In IELTS English Academic writing, a perfect paragraph explores one single topic, also called the main idea. In the paragraph, the main idea must be supported by details and examples that make our statements more than just opinions. And all of this has to be logically coherent and correct in its grammar and syntax.
This tutorial will guide you through the fundamental elements of a perfect paragraph and show you how to organise them to satisfy the IELTS writing assessment criteria and achieve a high score in the IELTS writing section or in any other official English proficiency exams.
There are three main components for every paragraph:
- Signposting language
The content of a strong paragraph always presents the same elements:
- A topic sentence
- Strong ideas and examples to support the topic sentence
The topic sentence
The first sentence of a paragraph, also called the topic sentence contains two parts:
- a topic (what the paragraph is about)
- a controlling idea (the direction that the paragraph will take about that topic).
For example, let’s look at the following topic sentence:
Studying a foreign language has many benefits
Here the topic is Studying a foreign language and the controlling idea is has many benefits. After reading this sentence, the reader will expect to know the different advantages connected to foreign language study. Anything different from this would be off-topic and result in an incoherent paragraph.
How to develop strong ideas for your paragraph
Now that we have a topic sentence, we must find reasons and examples to support the main idea expressed in our topic sentence. Usually, this means answering the following questions in the paragraph:
- Why/how the topic sentence is true?
- Can you give an example to support the reason you stated?
Answering these questions when planning your paragraph is important to organise your writing, and ensure your points are clear and well-supported. For this example, the benefits chosen for our paragraph are cognitive and professional. That is to say: why speaking more than one language keeps the brain in good shape and offers more career opportunities.
|Knowing more than one language improves cognitive functions.||Switching between different languages keeps the brain active.||Multilingual elderly experience less cognitive decline than their monolingual counterparts.|
|Knowing more than one language offers more career opportunities.||Being multilingual gives you a competitive edge In the job market.||Employers are seeking multilingual professionals to communicate with customers in new and expanding overseas markets.|
Signposting language is the words and phrases that people use to guide the reader coherently through what is being written. Signposting language is like road signs for the reader. It tells them where they are and where they are going next. To structure our paragraph logically, we need signposting language1. Please see some examples below, according to common requests in the IELTS Task 2 writing question:
Listing & ordering the different benefits:
Giving reasons and causes why a benefit is present:
- Owing to
- Due to
- For example
- One clear example is
- For instance
- Such as
How to write our paragraph
Now that we have our topic sentence, ideas and signposting language, it is time to put them all together to write our paragraph.
‘Studying a foreign language has many benefits. Firstly, it improves cognitive functions since switching between different languages keeps the brain active. One clear example is multilingual elderly experiencing less cognitive decline than their monolingual counterparts. Secondly, knowing more than one language gives a competitive edge in the job market since it offers better career opportunities. This is because many employers are seeking multilingual professionals to communicate with customers in new and expanding overseas markets.’
Now that you wrote your paragraph, remember to reread for common grammar mistakes. I will cover revision more in-depth in another article, but remember to always allocate time to it. A strategy I suggest to my students, and that I used myself when taking the IELTS exam, is to do Writing Task 2 first, then Writing Task 1 and then review Writing Task 2.
To sum up, if you want to write a paragraph that is clear and coherent, remember to start it with a topic sentence and expand on it with well-organised details and examples. Also, choose your signposting language carefully to guide the reader through your thought process, and remember to check your work for mistakes. And do not hesitate to contact me if you want a revision of your writings or to book a free session to find out more on how to write for IELTS.
- Please note that these lists offer some, but not all options you could use in the mentioned instances. ↩