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A Guide to Concise Writing

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22 Jan 2018

In writing, conciseness is essential. You have to fill out your 250-word-essay by using topic-related words, not just some popular weasel words. The IELTS examiners are trained to know it immediately if you are using a memorizing phrase on the Internet, and they will reduce your score everytime they see you do that.

 

Last month, when being asked to rephrase a topic sentence, a member in Let’s Write Something group wrote this:

 

Original sample: There are various methods to evaluate a country's progress. (9 words)

 

Attempt: The question of which methods should be used for the evaluation of a country's development process by the government has drawn much attention from the public. (26 words!)

 

Remember this: You will not earn a good score in Lexical Resource by lengthening your sentences. Doing that only net you approximately a 6.0 score.

 

What raise your Lexical Resource score is the topic-specific vocabulary. This means when the topic question is about health, you should use general medical terms (doctor, vaccine, disease, etc). The same with other topics: culture, education, technology, and so on. Simon has written an excellent post about this.

 

In writing, conciseness is essential. You have to fill out your 250-word-essay by using topic-related words, not just some popular weasel words. The IELTS examiners are trained to know it immediately if you are using a memorizing phrase on the Internet, and they will reduce your score everytime they see you do that.

 

Lengthy sentences are the result of 5 reasons:

 

  1. Nominalization

 

Nominalization is the procedure of changing a [VERB] into a [THE NOUN OF]. For example, a simple verb like “to evaluate” could be rewritten into “for the evaluation of” (2 words longer).

 

A common myth in the IELTS community is that you can earn good score by using noun phrases as much as you can. This is wrong, because noun phrases are only good when they shorten your answer, not when lengthening!

 

Example: Exchange programs cost a considerable amount of money, which a handful of students may be inaccessible.

Correction: The expensiveness of various exchange programs makes them inaccessible to many students.

 

In the above example, by using a noun phrase (“the expensiveness of various exchange programs”) instead of a sentence clause with Subject + Verb + Object (“exchange programs cost a considerable amount of money”), I have shortened the original sentence from 16 words to 12. This procedure is called noun clause reduction.

 

However, if you nominalize your sentences (simply rephrasing a verb into a noun phrase), for example “to indicate” -> “to be the indication of”, then you will only make your writing worse.

 

To avoid nominalization in writing, please check Louis Biggie’s guide.

 

However, nominalization appears very frequently in speaking, and for good reasons. So don’t hesitate to use them in an IELTS Speaking test.

 

     2.   Lengthy adjuncts

 

An adjunct acts similarly to an adjective, since both of them can modify a noun. For example, in the phrase “attention from the public”, the phrase “from the public” is an adjunct that modifies the word “attention”. By contrast, in the phrase “public attention” (which has the same meaning), “attention” is modified by the adjective “public” precedes it.

 

Usually, an adjunct is more wordy that an adjective with the same meaning, so it’s best to save them for when you want to emphasize something.

 

     3.   Unnecessary expletive constructions

 

Expletive constructions are phrases such as it is / there is / there are.


Generally, try to avoid using them, since these constructions merely obscure the main subject and action of a sentence.

 

Example: It is inevitable that oil prices will rise. (8 words)
Correction: Oil prices will inevitably rise. (5 words)

 

However, there are some exceptions:

 

Example 1: It’s raining. The word “it” is a dummy subject, so we cannot remove “it’s”.

 

Example 2: There are various methods to evaluate a country's progress. If we remove “there are”, then the sentence will become ungrammatical. The whole sentence here is in pseudo passive voice since the real subject is missing - we do not know who evaluates a country’s progress, but the author does not use the structure of passive voice (to be + past participle).

 

     4.   Unnecessary time expression

 

For some reasons, many Chinese and Vietnamese IELTS candidates love to start their essay with “in recent times”. Alternatives would be “nowadays”, and “today”, which are kinda the same.

 

If you need to talk about an ongoing trend, simply change the grammatical tense from present simple to present continous or present perfect continous.

 

     5.   Unnecessary “of”

 

Instead of using “of” like this: “the opinion of the manager” (5 words), I suggest you use the possessive form: “the manager's opinion” (3 words)

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This tip is written by Anh Tran -  Let's Write Something Group.

If you want to practice more about writing Task 2, you can join this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/351029818650829/

 

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