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OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style

Introducing part five of the OET Writing Guide: Genre and Style. The OET Writing Guide covers each of the six assessment sections OET uses to score your letter. Find the rest of the OET Writing Guide here


Genre and Style is the fourth criterion used to assess your Writing performance. It looks at whether your writing aligns with the reader’s specialty and knowledge.

In the healthcare industry, the type of letter you tend to write is formal, and OET’s Writing sub-test reflects this by asking you to use this style.

This guide will explain:

  • What formal writing is
  • How to use the right register (level of formality) and tone for your reader
  • How your grammar can help you to sound formal


Writing formally

When writing from professional to professional or even from professional to patient (for some OET professions), you are expected to use formal language.

Towards the end of the case notes, you will find reminders of what genre and style you should use in the Writing task, including:

  • Expand the relevant notes into complete sentences
  • Do not use note form.

Formal writing is polite, respectful and non-judgemental. You show this in the language you use to make requests of the reader, how you present information to the reader and how you present information about the patient.

Let’s take a look at some examples of informal and formal phrases and sentences:



  • Thanks for having a look at Priya.
  • I’ve sent her to you because she needs to lose some weight.

These phrases use the patient’s first name and are not respectful toward her condition.



  • Thank you for seeing Mrs Priya Sharma
  • I am referring her to you for your specialist advice.


Both these phrases are respectful to the reader’s role and are polite expressions about the patient, using her full name as part of the introduction.

To help you better understand genre and style, let’s take a look at some ways you can identify the register (formality) and tone of your letter as well as how to choose the right language during the Writing sub-test.


Using facts and not making judgements

When you present patient information, one way to be respectful and non-judgemental is to use facts:

  • He writes with his left hand and drove a manual car before the fall.
  • She works on her computer every day and carries a heavy laptop home.

When describing a patient’s lifestyle choices, use facts instead of words which sound judgemental:



  • Mr X is a heavy smoker
  • Mrs Y  is a binge drinker OR Mrs Y is an alcoholic
  • Ms Z does not exercise enough



  • Mr X smokes 30 cigarettes a day
  • Mrs Y avoids drinking in the week but drinks 15 units of alcohol on an average weekend
  • Ms Z admits she is only physically active once every 3-months.

By presenting the facts, the reader will know what this means in terms of recommended norms. It allows you to avoid passing judgement on the patient and their lifestyle.


Starting and ending your letter

How you start and end the letter is important to getting the formal tone right from the start and to leave the right impression at the end. It is also common to end with a closing sentence that offers the reader the opportunity to contact you or to show appreciation for their involvement.

For example:

  • If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
  • Thank you for your continued management of this patient.


Being formal with the right grammar

The punctuation you use will demonstrate whether you are writing in an appropriately formal style. This means avoiding contracted forms and being careful about how you use brackets and abbreviations.

Let’s look at some examples of formal and informal grammar:



Contractions are considered informal and should be avoided while writing.



  • He’s keen to return home.
  • She’s looking forward to holding her baby.
  • She didn’t follow the care plan correctly.


  • He is keen to return home.
  • She is looking forward to holding her baby.
  • She did not follow the care plan correctly.



It’s really important to take into account the reader when deciding when and where you abbreviate.

Below are some examples to help you get a better idea of what we mean by this.


Reader: Endocrinologist

  • Mrs Sharma was diagnosed with NIDDM in 1999.

As you are writing to an endocrinologist, this abbreviation would be very familiar and the condition is central to the patient’s reason for seeing them, so it’s appropriate to abbreviate. For an orthopaedic surgeon perhaps, the abbreviation is less appropriate. Any mention of the condition, because it may have some impact on the treatment the patient receives, should therefore be in full form.


Reader: Community Nurse

  • He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation

There is more than one abbreviation used globally for Atrial Fibrillation: AF or AFib. As a result, it’s best to use the full form of this condition rather than abbreviating it.

If you think your reader might not know what the abbreviation is, it’s best to not abbreviate, otherwise, it will interrupt their reading.


Genre and style are about being formal, using facts and refraining from judgement as well as starting and ending your letter correctly. If you follow the steps laid out above, you should have the understanding you need to get a good score in the test.


Return to the Writing Guide homepage, or download the Guide as a PDF.