Short sentences are fine. They are accurate. They are simple and they are safe. This is a problem.
So can you do to make your writing more complex?
- Use linking words (see my full lesson on how to make your writing more complex)
- Use ‘ing’ forms of the verb (this is an advanced structure, but it’s easy to use when you know how).
Why do I need linking words?
According to the IELTS Band Descriptors, in order to get Band 7 in IELTS Writing you need to use ‘a variety of complex structures’ and ‘a range of cohesive devices appropriately ‘.
If you link two sentences together, you create a more complex sentence like this one, which is a conditional sentence.
*However, students often just put linking words at the start of sentences. *Therefore, it sounds unnatural. *In addition, they do this for every sentence. *Moreover they are over-used. *Besides, the meaning is often wrong.
Although it’s good to use words like ‘In addition’ and ‘Moreover’, they can sound ‘mechanical’ (*as in the example above!), which means that you’ll only get Band 6 for Cohesion and Coherence.
To add the variety that you need for Band 7+, you need to use what I call ‘internal’ linking, rather than just putting linking words like ‘In addition’ ‘Furthermore’ and ‘Nevertheless’ at the start of sentences.
Advanced ways of linking
Here are some simple ways of making your sentences more complex:
- Conditionals (if, unless, provided that, as long as, even if)
- Contrasting/Comparisons (despite, in spite of, rather than, similar to, otherwise)
- Concessions (even though, although, while)
- Reasons (because of, due to, as a result of, so that, in order to)
- Relative pronouns (who, which, when, where)
- Results (with the result that, which resulted in, which means that, which leads to)
- Time expressions (when, as soon as, while, since, by the time)
- ‘ing’ verbs (Present Participle)
An introduction to ‘ing’ linking words
Look at the 2 sentences below. How can you link them?
- New rules were introduced. The rules decreased traffic congestion immediately.
Band 5 – Simple cohesive devices e.g. ‘and’ ‘but’ ‘so’ ‘because’ ‘also’.
- New rules were introduced and they decreased traffic congestion immediately.
Band 5 or 6 – Simple relative clauses e.g. ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘that’, ‘when’, ‘which’
- New rules were introduced, which decreased traffic congestion immediately.
Band 6 More complex cohesive devices e.g. ‘when’ ‘before/after’ ‘although’ ‘However’.
- As soon as the rules were introduced, traffic congestion decreased immediately.
Band 6/7 A variety of more complex linking words used accurately e.g. ‘In spite of’ ‘Despite’ ‘Unless’ ‘As long as’, ‘as a result’
- New rules were introduced, and, as a result, traffic congestion decreased immediately.
- New rules were introduced, which lead to an immediate reduction in the amount of traffic on the roads.
- New rules were introduced, which meant that congestion decreased immediately.
Band 7+ A wide variety of complex linking words used accurately e.g. the ‘ing’ form of the verb.
- New rules were introduced, decreasing congestion immediately.
- New rules were introduced, thus decreasing congestion immediately.
- New rules were introduced, resulting in an immediate reduction of congestion.
How do I use ‘ing’ verbs (Participle Clauses)?
Look at the examples below (Academic Task 1, describing a graph)
- The cost of a mobile phone contract halved. It fell from around £30 to £15 a month.
- The cost of a mobile phone halved, falling from around £30 to £15 a month.
- The subject is the same in both clauses (a mobile phone contract)
- ‘ing’ helps avoid repetition of the subject (a mobile phone contract)
- The subject is removed in the ‘ing’ example.
- The ‘ing’ clause adds extra detail/data.
It is also possible to introduce a new subject. Look at these two examples:
- The charts show differences in the number of car-owners. Older people are three times more likely to own a car than younger people.
- The charts show differences in the number of car-owners, with older people being three times more likely to own a car than younger people.
- Here there are 2 subjects (car owners and older people)
- I use ‘with’ to introduce the second subject (older people).
- The ‘ing’ clause adds extra detail/data.
Try these by yourself:
- The trend was similar for women. Numbers went up significantly in June and remained high throughout the summer.
The number of cases increased dramatically. They went from just 20 in March to over 2000 in April.
A footpath was built. The footpath allowed access to the beach.
- The trend was similar for women, with numbers going up significantly in June and remaining high throughout the summer.’
The number of cases increased dramatically going from just 20 in March to over 2000 in April
A footpath was built, allowing more access to the beach.
Is it ok to write ‘Firstly, Secondly and Thirdly?’
In one of my YouTube Writing sessions, I suggested using ‘Firstly, Secondly and Thirdly’ to organise your ideas in your Task 2 Writing.
Some of my students said they think this system is too ‘simplistic’. So I did some research.
By total coincidence, I was doing a Reading podcast about using insects to find new medicine, and the very high-level, academic text used ‘Firstly, Secondly and Thirdly’ (see slide below).
So yes, it’s absolutely fine to organise your ideas in this way. Watch the whole section here:
Watch the YouTube session here (from 12.30 mins)
Listen to the podcast here: