IELTS – Task 1 General – Tone

What is tone?

The tone of a letter is formal or informal. Some words and phrases are formal, others are more informal.

Formal language is more polite. It is what we use when we talk to people who we don’t know very well. Informal is more relaxed, and is used with people you know. Normally, formal language is longer and needs more words, while informal is shorter and simpler.

However, tone is not just about words. You need to put some things in a informal letter that you shouldn’t put in an informal letter, and you need to put some things in a informal letter that you shouldn’t put in a formal letter. For example, in an informal letter you should introduce yourself, so the recipient knows who you are. But you don’t need to do this in an informal letter as the recipient probably already knows who you are.

It is very important that you choose the best tone for you letter. Choosing the right tone will help you get a good score.

For example, look at these two introductions.

Dear Mr. Smith,
I am writing to ask several questions about the accommodation you have advertised in the newspaper. I am a recent immigrant to the country and need somewhere to live for the next several months.

Dear Michael,
Hope all is well with you. I’m just writing with a few questions about staying with you over the summer. I’ll arrive on the 25th of January, which isn’t too long now.

The first letter is more formal, while the second is more informal. For more information on what tone to choose, see planning your letter.

Differences between formal and informal language

This table shows a few of the differences between formal and informal letters.

[vc_table vc_table_theme=”default”][c#ffffff;bg#3d829f],[b;c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]Formal,[b;c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]Informal|Contractions%3A%C2%A0I’m%20or%20I%20am,Do%C2%A0not%C2%A0use%20contractions.%20For%20example%3A,Use%20contractions.%20For%20example%3A|,%C2%B7%20I%20am%20very%20sorry.,%C2%B7%20I’m%20very%20sorry.|,%C2%B7%20I%20will%20see%20you%20tomorrow.,%C2%B7%20I’ll%20see%20you%20tomorrow.|,%C2%B7%20I%20cannot%20answer%20today.,%C2%B7%20I%20can’t%20answer%20that%20today.|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]At%20the%20beginning%20of%20the%20letter…,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]Explain%20who%20you%20are.%20For%20example%3A,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]Ask%20how%20the%20other%20person%20is.%20For%20example%3A|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f],[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20I%20saw%20your%20advertisement%20in%20the%20newspaper.,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20I%20hope%20you%20are%20doing%20well.|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f],[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20I%20am%20a%20student%20at%20your%20school.,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20How%20are%20things%20with%20you%3F|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f],[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20I%20live%20in%20the%20same%20apartment%20complex%20as%20you.,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20How’s%20life%20treating%20you%3F|Polite%20language,Use%20the%20same%20kind%20of%20language%20you%20when%20talking%20to%20your%20boss.%20For%20example%3A,Use%20the%20kind%20of%20language%20you%20would%20use%20when%20talking%20with%20a%20friend.%20For%20example%3A|,%C2%B7%20I%20would%20like%20to%20know…,%C2%B7%20I%20want%20to%20know…|,%C2%B7%20Can%20you%20please%20tell%20me…,%C2%B7%20Please%20tell%20me…|,%C2%B7%20Thank%20you%20very%20much%20for%20the%20information.,%C2%B7%20Thanks%20for%20the%20information.|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]Passives,[bg#3d829f;c#ffffff]Use%20passives%20more%20often.%20For%20example%3A,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]Don’t%20use%20passives%20very%20often.%20For%20example%3A|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f],[bg#3d829f;c#ffffff]%C2%B7%20I%20was%20given%20your%20address%20by%20a%20friend.,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20A%20friend%20gave%20me%20your%20address.|[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f],[bg#3d829f;c#ffffff]%C2%B7%20Our%20holiday%20was%20ruined.,[c#ffffff;bg#3d829f]%C2%B7%20This%20completely%20ruined%20our%20holiday.|Questions,Try%20not%20to%20use%20direct%20questions.%20For%20example%3A,Use%20direct%20questions.%20For%20example%3A|,%C2%B7%20Could%20you%20please%20tell%20me%20how%20much%20it%20will%20cost%3F,%C2%B7%20How%20much%20will%20it%20cost%3F|,%C2%B7%20Do%20you%20know%20where%20he%20lives%3F,%C2%B7%20Where%20does%20he%20live%3F|,%C2%B7%20Would%20you%20please%20tell%20me%20what%20the%20advantages%20are%3F,%C2%B7%20What%20are%20the%20advantages%3F[/vc_table]

Task 1 Tone

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