Paragraph writing competition – March 2014

To launch the new forum I have set up, I’m having a little paragraph writing competition. What I’m going to do is set you a writing task here and ask you to post your response in the forum. The general idea is that I would like people to share their ideas and language and I believe the forum is a much better place to do that.

IELTS competition

Rule number 1: a paragraph not an essay

The task is to write me a paragraph, not a whole essay. The reason for this is that one of the best ways to learn to write an essay is to make sure you can write a paragraph first. An essay is after all a collection of paragraphs. Paragraph writing matters.

One way people sometimes go wrong with IELTS preparation is that they are so busy practising essays, they forget to practise the skills they need to write essays. Write too many essays and you may never improve – just carry on doing the same thing over and again. This is your chance to step back and practise a skill.

Rule number 2: a listing paragraph

If you want to learn to write well, you need to be able to write different types of paragraphs. What I call a “listing paragraph” is when you have several linked ideas that explain the main point of the paragraph. These ideas can be reasons, causes or examples.  Look at this example to see what I mean. As you read it, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. what is the main point of the paragraph?
  2. how is that main point explained?

There are a number of different reasons behind the current housing shortage. Perhaps the principal reason is that there has a been a lack of  long-term planning by the central government and the effects of this are only being felt now. It should also not be forgotten that there has been a very significant increase in the general population, partially caused by longer life expectancy and also by rising levels of immigration. A third factor is that more and more people choose to live alone  and the average size of the British household has shrunk considerably in the last few decades.

Get a quick lesson on listing paragraphs

You should see that the main point comes in the first sentence:. This is your model “topic sentence”. Typically in a listing paragraph, the first sentence simply says that you are going to make a number of related points.

There are a number of different reasons behind the current housing shortage

Then that point is developed in three more sentences. Each sentence gives a reason why there is not enough housing:

  1.  Perhaps the principal reason is that there has a been a lack of  long-term planning by the central government and the effects of this are only being felt now
  2. It should also not be forgotten that there has been a very significant increase in the general population, partially caused by longer life expectancy and also by rising levels of immigration.
  3. A third factor is that more and more people choose to live alone  and the average size of the British household has shrunk considerably in the last few decades.

Rule number 3: no first, second, third

If you read my paragraph again, you will see that I do not use “First”, “Second” and “Third”. You can do that, but I want to teach you new tricks. If you want to impress examiners, you want to show that you can different things and for high band scores your linking should not be too too obvious.

Here are some key words and ideas you may want to try out:

also

another

in the same way

likewise

If you take a look at my model essays, you will see I almost never use the “First” structure. You will find some more ideas in this lesson on coherence.

Rule number 4 – answer the question!!!

The paragraph I want you to write is in answer to this question

An increasing number of young people are choosing to study abroad. What are the reasons for this and what problems do you think they may face?

Write a paragraph (not an essay) about either the reasons they choose to study abroad or the problems they may face.

Please note that the question asks to write reasons (in the plural) or problems (in the plural). Listing paragraphs are best used for this type of question.

Rule number 5 – post in the forum

If you do this, I will read it. And I have now closed comments on this post to encourage you into the forum.

The most interesting 10 I will write detailed comments on. (Note that the most interesting is not the same as the best). Don’t be disappointed if I don’t answer your response personally. I simply don’t have the time to look at all the work that is sent in.

I hope that the way this will work is that it will you give you the opportunity to share ideas and vocabulary and learn from each other.

Hope to hear from you.

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2 Responses to Paragraph writing competition – March 2014

  1. may March 12, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    There are many factors that contribute to cause this situation. One major factor this happens is that students are hoping to get a better education if they study in countries like Australia and UK. An additional point is that youngsters believe that they will probably get a better job when they finish their degree and that will lead them to have a better quality of life and living standard compare to their nations. Indeed, it is clear that more and more young adolescents are leaving their own countries to broaden their horizons and preparing for their near future.

    • Avatar of Dominic Cole
      Dominic Cole March 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi May

      Did you read the rules!

      Please can I ask you to re-post this in the forum. I’m not trying to be difficult. The problem is that if you leave it here, no one will find it. I’m adding to my blog twice a day now and that means the pages disappear quickly. I really want to give other people to read what you have written.

      Post in the forum and I promise to add my comments – I’ll try to comment on as many as possible.

      ps It does look good – a thumbs up from me.