Know The Difference Between Formal & Informal English For Letter Writing

In the IELTS exam, you may be asked to write a letter as part of the Writing module. Depending on the situation and the recipient of the letter

In the IELTS exam, you may be asked to write a letter as part of the Writing module. Depending on the situation and the recipient of the letter, you may need to use either formal or informal English. Here are some key differences between the two:


Formal letters require a more serious and professional tone, while informal letters are more casual and conversational.


In formal letters, you should use more complex and sophisticated vocabulary, avoiding slang or colloquial expressions. In contrast, informal letters can use more everyday language and even slang.

Grammar and Punctuation

Formal letters require correct grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Contractions are generally avoided in formal letters. In informal letters, there is more flexibility and you can use contractions and a more relaxed sentence structure.

Salutation and Closing

Formal letters should begin with a formal salutation, such as "Dear Sir/Madam" or "To whom it may concern", and end with a formal closing, such as "Yours faithfully". In informal letters, you can use a more personal salutation, such as "Dear John", and end with a more casual closing, such as "Best regards" or "Take care".


Formal letters tend to be longer, with a clear introduction, body and conclusion. Informal letters can be shorter and less structured.

It is important to read the instructions carefully and identify whether you are required to write a formal or informal letter.

If you are preparing for the IELTS General Training Exam, you should be aware that there are two objectives on the IELTS General Writing exam.

Task 1: Letter Composing

Task 2: Essay Writing

Task 2 of the Writing Module is always formal writing, while Task 1 may be informal, semi-formal, or formal.

This post is intended for IELTS candidates who are attempting to understand the distinction between formal and informal letters.

What is the difference between a formal and informal letter?

For Writing Task 1, you must determine whether to write a formal or informal letter based on the question type. The instructions require one of the following options:

  • If you are requested to write to a known individual, you must respond with an informal letter.
  • In contrast, if you are asked to write to an unknown recipient, you must respond with a formal letter.

The degree of formality in the English language varies depending on the writing style chosen. In Informal and Formal Writing, the English language will be employed differently.

A glance at the Dos and Don'ts of Informal and Formal Letter Writing in IELTS General Writing



Use Colloquial Words/Expressions

No Colloquial Words/Expressions

Use Contractions

No Contractions

Use Abbreviations

No Abbreviations

Write in reference to first/second/third person

Write in reference to third person

Use Clichés

No Clichés

Use Imperative Voice

Avoid use of Imperative Voice

Use Active Voice

Use Passive Voice

Let's understand these points with appropriate example.

The real distinction between formal and informal English is vocabulary.

The language used in everyday conversation is informal, whereas the language used in books, contracts, and business letters is formal. Use caution when employing them in informal and formal correspondence.


Informal: Why don't you pay a visit to my house?

Formal: I would like to extend an invitation to visit my home.

One Style that Accepts Abbreviations/Contractions and One That Does Not In informal writing, abbreviations and contractions are acceptable. However, they cannot be used in Formal Writing.


Informal: I'm keeping an eye out for you.

Formal: I'm ready to see you.

Informal: Turn the TV on.

Formal: Could you please turn on the TV?

So, you must change the way you write to fit the style of the letter.

It's important to use phrasal verbs in the right way.

We use phrasal verbs to avoid sounding too formal. But what do you do when you have to write a business letter? We usually think of phrasal verbs as informal ways to say something, but many of them can also be used in formal writing.

Here's a good example.

Informal: A survey was done by researchers.

Formal: A survey was done by researchers.

When you are writing formal letters, don't forget to use phrasal verbs. These phrasal verbs help you sound more authoritative, which may make the reader think you're smart.

Formal and informal writing have different ways of putting sentences together.

In a casual letter, you can use short, easy-to-understand sentences. Sometimes, you can make points that give the reader a clear idea.

On the other hand, sentences in Formal Letters are long and hard to understand. You need to give as much information as you can in your answer. You need to explain each point you make.

One example is

Informal: I spent the weekend in Barcelona. I have a lot to say.

Formal: We spent the weekend in Barcelona. We have a lot to say to you.

Letter Expressions Depending on the writing style.

Informal letters start with Dear and the name of the person receiving the letter. They end with Best Wishes/Regards and the person's first name.

Formal letters start with Dear Sir or Madam and end with Yours Faithfully + Full Name.


Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when writing a formal or informal letter. Before you take the actual IELTS Exam, write as many letters as you can.

You could use the IELTS Writing Correction Service to improve the quality of your letters. Our IELTS experts will look over your letters and tell you how to improve them. Make sure to practice writing both types of letters to become comfortable with the differences and be able to adapt your writing style accordingly.

Categories: IELTS Academic, IELTS General, IELTS Online Course

The Love We Get

More than 2 lac students trust us with their study abroad dream

I'm so grateful for the KBV Academy's online IELTS course! The lessons were well-structured, and the practice tests helped me build my confidence. Thanks to this course, I was able to achieve 7.5 score on the IELTS exam.

Durham College (Canada)

I highly recommend the KBV Academy's online IELTS course! The instructors were knowledgeable and supportive, and the course materials were excellent. The practice tests were especially helpful in preparing me for the exam. 

Pooja Sharma
Sheridan College (Canada)

The KBV Academy's online IELTS course was a game-changer for me. The course provided me with the necessary skills and strategies to tackle the exam confidently. I couldn't have achieved my desired score without this course.

Jasleen Kaur
Arizona State University (USA)

Learn from India's top IELTS Trainers

Learn IELTS on your own time to get 7+ bands