IELTS Writing: Make every word count


03 Dec, 2019

The challenge

Your band score in IELTS Writing will depend in part on the range of vocabulary you use. Specifically:

  • Band 6: an “adequate range of vocabulary”
  • Band 7: a “sufficient range of vocabulary”
  • Bands 8-9: a “wide range of vocabulary”

You only have 150 words in Part 1 and 250 words in Part 2 to do this, so it’s really important that you don’t waste words and make every word counts.

The solution

Obviously the first step is to widen your vocabulary, and we deal with this in a previous post. But that’s not the whole story. It’s equally important not to waste words in either of your writing tasks.

George Orwell, the English novelist and stylist, wrote six rules for effective writing in his essay Politics and English Language back in 1946. Rule number 3 is “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”

It is often easy to do this. Look at the example below, and replace each one with a single word. Then scroll down to see suggested answers.

  • at this moment in time
  • in spite of the fact that
  • smaller in size
  • red in colour
  • few in number
  • in the event that
  • is allowed to
  • last but not least
  • with the exception of
  • at all times

Incidentally, you may think that Orwell’s rule — at 13 words — is too wordy, and that it contradicts itself. Can you reduce it to just three words?

Next step

When you have completed the exercise above and checked your answers, go back to a practice essay you have written recently. Look at each sentence and see how many words you can remove while still expressing the same idea. You may need to rewrite the sentence, or you may simply be able to delete words. Then reread the essay and see how your style has improved.

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