Fancy Pants Writing is a Big No-No

Don’t put fancy nonsense in your essay – it does more harm than good!


Consider this sentence from the introduction of a practice essay:

This essay will elaborate on causes and solutions of preventing obesity as a major disease among children and thus will lead to a logical conclusion.


First of all, you should NEVER mention the conclusion in the introduction. Also, this phrase “thus will lead to a logical conclusion” actually means nothing at all. I’ve seen a few people use this phrase, so there must be a website out there suggesting it. Please don’t if you want to do our best on the test.

Sounds fancy + means nothing = a lower score

Secondly, the use of the word “elaborate” is unnecessary and a little over-the-top.  To use “preventing” and “solutions”  together is tautology. You can’t prevent solutions – you prevent obesity OR solve (the verb form of solution) the obesity problem. All in all, the sentence sounds pompous and silly.

A much better sentence would be this:

This essay will discuss some of the causes of the childhood obesity epidemic and suggest some possible solutions.

No, it isn’t fancy. Yes, it answers the question clearly and succinctly.

So many students are convinced that the fancy way is the best way. It isn’t.

Consider this sentence from the same practice essay:

Thus, it is clear that this idea holds it merit.

Again – a fancy sounding sentence that doesn’t mean anything much.

A better was to say it:

It is clear from this example that …. 


Here’s another one I found from another student:

Some people opine the strict punishments are the best way to curtail traffic accidents.

All I can say to this student is this: Don’t use the word opine in an IELTS essay. You have to be a native speaker and professional writer, probably, to use this word well. Also, curtail is a fancy word that does not fit here. It is better to find a straight-forward collocation – reduce and lower are often used with incidence of traffic accidents. So making up your own collocations will affect your score for Lexical Resource. You WILL NOT get a higher score because you use a lot of synonyms that don’t quite fit rather than learn and use the correct English collocation.



How to get an 8 in Writing: Part 3


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Grammar Practice

Let’s take a the following question:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of mobile phone technology?

Instead of planning and writing this essay, we are going to use some grammar structures from the previous post to make complex sentences.


Mobile phones have become accessible to most of the world’s population and are considered an essential tool for living in modern societies.


conditional (first conditional)

When young children are allowed unsupervised access to phones, there are often unwanted, even dangerous consequences.


conditional (second)

If mobile phones were to suddenly disappear, there would be an outpouring of grief, due to the sense of security and freedom that this technology seems to confer upon people, as well as the fact that it is somewhat addictive.

subordinate clause

Because mobile phones are small and portable, it means that people take them everywhere.

parallel phrase

Children use their phones at social functions, either to chat with their friends or play electronic games, thus missing out on the more immediate, face-to-face social interaction


There is a sense of safety in always being available by phone, but this comes with a loss of freedom and spontaneity.

How to get an 8 in Writing: Part 1– Task Response


8 monkeys

To get an 8 in writing, you have to have good ideas. Look at the public version band descriptor for an 8:

Task Response

• sufficiently addresses all parts of the task
• presents a well-developed response to the question with
relevant, extended and supported ideas

The best thing you can do for yourself is to get reading. We know the IELTS test topics seem to be around, health, technology, education, environment, modern-day problems, crime and punishment, ethical issues such as testing on animals, social issues such as censorship. So when you are asked to discuss such things and want to have relevant, extended and supported ideas, doesn’t it make sense to have some good ideas under your belt?

Your best friend here is Google. Google some basic questions that we see appear over and over again in the test….

Why are children obese — what can we do about it?

What are the advantages/disadvantages of  mobile phones?

Are stricter punishments the way to solve crimes?

What are the problems/solutions of overcrowding in cities?

What are the causes/effects of global warming?

Should we ban smoking in all public spaces?

Don’t read in order to retain statistical facts – read in order to get a wide grasp of the different topics.

A quick Google search on “What are the causes of childhood obesity” gave me the following government website:

It gives me causes, effects, solutions…. after reading this an writing your own IELTS essay you are well equipped to write relevant, extended and supported ideas on this topic and you have the added bonus of having more ideas for your Speaking test, if you are asked about this topic, and maybe picking up some vocab for your Reading test……


IELTS Task 2 Writing: Student Essay Workshop 2

Children in many countries are eating more junk food and convenience snacks. Why are children doing this and how serious are the consequences?

Give reasons for your answer and provide any relevant examples form your knowledge or experience.

Nowadays, consuming fast food and processed food is on the rise, especially among children. This essay will discuss several reasons why fast food is becoming popular among children and also examine following (delete “following”) negative impacts of this trend.

