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Tips No.

2: Telling the difference between formal & informal
Many of you have asked me about the difference between the formal and informal writing in IELTS and
this tells me that it’s a common problem. So here is what you need to know about the styles of writing
in the IELTS test.
If you are preparing for the Academic IELTS module, both Task 1 and Task 2 in the Writing test are
formal. For the General Training candidates, Task 2 in Writing is always formal, and Task 1 can be
formal or informal.
As you know, Task 1 for the GT module is a letter, and if the topic asks you to write to someone you
know, that is an informal letter – as opposed to writing to someone you don’t know, which should be
formal.
The difference between formal and informal styles is mainly in the vocabulary. Informal words are the
ones used in everyday conversations and formal are used in books, contracts, business letters and
essays. If the task requires formal writing – avoid using informal vocabulary. If the task requires
informal writing, such as a letter to a friend, avoid using formal ‘heavy’ words.
Apart from the vocabulary in formal writing it is best to avoid words like “I”, “you”, “we”, unless you
are expressing an opinion. For example in an essay instead of writing “You would find it difficult to get
a job without proper qualifications”, write something like “One would find it difficult to find a job
without proper qualifications”, or you could write “Finding a job without proper qualifications would be
rather difficult”.
For those of you who don’t live in an English speaking country and don’t speak English on daily basis it
may be difficult to tell the difference between the formal and informal vocabulary, which is why I
compiled this short list of words. You could memorize it and use in your writing while practicing – this
way the chances you will use the correct word in the real exam increase.
Formal

Informal

Inform me

Let me know

Cancel

Drop

Contact

Get in touch

Obtain

Get

Apologise

Say sorry

Postpone

Delay

Request

Ask for

Compensate

Make up

Establish

Set up

Discover

Find out

Handle

Deal with

Investigate

Check up on

sadly enough. significantly. still. collectively speaking. we need them to join sentences and thoughts together. Look at the lists below. in coordination with. furthermore. undoubtedly. for instance. to add to that. . obviously. as a consequence. generally speaking. in the overall analysis. in contrast. a catch to this is. and so forth. To put it into perspective. effectively. generally.Tolerate Put up Increase Go up Children Kids Many / Much A lot of Many / Much Heaps of IELTS writing: using transitional phrases This tip was written by Mr. therefore. exemplifying that. next. in exemplification. in addition. along those lines. factually speaking. in the end. resulting in. oddly enough. Transitions Transitional words and phrases are what gives your essays coherence. for example. contrastingly. yet. concluding. heretofore. plus. retrospectively. in retrospect. accordingly. but. on the contrary. thus. in terms of. further. AGREEMENT: also. instead. RESULT: as a result. ultimately. hereafter. as a hindrance. These are transitional phrases that you can memorize and keep in your arsenal for the IELTS writing module. in direct opposition. as a major effect. moreover. hence. finally. the long term effect. on the other hand. thereby. and rather. in short. indeed. from a different angle. thereafter. vicariously. nonetheless. nevertheless. additionally. over all. in fact. the head of Benchmark. consequently. in agreement. CONTRAST: however. in accordance with. as a short term result. in hindsight. finally. looking at the nexus between. to be sure. Nipun Jain. looking at the holdups.