Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today you’ll learn how to differentiate your tones in letters and IELTS Speaking.

Tones are important in General Training Task 1 letters, but also the Speaking Exam.

You can’t just say tone is informal or formal– there are nuances.

In Speaking, personality is part of your tone.

Yesterday in Facebook Live, I had an interesting question:

I was practicing for the General Training test. There was a Task 1 question asking me to compose a condolence letter to a friend. Is this formal or informal?

Condolence is a formal word for ‘extreme sorriness’. It’s usually used when offering sympathy for a death, but IELTS probably wouldn’t have this as a topic.

Thus, it could be another serious loss, such as that of a pet, or perhaps a fire at a friend’s home.

The tone of this letter must then strike a balance between formal and informal, due to its serious nature.


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Since you are writing to a friend, there will be some semblance of informality; however, this is a serious issue, and the tone must match that by becoming more formal.

This is where the importance of language flexibility comes in!

That’s what a band score 8 and higher is- communicating as yourself, approaching native speaker level, and not just like a student.

This mix of tones must also be considered when writing a letter to a neighbor. It’s not someone you know very well, but it’s not a stranger either.

This flexibility is also important in Speaking Part 3, where you are discussing personal experiences, but in a more formal way with higher-level language.

Do you have any IELTS Writing questions?

Let us know in the comments section below!


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