Tagged: writing

Parallel structures and IELTS

šŸ˜¦ Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values and can cause misinterpretation or even losing their originality in cultural identity.

If you want to pack a list of items into one sentence, then these items need to be ‘parallel’. What do I mean byĀ items and whatĀ do I mean by parallel?

  • Items are usually noun phrases or verb phrases, although they are sometimes preposition phrases.
  • Parallel means that all of the items are the same type – all nouns, all verb phrases, etc.

Parallel nouns

Our opening example could be written using noun phrases only:

šŸ™‚ Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values, misinterpretation, or even loss of originality in cultural identity.

..in which we have one verb – cause – and three nouns separated by commas:

  • conflicts in existing cultural values
  • misinterpretation
  • loss of originality in cultural identity

(Notice that the final noun is preceded byĀ or even as a substitute for and.)

Parallel verbs

Alternatively the sentence could be written using verb phrases only, again separated by commas:

šŸ™‚ Modern art and music can cause conflicts in existing cultural values, lead to Ā misinterpretation, or even result in loss of originality in cultural identity.

Parallelism and IELTS

Accurate parallel structures can help to increase your IELTS score for GRA (they’re ‘structural’), LR (noun phrases are probably the most common item), and CC (non-parallel structures are difficult to understand).

Ha! There – I just used a parallel structure built from nouns (GRA, LR, CC)!



Society and community revisited

šŸ˜¦ Space exploration does not improve conditions in the society.

Recently in class we were discussing the difference betweenĀ society andĀ community and it occurred to me that this might be an opportunity to contrastĀ societyĀ andĀ the society (see alsoĀ previous post).

As you may be aware, there are so-called ‘uncontacted peoples‘ living in forests in different parts of the world. These people form communities whose social structuresĀ are very different from those found in ‘modern society‘. This is because uncontacted peoples – for whatever reason – areĀ cut off from the rest of society.

In this case,Ā society (uncountable, withoutĀ the) refers to all of humanity. Meanwhile community (here countable) refers to a group having shared values, interests and lifestyle.Ā Academics sometimes identify uncontacted peoples as ‘primitive societies‘ (plural countable), where each society can be counted as a separate group having unique social characteristics. Note, however, that the countable use of societyĀ tends to be restricted to the fields of anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences.

If we wish to talk aboutĀ societyĀ (uncountable, without the) to mean ‘all of humanity’, then our opening sentence should probably read:

šŸ™‚ Space exploration does not improve conditions in society.

flag-of-indonesiaĀ A common error made by Indonesian students is to writeĀ the societyĀ (a particular group) when you really meanĀ society (all of humanity).

For further analysis ofĀ society and the society tryĀ here.


Getting an accident

šŸ˜¦ I drove to town this morning and got an accident.

flag-of-indonesiaĀ This is a direct translation from Bahasa Indonesia:Ā mendapatkan kecelakaan. In English you don’t ‘get’ an accident, you ‘have’ one.

If you say you drove to town and got an accident, it sounds as though you bought an accident, perhaps from a shop that sells accidents? Depending on the type of accident, you might need a very large shopping bag!

Admittedly the context of your sentence makes meaning clear, but if you want a high score for vocabulary in IELTS writing, try to use stronger collocation:

šŸ™‚ I drove to town this morning and had an accident.


Lemon Squeezy

Another song from eapguru – this time to practice the words ‘easy and ‘difficult’. See also this earlier post for further practice of these not-so-easy items!

A free handout with lyrics and tasks for students accompanies the song. The video features Indonesian EAP students preparing to study abroad. Enjoy!


Labouring over ‘labourers’

šŸ˜¦ Some people claim that working hours for labours in factories are too long.

flag-of-indonesiaĀ Here an Indonesian student is trying to find a synonym for ‘worker’. Unfortunately the hierarchy of ‘work’ is labelled differently in English.

In English a ‘labourer’ (‘labour’ + ‘er’) does work that distinguish him or herĀ from other kinds of worker:

  • Labourers are usually unskilled.
  • Labourers often have to use physical strength because their work requires them to lift and carry things.
  • The work of labourers is generally outdoor work.
  • Labouring is often dirty work.
  • Labouring is not very well paid in most countries.

Here are some pictures of ‘labourers’.

If you want to use a synonym for ‘worker’ then try toĀ consider:

  • where the work takes place
  • the level of skill involved
  • the salary it attracts

These considerations will lead you to a more accurate label for the work you are talking or writing about. In IELTS a more accurate labelĀ is also likely to get you a higher score for Lexical Resource (vocabulary).

This dictionary entry offers a wide selection of labels forĀ different kinds of work.

Other word forms and idioms

Labourer – the person (countable)

Labour – noun (uncountable, abstract meaning)

Labour – verb

Laborious – adjective (Sometimes skilled work can be ‘laborious’, especially if it requires physical effort or is repetitive).

Hard labour – A form of punishment used by tyrannical governments, often for political prisoners.Ā If my work feels like hard labour, it’s very hard work!

In labour – Giving birth!

Labour over something – Work extra hard at a task.


When ‘existence’ should not exist

šŸ˜¦ Some people believe that the existence of machines helps to generateĀ more profit than loss.

flag-of-indonesiaĀ This is a common translation problem for Indonesians. Keberadaan!

In English it is automatically assumed that things and people exist, unless otherwise stated.

šŸ™‚ Some people believe thatĀ machinesĀ help to generateĀ more profit than loss.

šŸ™‚ Some people believe that the absence of machines can result in losses.

Incidentally, can anyone guessĀ the names of the couple in the cover photo for this post, and why were they chosen? Comments below! šŸ™‚


Humans are usually redundant

šŸ˜¦ In conclusion, long working hours areĀ necessary for human beings.

flag-of-indonesiaĀ I’m guessing this may beĀ a cultural issue.

Let’s try aĀ quickĀ test.Ā Which of the following sentences is NOT about working hours and humans?

  1. Long working hours are necessary for human beings.
  2. Long working hours are necessary.
  3. Long working hours are necessary for ants.

Hopefully you chose number 3. In any discussion of working hours, and indeed of many other topics, we’re usually talking about human beings, unless otherwise specified.

The only time we really need to mention humans is when we’re contrasting them with non-humans!