Tip (1) General Writting Task 1 Opening and Closing a Letter

Opening and closing a letter

You need to know the phrases for opening and closing a letter for the General Training Task One.

This can vary according to who you are writing to.

there are three types of letters that you may come across in this task:

– Formal
– Semi-formal
– Informal

Each of these open and close in a different way.

Opening and Closing a Formal Letter

A formal letter will usually be to some kind of company.

For example:

  • Bank
  • Insurance Company
  • Airline

This means that you are usually writing to someone you do not know.

Also, Read the Writing and Speaking Scoring Criteria

Opening the Letter

Dear + ?

  • Sir = you know it is a man
  • Madam = you know it is a woman
  • Sir / Madam = you don’t know

Closing the Letter

The way you open it determines how you close it.  You gave it a formal opening, and therefore it needs a formal closing.

If you have opened a letter as above, then this is how you close it:

  • Yours faithfully,

Semi-formal Letter

A semi-formal letter will usually be to someone you know, or at least you know their name.

For example:

  • Landlord
  • Employer
  • Librarian
  • Doctor
  • School Counsellor

Opening the Letter

To open the letter, you use the family or surname (not the first or full name).  They differ depending on whether it is to a man or a woman.

Example 1: To a man

Paul Jones = You know his name and it’s a man.

  • Dear Mr Jones,

Example 2: To a woman

Julie Smith – You know it’s a woman but is she married or not?

  • Dear Miss Smith, = You know she is unmarried or single.
  • Dear Mrs Smith, = You know she is married or a widow (married when her husband died).
  • Dear Ms Smith, = Neutral i.e. you don’t know if she’s married or not (best for IELTS as you will not know).

Closing the Letter

  • Yours sincerely,


An informal letter is to someone you know every well, like a friend or family.


  • Dear John,
  • Dear Mary,


  • Best wishes,
  • Best regards,

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Opening a Letter

1. Formal Letters:

Start with “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Last Name],” if you know the person’s name. If not, use “Dear Sir/Madam,”
Begin the letter by stating the purpose clearly. For example, “I am writing to inquire about…” or “I wish to apply for…”

2. Semi-Formal Letters:

If you know the person but usually address them by their title or last name, stick with “Dear [First Name]” or “Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. [Last Name].”
Open with a polite introduction to your reason for writing, such as “I hope this letter finds you well. I am reaching out to discuss…

3. Informal Letters:

Use a casual greeting like “Dear [First Name],” or even “Hello [First Name],”
Start with a friendly opening sentence that might reference a previous encounter or shared experience, for example, “I hope you’re doing well since our last catch-up…

Closing a Letter

1. Formal Letters:

Use formal sign-offs such as “Yours sincerely,” if you addressed them by name at the beginning, or “Yours faithfully,” if you used “Dear Sir/Madam.”
Include a formal closing statement if necessary, e.g., “I look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.”

2. Semi-Formal Letters:

A semi-formal letter can end with “Yours sincerely,” followed by your full name.
You might also add a semi-formal note such as “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

3. Informal Letters:

Sign off more casually with “Best wishes,” “Warm regards,” or simply “Take care,”
Feel free to add a personal touch to your closing, such as “Looking forward to our next adventure!” or “Can’t wait to catch up soon!”

Additional Tips:

Clarity and Brevity: Keep your opening and closing clear and to the point. Avoid unnecessary details that might distract from the main purpose of your letter.

Tone Consistency: Ensure the tone at the beginning matches the end. A formal letter should maintain formality throughout, and likewise for semi-formal and informal letters.

Personalization: Tailor your letter’s opening and closing to the recipient as much as possible, especially in informal letters. This shows attention to detail and consideration.

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