To begin with, there are a number of reasons why snack (junk) food is gaining in (popularity with children.  The first reason is convenient (convenience). Due to busy lifestyle that people lead nowadays, many parents do not have enough time to prepare home-cooked meals or healthy snacks for their children, consequently, they chose (choose)  to give them convenience food since it is ready to be served. The second reason is the ubiquity of junk food these days. It is sold everywhere and is available in various kinds and flavours (How is the number of flavours relevant to its ubiquity?) As a result, junk food consumption is growing, especially, among children. In addition, it is extremely easy to be get hooked on these kind of snacks, since they are relatively cheap but very tasty. (Mixing cheapness and deliciousness together as one idea is a little confusing.)

There are several problems related to junk food. This topic sentence does not match the question First of all, junk food is usually less nutritious compared to fresh food. Mass – produced food contains a great deal of salt, sugar and excessive fat, which is the major cause of serious diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart problems. Besides that, dependence on convenience snacks, and fast food sets negative habits for children and they may be carried over into their future lives. For example, nowadays, more and more individuals greatly depend on junk food and do not know how to prepare a simple home – made meal, deal to (due to) the fact that they were not taught in their childhood.

In conclusion, junk food is (has) become more and more popular among children in this modern age (Do not make the mistake of repeating the context of the question – this kind of sentence only belongs in the introduction). However, there several downside(s) accompanied which is (include) diet-related diseases and unhealthy habits.


Overall Comments

In this essay the student sometimes forgets that the essay is about children’s eating habits — you can see where I have put the word twice. There is also a problem in paragraph one with coherence and cohesion. Some of the ideas are linked together in a way that is not rational.

In the second paragraph, the student needs to more specifically address the question — He writes “There are several problems related to junk food.” If we check this against the question “how serious are the consequences” and remember the context “children” then a better sentence would be:

The consequences of children consuming too much junk food are very serious. (A number of consequences would follow)

The conclusion contains a classic mistake that we can all learn from. It repeats the context, or opening general statement. We only need to do this in the introduction. In the conclusion, we briefly summarise paragraph one and two (sometimes in alternate order if that fits,) without any specifics or explanations. For example:

In conclusion, the reasons that children are consuming more convenience foods are that they are convenient, readily available and addictive. The consequences are serious and include major diet-related health problems and poor food habits. face-2025152_1280

IELTS Task 2: Workshopping a student’s essay

males-2142831_1920Last week two students got a free essay correction service as part of the new website promotion. Here is the first. It often helps to look at others’ essays to highlight the pros and cons of your own work.

These days more fathers stay at home and take care of

their children while mothers go out to work. What could

be the reasons for this? Do you think it is a positive or

negative development?

Nowadays, stay-at-home Dads are on the rise, while Mums are more career orientated. This essay will explain the reasons behind such phenomenon, whilst explaining why I believe this is a negative development.  This introduction is very well done … it paraphrases the context and then deals with the question(s).

There are several reasons why fathers decide to stay at home while mothers go out to work. Firstly, money plays an important role. In other words, if the mother earns more than the father, she will be the one continuing working so that a better income is provided for the family. Secondly, in today’s society it is more socially acceptable for men to play a nurturing role instead of being the breadwinner. For instance, schools often involve fathers in activities such as cooking, gardening, reading which, in the old days, were strictly a mum field. (This is not a good example of the point.)  Finally, mothers are choosing career over being a housewife.  Studies conducted by the University of Cambridge show that mothers have a higher sense of fulfilment at work than in the household. (Again — does the second sentence really explain the first?)

The first paragraph starts well, but it falls apart a bit. The example in the second point is not strong. Also, the third reason needs to have a more relevant explanation. Just because mothers have a higher sense of fulfilment when working, this does not demonstrate the fact that women are choosing career over home duties.

In my opinion, there are negative and positive outcomes of such development. A positive aspect could be that fathers are finally more involved in their children’s lives. For example, In in the past men had no idea whatsoever of their children’s lives as they were out for most part of the day.  There are, however, several drawbacks with having fathers being more present then mothers in the child’s life. A negative argument is that fathers are less meticulous in house duties than mother (watch your plurals here.) For instance, there is a big difference in how a mum folds the bed sheets than a dad. Moreover, meals prepared by dads have less nutritional benefits than meals prepared my mums-these arguments don’t really make sense – there isn’t any evidence to suggest this – consider that some men are chefs/nutritionists, etc. Also, are there any negative consequences to someone not folding bed sheets neatly? (I can’t think of any.)

