IELTS Letter Mini Course Part 1

7 Polite Phrases to Use for an Apology Letter

One of the most challenging parts of the IELTS General Writing Task 1 is finding phrases to use that sound just like a native speaker. In this first article in my mini-series, I give an example IELTS letter written by a native speaker which would be marked as a band 9. The purpose is to analyse the writing and show you some polite phrases that can be recycled to other apology letters.

Task 1 of the IELTS General Writing Test involves a letter such as an apology, complaint or giving some news and an invitation. This is not as difficult as some people make it. It simply requires the right language and the proper degree of politeness. This article gives tips for writing words that sound polite and gives some phrases which you can use in any and every IELTS apology letter.

Firstly, we need to know how to start our letter.

Here we should begin with super-polite language to gently bring the reader into the central message of the apology.

Our band 9 example of an apology letter below is about the noise from your house or flat.

Please follow the structure outlined and take a note of the useful phrases I list for writing an apology.

What Introductory Sentence Should I Use in My IELTS Apology Letter?

The Introductory sentence in our example of a formal letter acknowledges receipt of the letter – by this I mean that it says: hey! I got your letter, but in other more carefully chosen words.
The word acknowledgement is a very long one. Actually, because it is long, it is super-polite whereas hey, and got are very short ones and therefore very informal – in an apology letter informality would be seen as impolite.

The main language function used in this opening sentence is…

I am writing in acknowledgement of your letter complaining about……

Also, I’m giving you two other ways to say the same thing:

  • I am writing in acknowledgement of your letter dated 1st September 2020 in which you state that…
  • I am writing in acknowledgement of your recent letter and would like to offer an apology.

After that, tell them the reason for the noise.

This is easy; the language function here is straightforward:

The reason for the noise is that…

The examples below (written by a native speaker) are functional language appropriate for introducing the reason about why the wrong thing happened.

  1. The reason why … is because / is that …
  2. The main reason why … is because / is that …
  3. One reason why … is because / is that …
  4. One possible explanation (for that) is …
  5. To understand why ….., you first need to ….. (understand, know, be aware that)
  6. Well, it’s like this: …. [very informal/spoken]
  7. You could look at it this way: … [very informal/spoken]

Note again that these informal phrases, examples 6 and 7, contain very short words whereas the politer ones, examples 1 to 5, have at least one longer word.

How to apologise in IELTS letters

The main language function used in our example letter for apologising is:

I wish to offer my sincere apologies for[X]and reassure you that [Y]

X = the disturbance
Y = we are trying our best to manage our son’s crying.

I wish to offer my sincere apologies for [V] and reassure you that we are [doing W] so that it does not continue

V = the noise
W = sending our son to his grandmothers for a while

How to Make an Apology Right in English

To make the apology right, you need to describe some action you will take to make the other person feel better. Again, a language function has been used that is easily learned and repeatable in other letters:

Please rest assured that [Z]

Z= the noise will no longer continue.

In a letter apologizing that you haven’t been coming to class, the following model or something similar would work:

Please rest assured that my attendance will improve once my daughter’s health improves.

Here is an example of a sentence used in a letter saying sorry for breaking something in an Airbnb rental place.:

Please rest assured that I will replace the damaged item.

This sample IELTS apology letter is written by a native speaker.

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Band 9 Task 1 General IELTS Writing

Your neighbours have recently written to you to complain about the noise from your house or flat.
Write a letter to your neighbours. In your letter

  • Explain the reasons for the noise
  • Apologise
  • Describe what action you will take

Start: Dear ____, as in the following example:

Finally… here is the letter

Dear Sally,

I am writing in acknowledgement of your letter complaining about the noise that our child has been making at night during the last few weeks.

The reason for the noise is that our nine-month-old son, who unfortunately has been teething for the past two months, has been in a lot of pain. Not only are his teeth painful, which causes him to cry inconsolably, but, also, he has been experiencing severe fevers.

I wish to offer my sincere apologies for the disturbance and reassure you that as first-time parents, we are trying our best to manage our son’s crying. We can say that we are looking forward to his teeth coming out soon, which will then have him back to his happy normal self again.

We have been giving our son pain medication to assist his pain and fevers. But due to us not sleeping and having to work, we are finding it extremely difficult to function. As his parents, we have decided to leave our son at my mother’s house until his pain subsides and we can all have a much-needed sleep. Please rest assured that the noise will no longer continue.

Yours sincerely,

Your neighbour Kate

Book a lesson with Kate, online IELTS tutor and author of this website.

Thanks for taking the time to read the first example in our IELTS General Task 1 Writing Series. For other examples of templates for IELTS Letters, please follow these links

Coming soon other letters in this series:

How to write an IELTS letter making alternative arrangements 

An example band 9 IELTS complaint letter [blog 3]

Write an informal thank you letter for IELTS band 9 [blog 4]

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