Part of the skill in academic writing is being cautious. In this post I look at how you can make this work for you in IELTS by using vocabulary to generalise and then be specific. It’s a useful skill to learn as it will help to improve the range of grammar and vocabulary in your writing and speaking.
Take a look at these two examples to see how it works.
A weak example
The major advantage of living in a house is the issue of privacy. There is more opportunity for peace and quiet if you live in a house. Other significant advantages are that houses are more spacious and have gardens. This is important so that the children have a safe environment to play in. If you live in a tower block, then the children have to play outside on the pavement.
A much better example
Perhaps the major advantage of living in a house is the issue of privacy. Typically, there is more opportunity for peace and quiet if you live in a house. This is particularly the case if it is a detached house. Other significant advantages are that houses are generally more spacious and on the whole have gardens. This is especially important if there is a family so that the children can have a safe environment to play in. If, however, you live in a tower block, then the children may have to play outside on the pavement.
What are the differences?
Let’s have a little think. The main differences are:
- adverbs: the second version contains many more “-ly” adverbs.
- modal verbs not the verb to be: the second version has “can” and “may”
- if clauses: the second version uses “if” much more
Why does this work?
There are 4 good reasons to adopt this approach:
- your writing automatically becomes more academic and that’s a good thing – even in general training IELTS – the second version just sounds more intelligent
- you use a much greater range of grammar and so increase your grammar band score
- you write more words: if you have problems getting to 250 words, you can learn from this
- it’s not that hard to do
How can you learn to do this?
One suggestion here is to take this approach:
- make a general statement
- say that it is a general statement
To do this, you need words like: “generally”, “on the whole” or “typically”. Then it should become an automatic process to say:
- why it is only a general statement and not always true
- give a example
Tip: be careful of using the verb “to be” too often. You are probably making too many general statements.
Useful vocabulary to download
Here is a vocabulary download, I first posted in IELTS vocabulary – academic caution (1)academic caution (4146)
See what you have learned by trying this timed exercise: