Formal and Informal Writing in the IELTS

Formal and informal language refers to using different forms of language in different settings. For example, in speaking, talking to a client is different from talking to parents. In writing, writing an academic essay is different from writing a letter to a close friend. Using the correct form of language is essential for getting a high score in the writing section. Let’s take a look at the common situations and several main differences of formal and informal writing in the IELTS! (And for a broader guide to both tasks and to the entire section, click here for the Magoosh Complete Guide to IELTS Writing.)



Main Differences

Formal writing: no contractions

In informal writing, you can use contractions such as I’ll and can’t. In formal writing, you should write I will and can not.


Words and expressions

formal and informal writing in the IELTS-magoosh


Formal writing: no exclamation mark

Do not use exclamation mark in formal writing, but you can use it in informal writing.

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In formal writing, sentences are long and complicated. In informal writing, sentences are short and simple.


Letter format

Formal letters begin with Dear Sir or Madam and end with Yours faithfully + full name.

Informal letters begin with Dear + first name of the receiver and end with Best wishes/regards + your first name.

Common situations


In IELTS Academic Writing task 1, no matter which kind of graph you need to describe, you should always use the formal language. Check out our post on IELTS writing topics to learn the typical questions in this part.



You should use formal language in both IELTS Academic writing task 2 and General Training writing task 2. Check out our post on past IELTS essay questions to learn common questions in IELTS Academic writing task 2. General Training essay questions are similar to them. Here are two past IELTS General Training task 2 questions.

1. Some people think young people are suitable for learning foreign languages while other people think adults are more suitable. Discuss both these points of view and give your opinion.

2. Schools do not do enough to teach young people how to look after their
health. To what extent do you agree or disagree?



IELTS General Training task one asks candidates to write a letter based on a given situation. You need to read the questions carefully and then ask yourself: Is it a formal situation or an informal situation? Here are two examples.

1.Write a letter to invite your friend to a music concert. You should write:

What the content of the music concert is.

Where and when the music concert.

Why you think your friend will go to this concert.

Write at least 150 words.


2. You saw an advertisement about a project which will help protect the environment. Write a letter to the organizer. Tell him/her:

Why you are interested.

What you can do to help them.

When you can help.

Write at least 150 words.

You can use some informal words or expressions when writing an invitation to a friend because that is someone you know. However, you should use formal language and format when writing to a project organizer.


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  • Kuangyan

    Kuangyan creates IELTS blogs at Magoosh. She is passionate about language education and has a MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from New York University. Kuangyan has experience of teaching English both in China and in US. In her free time, she drinks mocha, does yoga, takes photos and travels to different places to explore the exciting world.

4 Responses to Formal and Informal Writing in the IELTS

  1. dan moses November 10, 2019 at 7:26 am #

    I’m sorry, but that is absolutely ridiculous…Not that you’re wrong about the requirements of IELTS, but many formal letters are written with contractions nowadays..
    IELTS has some outdated preferences and I have no idea why they don’t keep up the times. Writing in the antiquated format of the 1960’s in order to achieve a better grade is preposterous. When writing college applications, is it improper to use contractions? I’m a graduate of Wharton, use contractions all the time, as well as when writing recommendation for students applying to colleges. This is acceptable today.
    Furthermore, their writing task 1 questions can be very irrelevant to how well a person can write. If given a map or flow chart and asked for an interpretation of either, or a summary, what does your knowledge of English have to do with your knowledge or ability to read a map or flow chart? I’m extremely poor in both of these areas and feel this a very poor way to judge one’s grasp of written Englsih. Shame on IELTS for this ludicracy.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 2, 2020 at 5:02 pm #

      Hi Dan,

      I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but this is the sort of feedback that should go to the IELTS. Our goal on this blog is to provide students with the best information for students to hit their target scores, which means that we must ‘play’ by the IELTS rules.

  2. Aman January 23, 2021 at 11:30 am #

    This is view of the fact that i appeared for general ielts twice.
    I scored 7.5 in writing from idp whilst 6.5 in writing from british Council. Which is quite shocking to me as I think my writing is good enough to get a band score of 7 at least.
    I’m thinking of applying for EOR.
    I just need to share that i used few contractions in writing such as I’d or I’m. Will it drop my score directly to 6.5 ?
    Please suggest me that should I go for re evaluation?
    As my current score goes like this L-8. 5, R-7, S-7, W-6. 5
    I’d highly appreciate your help in this regard.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 19, 2021 at 3:50 pm #

      Hi Aman,

      Because you’re only 0.5 points away from your goal score on Writing, it might be worth it to go for a rescore. However, it’s impossible to know if it will be successful. For more information, I’d recommend reading our blog post on this topic and the associated comments:

      How Often are IELTS Rescores Successful?

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