Top Tips for IELTS

Paragraph coherence: linking words

This lesson looks at one simple way to write a good paragraph for IELTS. And the key is simplicity: it’s as easy as 1 2 3. When you have  a list of points to make, I’d suggest the best way to do it is to count the points. Firstly, I give you some useful language. Secondly, I explain why it is useful. Finally, I show you how to use it in two sample paragraphs from recent IELTS papers.

Useful linking language

Here is some suggested language:

one point/argument/reason/idea is

an additional point/argument/reason/idea is

another point/argument/reason/idea is

again,

firstly/secondly/thirdly

finally

Isn’t this too simple? Shouldn’t I use moreover and furthermore

The short answer to that is no. Perhaps the best reason to give is that this is the language I use myself and I like to teach the language I use. I don’t use “moreover” and “furthermore” The second reason is that in the IELTS exam you want to keep your structure language simple. It’s a sad truth that too many candidates make mistakes in using “moreover” and “furthermore”.

I want to emphasise that one real benefit to using this method is that it makes writing easier. Once you have written: “One reason..”, you know that you are going to begin your next sentence “Another reason”. Your writing automatically becomes more coherent.

How should I use it?

You need to be slightly careful here as it won’t always be appropriate. It works best when you have to write a paragraph and you have several ideas which you can’t develop over a sentence. What it does is make your writing more coherent – and that’s 25% of your marks.

Three examples

This technique works particularly well in questions such as this recent IELTS writing topic where you are asked to discuss a plural topic: “responsibilities”.

Some people think that paying taxes is enough to contribute to society. Others argue that being a citizen involves more responsibilities. What is your opinion?

If you are a strong candidate, you might choose to write a 4 paragraph essay with one paragraph discussing paying tax and the other content paragraph discussing other responsibilities. Here is my version:

There are, however, various other responsibilities we owe our society. One is that young people should either do military service or some community work before starting their careers. A second is that in some countries citizens do not just have the right to vote but they are in fact obliged to vote by law. Again, it is arguable that the better off within a society ought to provide for the underprivileged through charity work.

This technique is also of use in essays where you are asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of an issue. Here is another recent IELTS topic:

Some people working abroad bring their family to live with them for a period of time. Do you think it has more advantages or disadvantages?

Here is my sample paragraph discussing the disadvantages:

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage is cost. Typically, it will be more expensive for people working abroad to support their families in the host country where the cost of living is higher. Another disadvantage is that the children’s education may be disrupted if they need to go to school in another country. Thirdly, it may be extremely difficult for the family to integrate if they are unable to speak the language.

The third example comes from my sample essay on compulsory education.

There are, however, equally strong arguments against making school compulsory until the age of 18. One such argument is that not everyone is academic and that some people benefit more from vocational training. For instance, someone who wants to become a car mechanic may find better training and more satisfaction in an apprentice scheme. Another related argument is that, in today’s world, young people are maturing ever more quickly and are able to make their own life decisions by the age of 16.

Notes

  1. Each of my paragraphs starts with a short simple sentence: this is an extremely good habit to get into.
  2. You may find yourself repeating certain words such as “argument”: this is in fact a good thing as it helps the coherence of your writing. It is not always correct to vary your vocabulary.
  3. There is some flexibility in how you can combine these connecting words
  4. Each of paragraphs contains 2/3 points. I’d suggest that that is about right if you are going to try this technique.

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10 Responses to Paragraph coherence: linking words

  1. mei November 21, 2010 at 8:31 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    I used your techinique to write a paragraph about whether professional athletes deserve their huge income. Would you mind checking it for me?

    “For those who say that professional sportsperson are being overpaid, perhaps the strongest reason is that compared to their income, the salary of a doctor or a police officer is much lower. Sports like football, basketball or golf are just for entertainment and not as important as saving people’s lives or preventing crime. Another compelling reason is that despite being role models for young children, many top athletes often cause some shocking scandals such as gambling, taking drugs or soliciting sex with a prostitute. These reckless lifestyles prove that they do not deserve their huge salary.”

    Thank you!

    • Dominic Cole November 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

      Most impressive. My only real problem is with the first sentence, which is slightly overcomplex in structure. I prefer to keep the first sentence of each para as simple as possible. It makes for easier reading and, as importantly, for easier writing in the test.

      “There are several/a variety of/a number of reasons to say that professional sportsmen are overpaid. Perhaps the strongest is…..”

      I know it is politically correct to use sportsperson and not sportsman, but here you would need “sportspeople”, which is absolutely horrid.

  2. mei November 21, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

    Thank you Dominic! My teacher has said the same thing: K.I.S.S-Keep It (the sentence) Short and Simple, although writing something simple AND good is not an easy task.

    • Dominic Cole November 23, 2010 at 7:59 am #

      Not easy perhaps but you are more than half way there if you understand that simple can be good.

  3. Name November 22, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    PLEASE HELP ME
    I DO NOT UNDERSTAND

    • Dominic Cole November 23, 2010 at 7:50 am #

      Sure – I like helping. What don’t you understand? If that isn’t a stupid question?

      My main point here is that you should organise your paragraphs and it’s in fact perfectly OK to do that the simple way. Almost everyone understands about organising an essay – why not try the same technique with your paragraphs? After all, you write more paragraphs than essays!

  4. john April 29, 2012 at 5:35 am #

    Is it fine if I write one point for disadvantage with explanation and an example?

    • Dominic Cole July 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      It will depend to some extent on the question, but in principle it is fine so long as you balance it with a paragraph on the advantages.

  5. Dilshodjon October 12, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

    Hi Dominic please write for me structure of essay with explanation

  6. خرید اینترنتی January 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

    Thank you for the helpful information

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