Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

May 20, 2011

English language learning tips – my Top 10 posts

I decided to go through my archives today and see which of my posts for English language learners were the most popular and put them all in one space so that they would be easy to find.

So here goes my top 10 posts of all time giving tips for language learners

And the winner at number 1 is…………

10 top tips for improving IELTS Scores

It does what it says on the tin I think.

Coming in a very close 2nd….

10 goofy ways to practise speaking skills.

Another obvious title – I really enjoyed writing this 🙂

Pipped at the post at number 3 ……

10 ways to increase your vocabulary

Mmm, seems the number 10s have it!

And in a respectable 4th place ……..

How to be a good language student! 10 suggestions

Those number 10s really have a certain Je ne c’est quoi!

Half way at number 5…….

Are some people better at learning languages than others?

Well – find out here 🙂

Coming up close behind at number 6……

English Verbs that Confuse!

I was certainly confused – hope it sorts you out!

Getting to the end – in at number 7 ……

7 great virtues to help you write well in English

I think I preferred the 7 Deadly Sins

In 8th place (one fat lady number 8 – think about it – Bingo???)…..

Register – choosing appropriate language for the context

An oldie but popular it seems

Not last nor least ….. at number 9..

Using Modal Verbs – part 3

I wonder what happened to parts 1 and 2 ?

And in 10th place – Wayhey you made the Top 10!!

Countable and uncountable nouns – now you get it, now you don’t!

Wow! What a collection.

So my top 10 most popular posts of all time.

ENJOY.

And just in case you get bored with reading all of these here’s a video of my place where you can come and study all of the above!!

January 25, 2010

Improving IELTS Scores – part 3

Speaking and Listening

In my last 2 posts on IELTS I looked at ways in which you could improve your overall English language performance and more specifically Reading and Writing  in preparation for the IELTS examination.

Now I want to turn attention to the Speaking and Listening tasks on the exam. As with reading and writing, these two skills are linked. You can use language from your listening practice to help with your speaking. The more you practice the speaking the more you will be able to pick up on the listening.

  • Can you share examples of issues you have with either of these skills?
  • How have you been preparing for these papers?

If you have any suggestions, questions or problems then please share them.

Whenever you are listening to English if you find useful expressions and words write them down so that you can use them in your speaking.  Don’t restrict your practice to text books, IELTS or otherwise ,what you really need is exposure to authentic language.

  • Use what is around you- radio, music, TV
  • Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations (preferably people you don’t know, on the bus etc.. or use the internet) can be very useful – but make sure you do it surreptitiously!
  • Try to listen to a range of different topics and types of speaking (groups, interviews, talks etc..) this will help you with the different listening types in the exam and also give you information about topics for the speaking.

Approaches to the listening task

The thing you MUST do in the listening (and speaking) papers is concentrate. It is very easy to allow your mind to wander and drift away and thus miss an answer or main point.

  • Prepare ‘markers’  by going through the questions for the listening very carefully and underline keywords.
  • Use the information in the questions to anticipate what the content of the listening will be.
  • The keywords will help you locate the answers.
  • Listening for the keywords you have underlined will also tell you if you have missed a question.
  • Use the time given between tasks to prepare the next section – don’t go over questions you have missed!
  • If you miss a question go back at the end and use information you now have + common sense to choose an answer
  • Still don’t know? Then guess; you won’t lose anything and you might be right! 

During your practice don’t make everything a timed exercise. If you are good at spotting the correct answers you can easily practice speeding up the process. The important thing is to make sure your listening skills are good. Believe me even the most advanced students often produce bizarre answers which, when they consider with common sense, couldn’t possibly be right – skills first, speed later!!

See my post on improving listening skills

Try this listening exercise – You’re no-one of you’re not on twitter (a bit if fun)

Listen to this very short interview

Top Tip: use both common sense and instinct in selecting the answers – don’t spend too long making your choice.

Approaches to speaking:

The speaking test is completely under your control. The examiner will give you the topics and guidelines but you will drive the test.

  • Make sure you know what is expected – it isn’t just a chat.
  • Your preparation for the other papers should give you a wide range of topics with plenty of ideas and information that you can use in potential speaking topics.
  • Remember speed does not = fluency. Speak clearly and as accurately as you can you don’t need to rush (I am a native speaker but I speak quite slowly).
  • We don’t learn about these topics in my country isn’t a good excuse, you’re expected to have read about them in English – use the internet and read the news sites regularly.
  • As with your writing, give evidence for your statements and back this up with examples. Your answers need to be ’rounded’.
  • Go through lists of possible topics and ask yourself – Can I talk about this? If not then find out about it.

Practice is the key with everything and get as much exposure as you can. Find people you can practise with. Give each other feedback.

Read this case-study about one of my students and how he improved his speaking skills.

Top Tip: become an ‘English’ chatterbox!

So, preparation is the key element in improving your IELTS scores along with making sure that you concentrate on your language skills and not just the test!

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

January 22, 2010

Improving IELTS scores – Part 2

Reading and Writing.

In my last post I suggested 10 things you could do generally to improve your English language skills for the IELTS examination.

Here I want to look more closely at the reading and writing papers and suggest some things you can do in your preparation for IELTS to help improve your score.

  • What are the issues you face with these papers?

Remember that reading and writing skills are linked. You can learn phrases and other aspects of language from your reading to use in your writing. Take note, as part of your study, how certain things are expressed this is very valuable for your writing.

  • Write down phrases you come across in reading which strike you as useful or interesting. Try and use these in your next writing task.
  • Make a note of any useful or new vocabulary.
  • Don’t make every exercise a ‘timed’ one – be more creative!

Approaches to the reading task:

  • Don’t read the piece through – start with the questions.  In fact, you won’t really have time to read the pieces properly so don’t try.
  • Analyse the questions carefully for key words that will help you find the information. Underline the key words. Spend your time here on the questions.
  • Look at the title and the first couple of sentences- this should give you an overview of the the topic.
  • Speculate about potential answers and then skim the text to find the information and prove/disprove your suggested answer. You should be able to find the relevant place in the text using your keywords and then read this bit very carefully.

All of these techniques speed up the process and give you more time to consider the questions and find the correct answers.

Question Types:

There are many question types on the reading test. I’m going to look at just two. The ones that seem to give my students the most trouble.

1.       Headings: match a given heading with the paragraphs.

  • Read all the headings through first carefully.
  • Start with your first paragraph read the first two sentences.
  • If you know the heading fine,  if not, choose a couple of possibilities and mark these.
  • Do the same for each paragraph and slowly by a process of elimination you should have assigned all the headings.
  • Each time you are proving or disproving your choice, so look for evidence.

2.       Yes, no, not given: understand what these actually mean

  • A yes answer means that the information in the text and the question agree.
  • A no answer means that the statement given contradicts the information in the text – is the opposite if you like.
  • A not given means that you don’t have enough information in the text to answer the question.

Ask yourself these questions when you consider the answer

  • Is this the same as the text?
  • Does this contradict the text?
  • Can I really answer this question from the text?

NEVER consider information from outside the text. – i.e. what you know to be true from your experience.

Top Tip: If you can’t find an answer move on to the next you’ll probably come across it later on as you complete the rest and you can go back and complete the answer.

  • Have you used these techniques?
  • How did you feel about them?

Writing:

  • How do you feel about the writing paper?

Writing and speaking are productive and completely in your hands. Don’t see the writing as the ‘bad boy’ of IELTS, as something to dread. You control your performance here and you must embrace this chance to show what you can do!!

I have written already about writing in the is blog and you can find many of my suggestions and comments in these posts:

You can also look at my section on writing on the Gapfillers website:

Some things to remember when preparing for the IELTS writing task:

  • Plan, plan and plan!!!
  • Look for models – use newspapers for task one you will find lots of good examples in the business pages and there are lots of good examples of essays in all the IELTS books DON’T IGNORE THESE!!
  • Get your work checked.
  • Don’t write more than one essay at a time 3 essays will be 3x the same mistakes.
  • Check check and check!!!

Top Tip:  when checking your writing read it aloud you will stumble over any mistakes and find them easily!

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

November 3, 2009

Advanced students – case study 2

Here is my second case study in the series.  As with the previous story,  this is a student I worked with who had a particular goal for his English language.

