There are a number of different writing styles and conventions, ranging from fictional to factual; very informal (e.g. a casual email to a friend) to highly formal (e.g. a legal document). For academic purposes, we can define two broad categories:
|Descriptive reports||Opinion-based essays|
|1. Bar graphs & Pie charts
2. Diagrams, Maps & Processes
3. Line graphs
There is no official IELTS list of subjects (“themes” or “topics”), but the following themes serve to act as a general guide:
Employment and money
Gender, Family & Parenting
Language and culture
Law and order
Media and advertising
Science and technology
Sport and pastimes
Travel and transport
In addition to style (e.g. “Agree/Disagree”) and subject area (e.g. “Education”) it is important to note that IELTS writing prompts (exam questions) are always very specific. IELTS examiners do not want you to learn an essay — memorising a general answer to a general topic — they want to test your understanding of the exam prompt by seeing how well you can answer a specific question.
Linking words and phrases (“cohesive devises”) help to guide your reader through your writing, and to link sentences, paragraphs and sections both forwards and backwards.
Good use of cohesive devices will make what you have written easy to follow. If you do not use then, your style is disjointed and consequently difficult to follow. Your mark could be affected either way.
The best way to “get a feel” for these words is through your reading. Most textbooks and articles are well-written and will probably include a lot of these cohesive devices. Note how they are used and try to emulate what you have read. Do make sure though that you fully understand their meaning: incorrect use could change completely what you’re trying to say. Try to use a variety of expressions, particularly in longer pieces of writing.
Remember also, that the word “and” can be used to connect two short sentences together.
There follows a list of words and phrases that can be used. The list is not exhaustive, and BE CAREFUL: although grouped together, none is totally synonymous. Their position in the sentence can also vary.
|first, second, third||for example||in general|
|first, furthermore, finally||for instance||generally|
|to begin, to conclude||as follows:||on the whole|
|next||that is||as a rule|
|Reinforcement||in this case||for the most part|
|also||namely||in most cases|
|furthermore||in other words||usually|
|what is more||so||in particular|
|besides||as a result/consequence||especially|
|as well (as)||consequently||Reformulation|
|in the same way||because of this/that||in other words|
|not only … but also||thus||rather|
|Similarity||hence||to put it more simply|
|equally||for this/that reason||Expressing an alternative|
|similarly||in that case||rather|
|correspondingly||under these circumstances||on the other hand|
|in the same way||Deduction||the alternative is|
to new point
|then||another possibility would be|
|now,||in other words||Contrast|
|as far as x is concerned||in that case||instead|
|with regard/reference to||otherwise||conversely|
|as for …||this implies that …||on the contrary|
|it follows that||if so/not||in contrast|
|turning to||Stating the obvious||in comparison|
|Summary||obviously||Concession (something unexpected)|
|to conclude||naturally||even though|
|in brief||of course||however much|
|to summarise||as can be expected||nevertheless|
It was a very expensive holiday, the weather was bad and the people were not very friendly. Nevertheless, we would probably go back to the same place.
The South East of the UK often has the coldest weather in the winter. Conversely, the North West of Scotland frequently has the mildest temperatures.
On the whole, his speech was well received, despite some complaints from new members.
Desktop computers are cheaper and more reliable than laptops; furthermore, they are more flexible.
Prices fell by more than 20% last year. As a result, sales increased by 15 per cent.
The importance of Creative Writing
As writing is a creative skill, it is important to practice writing “creatively” at the same time as learning how to write “academically”. Creative writing expresses feelings, emotions, personal thoughts and ideas, in an imaginative way rather than just as a means of conveying information. It is argued that by practicing creative writing in the target language will improve your English proficiency in many respects: grammar, vocabulary, phonology and discourse. This is because when you write creatively you have to manipulate the language in interesting and demanding ways in order to express uniquely personal sentiments.