In conclusion, I believe that the negative aspects of such phenomenon outline outweigh the positive ones. In other words, the benefit of having mums at home are grater greater as they tend to deliver better care to the children than dads. (This is not what you were asked – in the conclusion you are suddenly answering a different question and introducing a new idea. You need to sum up your essay. In this case something like this:

In conclusion, finances, changing social norms, and new choices for women are the main reason that more men and women are moving away from the traditional breadwinner/home-maker roles. While there are some positives to this development, in my opinion, there a mostly negative consequences. 

Overall comment:

This is a good start. There is an introduction, 2 body paragraphs and a conclusion. The introduction is good. More work is needed on the body paragraphs. In particular, your examples and explanations are not strong. You conclusion needs to clearly sum up what you have written so far. 



IELTS Task 2: Two views and an opinion

monkey-juggling-cartoon-icon-vector-illustration-graphic-design-81531248In this type of essay it is important to remember the golden rule – Give the monkey his banana. You are required to do three things in this essay. Discuss both views and give your own opinion. So what’s the best approach? Some teachers advise a three paragraph essay, with your own opinion in the third paragraph, but, in my experience, this makes for scrappy paragraphs with unclear topic sentences and points lost for poor structure. The more paragraphs you have, the more likely that one of them will contain a structural error.

The following example shows a clear way to address this kind of question:

Some people think that strict punishments for driving offences are the key to reducing road accidents. Others, however, believe that other measures would be more effective in improving road safety. Discuss both of these views and give your own opinion.

 As the number of cars on the roads increases, the number of traffic accidents is also one the rise, particularly in developing countries where the pace of change has been very rapid. To reduce the number of accidents on our roads, it has been suggested that strict punishments are crucial to deter unsafe driving. On the other hand, it is argued that there are more effective methods to address this issue. In my opinion, both strict punishments and other strategies can be equally effective. This essay will examine both views.

The argument that strict punishments can reduce road accidents has some validity, particularly in the case of rogue drivers who deliberately flout the law. Repeat offenders for drink-driving, for example, need to be dealt serious consequences, such as imprisonment. This not only acts as a deterrent for other irresponsible drivers, but also teaches the offender an important lesson and keeps them off the road whilst they are learning it.  Strict punishments have proven to be quite effective in some other instances. For example, very large fines were introduced in Australia when the law was introduced to make it mandatory to wear seat belts when driving.  A high rate of compliance was achieved within a short time frame because of this.

Although strict punishments can help to reduce the incidence of traffic accidents, there are other strategies that are considered by some to be more effective. Most importantly, people need to be taught how to drive safely and they need to practice before they are allowed on the road. Young drivers account for a very high percentage of traffic accidents, which suggests that experience on the road plays a part in accident prevention. The introduction of mandatory log books to make sure that new drivers gain some road experience before driving alone is an example of how governments are implementing this measure. Another way to prevent accidents, at least in Australia, would be to abolish the international driver’s license. Too many people from overseas are involved in accidents because they have neither the experience of driving on Australian roads nor the knowledge of Australian road rules

In conclusion, although strict punishments are one good strategy for lowering the incidence of traffic accidents, I believe that improved driver education and licensing laws are also equally important and effective tools. Combining punishments with a number of strategies is probably the most effective way to get results.


IELTS Task 2: Two-part question continued…The first two essays sent to me at will get a free correction and commentary published on

Today’s example of a two-part essay is slightly more complicated than the previous one.

Here is the question again:

These days more fathers stay at home and take care of their children while mothers go out to work. What could be the reasons for this? Do you think it is a positive or negative development?

In the sample essay provided, I have chosen to say it is both positive and negative. You should only do this if you have confidence in your ability to keep these conflicting ideas in a coherent paragraph.

IMPORTANT NOTE: For the purposes of the IELTS test, it doesn’t matter what your actual opinion is – choose the opinion that enables you to write a clear, coherent essay. Remember, the examiner does not know you and cannot know what your actual opinion is.  For example, if you believe that fathers staying home to look after the children is a negative thing but can’t think why, then see if you can come up with arguments for the positive. You are being marked on you English writing proficiency, not your opinions.

Sample Essay

It is a growing trend these days that more men are staying home to look after their children while women are the breadwinners of the family. This essay will discuss the reasons why this is happening and why, in my opinion, this is mostly a positive development, despite some drawbacks.

There are two main factors which have led to the phenomenon of men staying home to look after the children. The main one, obviously, is economic. These days women are able to earn the same amount of money as men, in general terms. This means that in a heterosexual partnership, a couple may choose whichever of them earns the highest salary to be the main wage earner. It makes common sense that if a woman is earning several thousand dollars per year more than her husband, the family will be better off if she stays at work. Another factor is that social attitudes are shifting. This allows for more flexibility in gender roles, which were once too rigid to support the option of men staying in the home to look after the children.

