► Sometimes less is more!
This article will focus on giving advice and exercises to help you use cohesive devices correctly. In the IELTS exam, to reach a band 7 or above you need to be able to use a range of cohesive devices accurately. Linking words are a great way to join your ideas together and make your sentences and your paragraph much more coherent, but their use can cause several problems for candidates and bring their score down in this section. Below are some examples of how to (and how not to) use them and a task to help you practice.
► What are cohesive devices?
We use cohesive devices to link our writing; in sentences, paragraphs or parts of text. Used well, they make our writing coherent, used badly, they can have a negative impact on the reader, which in this case is the IELTS examiner – and this is not something you want to do!
Words like ‘furthermore‘, ‘moreover’, ‘as a result of’ and ‘additionally’ are all examples of cohesive devices and together with coherence, this cohesion provides 25% of the marks in task 1 and task 2 of the writing. Striking the right balance between correct use of the linking words, in terms of both grammar and meaning, and the amount you use, is something that you need to grasp if you want to achieve a higher band in IELTS. You need a range of linking words, but you don’t want to use them in the wrong way, to not use them at all, or to over use them.
These words can be used to do many things: explain the sequence of something, the result or consequence of something, provide evidence to support your statement, show an opposing opinion – all very useful things you want to do in a good paragraph and essay. The key is use the in the right way and in a way that doesn’t attract to much attention. Confused? Well, let’s look at how the incorrect use of linking words can impact on your writing and what you can do about it.
The first problem students have in this area is that they learn a wide range of cohesive devices and don’t learn the exact meaning of how to use them in sentences. Incorrect use of these words can make your answer difficult to understand, which will mean that your score will come down. Often students will confuse the meaning of the linking word and use it incorrectly.
You really don’t need to learn a lot of cohesive devices, you need only learn a few and be able to use them well. You only give one conclusion, so learn one phrase. Even in a cause and effect essay, you will only be covering a few ideas, so you only need a few phrases to show the consequences of something. Just make sure you can use them in the correct context and with the correct punctuation.
The biggest challenge for candidates in the writing and speaking is not the inaccurate use of cohesive devices but the overuse. Candidates often think that using discourse markers and linking words make their writing seem more academic. As such, will bring them a higher mark. But this is not the case. The overuse of such devices will make your writing seem mechanical and less ‘native speaker’ like. It can have a significant impact on your score in the cohesion and coherence section of the marking.
►Remember that sometimes, less is more!
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