Top Tips for IELTS

An informal letter to a friend

In this lesson I show you how to write an informal letter for IELTS. I quickly talk you through the problems of informal letters then I show you a model letter with notes on how to make your letters informal. You need to think about:

Informal letter IELTS


Understanding the dangers of informal letters

It is easy to get an informal letter wrong by forgetting the rules of good writing. Here are some dangers:

you forget about  a clear structure to your letter – it’s easy to write to casually

you forget about range of vocabulary – informal doesn’t mean oversimple

you also forget range of grammar too

If you take a look at my letter below you will see a well-structured model with a good range of language

See my letter

Dear Rashid,

It was great to hear from you and I’m really glad that things are working out for you down under. It sounds as if you have landed on your feet!

Many thanks for your kind invitation to come and stay with you and Maybeline in Perth, but I’m going to have to turn you down this time. The problem is that I’m just too busy studying for my IELTS exam and I don’t have enough time in the day as it is. Perhaps I can take you up on your offer sometime next year, when I hope that I’ll have got that magic band score 8.0.

My other news is that Acme have offered me a promotion and soon I should be the senior accounts manager. Obviously that means more money but the downside is that I’m almost certainly going to have to work much longer hours too. There’s a cloud to every silver lining!

Anyway, I must get down to work again. So thanks once more for your kind invitation and I do hope that we can get together sometime in the not too distant future.

All the best


(188 words)

Read and understand the question – get task response right

As you read this question, you should note two key points:

you are writing to a friend and so you can expect to use more informal language
you have 3 items to include in your letter

A friend who lives in another country has invited to you come and stay with him/her on your next holiday. You are too busy to accept the invitation. Write a letter to your friend. In your letter

Thank him/her for the invitation
Explain why you cannot come
Give him/her your other news

Structure the letter and use paragraphs

You still need to use paragraphs even though the letter is less formal.

One possibility is to use one paragraph for each point. Here I have done something slightly different as I have put the thank you in with the explanation. I follow a 4 paragraph structure:

chatty opening 

main para 1 – say thank you and explain why I can’t come

main para 2 – give other news

chatty close


Informal letters are chatty – think beginnings and endings

You are supposed to be writing to a friend, so it is a good idea to do what friends normally do – chat. In letters, this typically means that the letter opens with news and closes with the hope that you will see each other soon. This helps structure your letter.

Opening paragraph – say why you’re writing 

This is where you show what the letter is about. Here I follow the question by showing that this letter is to a friend who has just written to me and I add some detail in to show that we’re friends. I chat.

It was great to hear from you and I’m really glad that things are working out for you down under. It sounds as if you have landed on your feet!

Note the phrase “It was great to hear from you” this works much better here than “Thank you for your letter”.

Closing paragraph – remind about the most important point

This is where you normally say what happens next and perhaps summarise the main purpose of the letter. Here I apologise again:

Anyway, I must get down to work again. So thanks once more for your kind invitation and I do hope that we can get together sometime in the not too distant future.

For better vocabulary – think synonyms and collocations

You should remember that vocabulary is 25% of your score in all parts of the writing test. One problem with letters is that they may look too simple and that you forget to use a range of vocabulary. One suggestion is that you think of synonyms and collocations for the words in the question. See these variations from the word “invitation”:

invitation – accept/refuse, generous/kind, take up/turn down

The most stylish ones to use are “to take up an invitation” meaning to accept it and “to turn down an invitation” meaning to refuse it.

For better vocabulary – think about topic vocabulary

Another way you can improve your vocabulary score is to see how you can use specific topic vocabulary. Here, you should see that both in the explanation why you cannot come and giving your news, you have the chance to show off a little. The question is really just asking you to write about what you know. In my answer, I write a little about IELTS but more about work. This gives me the chance to use:

offer a promotion/senior accounts manager/more money/work longer hours

None of the vocabulary is very complex. It doesn’t need to be – this is an informal letter to a friend. It is, though, very specific. That’s good.

Phrasal verbs are great for informal letters

Phrasal verbs may look simple, but in fact they are extremely tricky to use well. But you should also see that some phrasal verbs are quite simple (“stay with”) and all you need to do is to remember to use them.

work out for = things are going well
land on your feet = a set phrase meaning that you have survived a possibly difficult situation (cats always land on their feet)
stay with = a simple phrasal verb to replace “visit”
turn someone down = note how the object comes between the verb and the preposition
take someone up on an offer = note that here too the object comes immediately after the verb
get down to work = start work
get together = meet each other

Idioms and set phrases

When you are writing informally to a friend, remember you can use idioms. Idioms can be tricky too, but some are more straightforward.

