that he can use the verb ‘appreciate’ in two ways:
‘I would appreciate your reply’ = I want you to reply to me
‘As you will appreciate, this is . . .’ = I am sure you can understand that this is . . .

Overall, this is an excellent example of how to write a formal letter of complaint in English.