IELTS I've got this logo

How to write a semi-formal letter for IELTS General Training Writing Task 1


Test Takers


How to study

Date Published

01 February 2023

This article was first published on (this website is now closed)

Do you know how to write a semi-formal letter? Are you wondering how it’s different to a formal or informal letter? Well, a semi-formal letter is one that is more neutral in style (neither formal nor informal) and one you may choose to write if you have to:

  • write a letter to someone you know about something negative (e.g. an apology to a neighbour)
  • write a letter to someone you have a professional relationship with (e.g. a manager at work)

Still not sure? Then read on to see an example IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 semi-formal letter.

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 sample

The IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 below is taken from IELTS 16 and is an example of one where you could write a semi-formal letter.

Example of IELTS Writing task 1

You know that the letter has to be semi-formal or more formal in style because it’s to your manager about something important. It wouldn’t be appropriate to write an informal letter because you have a professional relationship with your manager and the letter is connected to work.

If this wasn’t about IELTS but about a letter to your real manager, you’d have to decide whether your manager would expect a semi-formal letter or a more formal one (or whether he/she would prefer you to talk to them instead).

IELTS General Training Writing Task 1 example answer

Example of IELTS Writing task 1 answer

If you read the following answer, you’ll see that the writer writes a semi-formal letter describing the complaints, explaining why the reception area is important and suggesting how it could be improved.

As you’ll see below, the letter also contains features of both formal and informal letters.

Important! To get a band score 7 or above for the content of a semi-formal letter, you need to write in a consistent style and not include language that’s too formal or informal.

Semi-formal letters

So, what language features should you use in semi-formal letters and which should you avoid?

Language features of semi-formal letters include:

  • Openings that are neither too formal nor too informal, e.g. ‘Dear…,’ closings that are neither too formal nor too informal, e.g. ‘Regards…’ contractions, e.g. I’m… (instead of ‘I am’).
  • The use of some more formal vocabulary, e.g. ‘receive’ (rather than ‘get’).
  • The use of more personal language, e.g the complaints we’ve received. (instead of ‘ the complaints that have been received’)
  • The use of the words ‘suggest’ and ‘recommend’ to make suggestions (instead of a more formal way, e.g. ‘May I suggest…’, or informal way ‘How about ’).

Language features you should avoid in a semi-formal letter include:

  • Language that’s too formal, e.g. very polite requests like ‘It would be greatly appreciated if...’.
  • Language that’s too informal, e.g. informal vocabulary like ‘moan’ instead of ‘complaint’.
  • Language that should only be used in texts or on social media, e.g. shortened words like ‘convo’ (rather than ‘conversation’).

Best of luck in your IELTS test