things – this is poor in academia writing, but stylish when writing more informally
down under – what the English call Australia – it’s on the other side of the globe.
not have enough time in the day – a set phrase for being too busy
the downside – an idiom for “disadvantage”
there’s a cloud to every silver lining – the normal phrase is every cloud has a silver lining – meaning that even when things look bad, there is normally a positive aspect too. Here, I have just changed the phrase around.
the not too distant future – a set phrase for “quite soon”

Other language to make your informal letters work

I’m really glad that – “really” may look like a little word, but here it is much more stylish than “very”
I’m just too busy – “just” is another little word that makes a difference. Her wis simply adds emphasis
I’ll have got – I vary my tenses nicely in this letter. Spot the future perfect here.
Obviously – don’t forget to link sentences together in letters.
almost certainly – another phrase you amy not have noticed. A top tip is to remember to use qualifying phrases like this.
Anyway – another linking word. This one is useful to come back to main point of the letter.

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71 Responses to An informal letter to a friend

  1. zara March 5, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Thanks a lot Dominic for another fabulous lesson!

    • Ime November 24, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

      What is formal letter

      • Anonymous September 17, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

        A formal letter is the letter which we write to our principal, editors, etc. Formal letters are the letters which are not personal, which are professional…

      • Anonymous September 21, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

        a letter to my friend on my plans for academic session

      • Anon. September 28, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

        Formal letters are letters written to high authorities or who we don’t know much about????

      • Anonymous November 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

        formal letter is something you write to highly authorized persons example letter to the principal or a letter to the class teacher.

      • Anonymous October 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm #

        Its an official letter written to organizations or people in high positions

  2. zara March 6, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    Hi Dominic
    I’ve just noticed that you didn’t put a comma after ‘Dear Rashid’. Is there any particular reason for that and can we put an exclamation mark after Dear …?

    • Dominic Cole March 6, 2014 at 8:50 am #

      Conventions vary. The comma is sometimes omitted in less formal letters.

      • Anonymous February 21, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

        Pls I want dis topic (writing a letter to ur friend about Hw u er going to spend ur mid-term holiday

    • Gab July 17, 2015 at 12:33 am #

      Nice letter!!btw it was really helpful…TY

    • Anonymous August 9, 2015 at 11:13 am #

      Hi, my name is alpha and you are right

  3. Mayuri patel March 6, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    Thank you for good lesson

  4. Tom March 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Just great website , I am really glad I have joined you Dominic.
    Thx, Tom

    • Anonymous August 20, 2015 at 3:31 am #

      Hi I’m Dawa this is nice essay I like this idea Thanks

  5. Iman March 6, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    You are the best teacher I’ve ever seen, God bless you

  6. Brian April 25, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    Hi DOmenic,

    I just had a look at this essay before the exam, and when I got the similar questions tried to use some nice phrases put down here, but sadly enough I made a mistake and wrote “let me down” instead of” turn me down”. Now, I’m wondering if this affects too much my letter.Almost forgot to say that I read your lessens on daily basis, you’re great and no one can beat you here on the Internet. Hope one day we’ll have a chat in person. lol

    • Dominic Cole April 25, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      One mistake shouldn’t make too much difference. The scoring is always done looking at the piece of writing as a whole. They also look at the good things too!!

      • Anonymous October 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

        Hi Dominic thx

      • JAMES June 25, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

        I love the arrangement of the letter….. So helpful.

  7. Arnika goyal June 26, 2014 at 8:20 am #


  8. Akshat July 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    Nice piece of info you got there. need help…… what if I am asked to write a letter to a friend’s friend. can I still be that informal?

    How can I begin my letter then….. and till what extent expect him to help me.. say if I were in a situation wherein I need help form my friend’s friend who stays in a different country.. for all the places I could visit there….. ? help pz !!

  9. Richard September 5, 2014 at 5:41 am #

    Please I need update on ielts writing

  10. JUDE October 20, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

    Hi domnic please can you help me with this its kind of an assignment “You have recently moved into a new neighbourhood with your parents. Write a letter to your sister who is studying abroad(overseas) giving at least 5 reasons for disliking the new place. (not less than 450 words)”

    • Dominic Cole October 21, 2014 at 12:09 am #

      Sorry I am too busy right now to answer this question in detail. My best suggestion is to think what you like most about where you live and then think of what the opposite of that would be like.

  11. Shivani November 1, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    This website has helped me a lot. Thank you!!!

    • Dominic Cole November 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      Excellent – thank you for commenting.

  12. annabelle November 7, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    Thank’s for this lesson

    • Anonymous April 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

      wow your lesson is to great

  13. areeba December 7, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    It’s a nice website and I want some help tomorrow is my my exam and I have to write a informal letter.THANK’S FOR TEACHING THIS LESSON.

