Letters of apology are common types of IELTS letters. This lesson will show you step-by-step how to write them.
Here’s what the lesson includes:
All questions for IELTS letters have the same structure. They are made up of 3 parts.
Part 1 – The topic.
Part 2 – The person you must write to.
Part 3 – What you should write about (listed as 3 bullet points).
Here is a sample question for a letter of apology with the 3 parts illustrated.
Understanding this will help you to quickly analyse the question and plan your answer. To help you plan, use the letter structure below.
For a full lesson on planning click here: How To Plan IELTS Letters
The layout of IELTS letters should follow the structure of the question and consist of four paragraphs with a greeting at the beginning and a signoff at the end.
Use this easy to remember 6 part structure.
1) Dear .....
2) Paragraph 1: Purpose – why you are writing
3) Paragraph 2: Write about 1st bullet point
4) Paragraph 3: Write about 2nd bullet point
5) Paragraph 4: Write about 3rd bullet point
All you need to do to create your plan is to add in the details from the question, like this:
IELTS letters must be written in the appropriate tone and style. There are two options:
It is essential that you are able to identify what type of question you’re required to write.
Follow this rule:
The only exception is if the letter is to a close family member when you would also use an informal tone.
One situation that can be confusing is where the person you have to write to is a neighbour, as in our sample question. Assume that you do not know them very well and keep the letter formal.
This leads us on to the opening of your letter – the greeting.
It is most likely that you would know the name of your neighbour so make one up, e.g. Mrs Dixon.
If you did not know their name you would write, ‘Dear Sir / Madam’.
If you were writing an informal letter to a friend, you would use their first name, e.g. ‘Dear John’.
The greeting you use will determine how you sign off your letter.
For a formal letter, there are two main options. The correct one will depend on who you are addressing:
You could also use ‘Kind regards’. This is formal but friendly and is appropriate for most situations. It is particularly useful if you struggle to remember how to spell ‘sincerely’ and ‘faithfully’.
Always sign off a formal letter with your full name, e.g.
For an informal letter to a friend, use one of these phrases followed by your first name:
Keep in touch,
For our sample letter, we will use this greeting and signoff:
Dear Mrs Dixon...
We are now ready to think up some ideas to write about. We have the guidelines of the 3 bullet points to help us so this won’t be difficult.
With only 150 words to write, you won’t need many ideas. Just make sure that you write about each bullet point and develop each idea fully.
They don't have to be the best ideas you can possibly think of. Go with your first thoughts and don’t waste time trying to think of better ideas. Just make sure that they are directly related to the bullet points.
Note your ideas beside each bullet point on the exam paper, like this:
That’s our planning complete. Once you’ve had some practice, you’ll be able to do this in just a few minutes. Taking time to plan makes writing IELTS letters far quicker and easier than if you don’t do this step. You will also write a better letter and get higher marks.
So, let’s write our letter.
Here’s our plan again with all our notes added in.
We’ve already decided on the greeting so we’ll start with paragraph 1.
In the first paragraph, you must state the reason for writing the letter, that is, its purpose.
Paragraph 1: Purpose – to apologise for the noise
Many students make the mistake of missing this purpose sentence out but it's very important. Including it will gain you marks.
It only requires one sentence. He’s an example appropriate to our letter of apology.
Top vocabulary tip: Do not use contractions in formal letters. They are informal language.
For a letter of apology to a friend, it would be appropriate to write, I’m writing to apologise / to say sorry for...
In the second paragraph, you write about bullet point 1.
Paragraph 2: explain the reason for the noise (bullet point 1)
Having the flat rewired
Remember to keep the language formal for this question. Aim for around 50 words for paragraph 2, 3 and 4. You could write something like this.
The third paragraph should cover the second bullet point.
Paragraph 3: offer your neighbour an apology (bullet point 2)
Sorry the noise has disturbed them
Paragraph 4 addresses the third bullet point.
Paragraph 4: tell them what action you will take (bullet point 3)
Ask electrician to be as quiet as possible. Pay for additional electrician so job finished sooner.
Now we just need to add the signoff we decided on earlier and our letter is complete.
Here is the finished letter.
To get some practice writing IELTS letters of apology, write a letter for the question below.
letter is to a friend so must be written in an informal tone and style. Use the
planning structure I showed you above to plan before you start writing.
Here’s a sample letter. Can you identify the language and grammar structures I’ve used to give it an informal tone?
You'll find lessons on other common IELTS letter topics in the menu below.
Want to watch and listen to this lesson?
Click on this video.
IELTS General Writing – A summary of the test including important facts, test format & assessment.
Format – The format, the 7 topics, letter
structure, formal & informal, assessment & marking criteria, sample
questions. Essential information you need to know.
Letter Writing Tips – Learn top tips on how to meet the assessment and marking criteria and achieve a high score.
Letter Writing Structure – Find out how to use this easy to learn letter structure to write a high-scoring letter. Includes a model answer.
How To Plan a Letter – Learn a simple 5 step process & 6 part letter structure. Also, help to understand the question & generate ideas.
Formal or Informal – How to decide what type of
letter to write. Sample questions & 2 model letters.
Letter Writing Vocabulary – Learn useful phrases to help you achieve a high score. Also, know how to start & end your letter.
How To Write an Informal Letter – Step-by-step instructions, simple 4 step plan & 6 part letter structure, model letter.
How To Write a Formal Letter – Step-by-step instructions, simple 4 step plan & 6 part letter structure, model letter.
Letter Topics – Learn the 7 most common letter topics & other popular subjects. Includes 20 sample questions.