On the whole, in my opinion, the current trend is a very positive development. Firstly it allows men to develop a stronger bond with their children. Time and work constraints in the past have often meant that men simply did not have the time or energy to get to know their children well, or to develop a very close relationship with them. The other clear advantage of men staying home to look after the children is that women are then free to pursue a career as well as have children. This is allows women to broaden their horizons and experience a much wider world then the previous domestic world which was assigned to them. The only downside to be considered is that working women perhaps may come to feel that they are not spending enough time with their children and children may miss that close bond with their mothers as well.

In conclusion, I believe that the trend of fathers staying home to take care of the children is a positive development because it helps to create freer and more flexible lives for men and women and also allows a closer bond between fathers and children than they had in the past. Perhaps in the future more couples will work part time, so that both parents and children have more balance in their lives and no one feels like they are missing out.


Task Two Writing: the two-part question



This kind of essay is a gift to you because it makes the structure of your essay very clear.

If the question has 2 question marks, then this indicates what your paragraphs will be about.

Consider the following example:

These days more fathers stay at home and take care of their children while mothers go out to work. What could be the reasons for this? Do you think it is a positive or negative development?


The first body paragraph of this essay will be about the reasons that more mothers are working while fathers are staying home.

The second paragraph will be about whether you think it will be a positive or negative development.


The same goes for an essay question with one question mark that has an and in the middle.


Children in many countries are eating more junk food and convenience snacks.

Why are children doing this and how serious are the consequences?


The first paragraph will be about the reasons (the clue in the question is why) children are eating more junk food and the second paragraph will be about the consequences.


Always write approximately the same amount of words for both paragraphs.


I am going to post a sample answer to the second question as it is the more straightforward of the two. Tomorrow I will post a sample answer to the first question.


Nowadays, it seems that children’s consumption of junk food is increasing and this is fast becoming a global phenomenon. This essay will discuss the reasons why this is happening and the very serious consequences of this trend.

There are several reasons why children are consuming fast food more often than in the past. Firstly, families are smaller than in the past, which means fast food is more affordable. Also, in most families these days, both parents go to work, which leaves little time to prepare food at home. Therefore, fast food has become the obvious solution to a busy lifestyle. Another reason that children are eating more junk food is availability. The growth of the fast food industry has meant that affordable fast food can be found just about anywhere – you don’t even have to get out of the car to buy it and it can even be delivered straight to your door.

The consequences of children eating large amounts of convenience foods are very serious. The most obvious problem is that over-consumption of fast food causes obesity in children, which in turn leads to numerous health problems. These include early-onset heart disease, diabetes, risk of stroke and early diagnosis of arthritis. In addition, there are social consequences to children being obese.  Overweight children are often isolated and bullied at school. They may have difficulty making friends and be depressed as a result.

In conclusion, the growing trend of children eating junk food may have very serious consequences. Fast food is affordable, available and convenient and this is why its consumption is increasing.  Therefore we need to consider this problem carefully.

IELTS Vocabulary tip: Learn vocabulary related to health and illness such as in the example provided above.

More paraphrasing tips for Task 2

Paraphrasing question words and phrases:

Some people think….

It is a common belief…

Many people believe

It is widely thought/Some people would argue





More and more people

A growing number of people

It is happening in many countries

It is a global phenomenon/It is occurring across the world

These days


In the past few years





communities /citizens/the general public

Words that are best not to use a synonym for:


The government; children; families; schools; education; school or

university subjects, like Art, Science, Business, etc.

Paraphrasing Task 2 continued

Here is another Task 2 question.

Children in many countries are eating more junk food and convenience snacks.

Why are children doing this and how serious are the consequences?

Again, the student has tried to change the key words.

Youngsters in many places in the world are eating more unhealthy and processed food.

This paraphrase is pretty good, but the word “youngsters” is a little old-fashioned and the term “junk food” is a key phrase that probably is best left unchanged. Let’s try another approach.

 Keep the key words “children” and “junk food.”

Add “it seems that.”

Change the word “eat” for the synonym “consume.” THEN, change the WORD FORM from “consume” to “consumption.”

Add the following phrase: “this is fast becoming a global phenomenon.” (Be careful only to use this phrase when it its appropriate—it fits a lot of IELTS questions though, especially questions that include the words “many countries.”)

The end result:

Nowadays, it seems that children’s consumption of junk food is increasing and this is fast becoming a global phenomenon.


It’s an elegant and sophisticated paraphrase without having fallen into the common trap of being a whole lot of fancy synonyms that ultimately read like nonsense.