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 letter 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.

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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Letter Samples





Opening & Closing a Letter

IELTS Complaint Letter

IELTS Letter Tenses