  14. megha December 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    It’s helpful for’s improving my know

  15. Knowledge Is Peace January 4, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    It was similar to my school teacher’s but u added more.Thank You.Col

  16. Anonymous January 9, 2015 at 5:47 am #

    Nice lot of thanks

  17. Aarthi March 2, 2015 at 8:59 am #

    I love your language thanks

  18. Priya Dwivedi March 10, 2015 at 3:07 am #

    The way of this letter has really helped in writing other letters.

  19. B. Harsshadha April 15, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    It’s very good.
    Thanks for giving this..

  20. Daniel May 2, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    Hello Dominic

    Isn’t it advisable too to write to your close friends just as if both of you were together? At times a certain nickname can be used and teasing and scolding can follow as if both of you are never apart?

    With such level of writing, one can use even a less informal language (if you know what i mean) but this does not mean the composition should be murdered.

    What do you think?

    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 6:37 am #


      Interesting question. In certain cultures you would certainly be correct but not for all. The best advice is to work within the conventions of your culture but be fairly conservative – i.e. don’t become over informal

  21. sheherbano May 2, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    It has helped me a lot thanks Dominic

  22. Francis Bassie May 6, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    tnx sir i guess with ur help we will do better both in our class and public exams may God continue to give u knowledge and understanding

  23. millionkay May 16, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    Thanks dominic

  24. dhinesh May 29, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    It is very useful to me…

    • - March 18, 2016 at 3:33 am #

      same to me

  25. Anonymous June 7, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    Tnx 4 the lecture.I’m really appreciated.I’ll try 2 write to my friend.

  26. kanishka June 14, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    Can u plz help me to write a informal letter the question is “write a letter to your friend describing him/her about the mock drill conducted in your school ”
    Plz……help me……

    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 6:33 am #

      Thanks for this request. I will get the letter written.

  27. suru kuru June 15, 2015 at 3:21 pm #

    you are good

  28. mina June 16, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi it was very good

  29. Akhil Kohli July 7, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Dear Dominic,

    The red phrases used in this particular informal letter will be valid if re-used them for a letter requiring a formal language?


    • Dominic Cole September 12, 2015 at 6:33 am #

      You should be very careful. Those phrases are informal really as they are colloquial and you shouldn’t really use them when you are writing more formally.

      • jumana May 19, 2016 at 10:30 am #

        really a great letter and advices

  30. sowndarya.T September 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    its supereb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Sanmi September 19, 2015 at 3:51 am #

    This is realy helpful for idioms and phrasal verb but thier is no address pls share more light

  32. popz September 29, 2015 at 11:24 am #


    • Prabal September 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm #


  33. leona October 5, 2015 at 11:03 am #

    Thank you Sir.

  34. suha November 5, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    it is helpful for others to know how to write the formal and informal letter by seeing this website.and showed me clearly to write correctly.

  35. Locken Jr December 15, 2015 at 1:28 am #

    it is good that we are learning, thanks for that

  36. satvinder kaur December 19, 2015 at 6:39 am #

    Very cognitive

  37. Anonymous January 31, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    Dear Daniel,
    It was great to hear from you and I’m really
    glad that things are working out for you down
    under. It sounds as if you have landed on your
    Many thanks for your kind invitation to come
    and stay with you and your family in London, but
    I’m going to have to turn you down this time.
    The problem is that I ’m just too busy studying
    for my JAMB exam and I don’t have enough
    time in the day as it is. Perhaps I can take
    you up on your offer sometime next year,
    when I hope that I’ll have got that magic band
    score 8.0.
    My other news is that my dad had promised me if I will have all distinction in exam that he will buy me a new laptop. Obviously that means I will operating it and finding research on my previous exam.
    Anyway, I must get down to work again. So
    thanks once more for your kind invitation and I
    do hope that we can get together sometime in
    the not too distant future.
    your sincerely

  38. dj deal March 8, 2016 at 7:32 am #

    I so much love this,thanks

  39. Anonymous March 17, 2016 at 4:34 pm #


  40. Anonymous May 9, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

    It was educating

  41. heryyy May 14, 2016 at 8:28 am #

    this is the best informal letter ihave read before

  42. rutren May 22, 2016 at 2:40 am #

    addorable,thanks for lesson

  43. chipo May 26, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    Thank you very much for the lesson may God bless you but I have some thing to ask plz I need to write a letter to the church asking for premision to go visit another church and I dot know how to do it thank you again Gud not.

  44. Anonymous July 21, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    Not Good but its ok i can tolerate :!
    Understood Dominic

  45. fsd September 23, 2016 at 11:57 am #


  46. gopal chobe September 25, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    Spr……. Letter b/w it was realy helpful me,,, I like this

  47. jiyad October 5, 2016 at 4:30 am #

    very good awesome i dont have words to say

  48. คลิปหนังโป๊ December 4, 2016 at 5:09 am #

    Whᥱn someone writes an ρaragraph he/she keeps the thought of a user in his/her mind that hoԝ a user can understand it.

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