(These case studies are real stories of success but they also illustrate the trials and tribulations of the journey the student and I took to reach their goal. The experience in each case was as rich and rewarding for me as it was for them.)

One of my teaching hats is that of IELTS coach. Basically, I work with IELTS students who need a specific banding (usually overall 7 / 8 or a 7 in each part) and who have not yet managed to attain that score. Some of my students have taken the test several times. At this stage they cannot really be helped in a class as their needs are very specific to them. (you can contact me via Gapfillers if you are in this position!)

Student 2 – Stepan

The first lesson

Stepan was a highly qualified anesthetist from the Ukraine. He had worked in a senior position and had come to the UK to gain experience in hospitals here. Due to his experience and status he was able to work in a hospital as long as he scored a band 7 in each paper on the IELTS exam. This is not an easy thing to do and Stepan had taken the exam twice and failed to achieve 7 in all parts.

The main problems for Stepan were speaking and writing. At the first lesson we completed an example of each of the papers and I was pleased to see that in the listening and reading sections he was consistently scoring 7. His speaking was, however, quite stilted although he had quite a wide vocabulary and the writing was achieving a band 6 or less.

Although Stepan was living in London, he shared a flat with other Ukrainians and didn’t speak English at home. He had a part-time job at night as a receptionist in a hotel which should have given him the chance to practise speaking but didn’t.  It appeared that he spent a lot of time at his books and didn’t take opportunities to speak to incoming guests.

His writing was mostly conceived in his own language and translated using a bi-lingual dictionary.

I suggested that he make more of his opportunities to speak and write his next essay without the aid of his dictionary. He seemed unconvinced as it was his belief that the language spoken out in the street was not formal enough for an exam. He also felt that his essays should be a showcase for his knowledge of English vocabulary. This, coupled with his rather ancient dictionary, caused his essays to sound rather like Victorian melodramas.

The course

I realised that I could call on Stepan’s application and dedication but I was not sure that he would be willing to take my advice.

I scouted around for old IELTS books that he would not have come across and tried to stretch his listening skills with more demanding examples (not only IELTS stuff). This way he could keep improving these areas and, I hoped, see the correlation between listening and speaking and reading and writing.

To address the speaking I decided to make these segments more ‘chatty’ and get him to talk a bit more about himself and his life.

The writing was the biggest challenge. I put him on a diet of  newspapers for models and said that we would read his essays out loud sentence by sentence and I would challenge everything that wasn’t clear and he would have to justify to me his choice of grammar, vocabulary or idea. I also forbade him to use his old bilingual dictionary.

Breakthrough one

Stepan realised the importance of speaking to people. He thought about moving flats but this wasn’t feasible so we set up some strategies for engaging in conversation with people who arrived at the hotel. Using some simple opening phrases he was able to start conversations and soon his speaking became less stilted. He began to enjoy the conversations themselves and saw them less as an exercise and soon his speaking became more spontaneous and fluent.

Breakthrough two

Although reading Stepan’s work sentence by sentence each lesson was very difficult for us both as I was worried about undermining Stepan’s confidence and he was depressed by the number of sentences that I questioned, we gradually began to get more cohesion into the essays and they became more fluid and meaningful. After a few weeks we were only stumbling over one or two sentences. The newspaper models helped him and gave him more vocabulary and greater agility in his use of structure. Finally he was producing good, well written, essays and now all we needed to do was add a gloss of sophistication in terms of vocabulary and set phrases.  (see my postings on writing for information on this:  7 virtues to help you write well7 deadly sins to avoid in writing and warning: mistakes cost marks)

A set-back

Stepan arrived one day for his lesson and told me that he had booked his IELTS exam. I wasn’t sure he was ready yet but he was keen to go ahead and try. This was in the days where you had to wait for 3 months before you could re-sit! We did as much as we could before the exam and he took it. Unfortunately, although his reading, speaking and listening got the 7,  his writing got 6.5 (better than his previous 5). He was, obviously, disappointed but resolved to apply again immediately and continue studying. It was coming up to Christmas so we agreed that we would meet again in the New Year.

Finally

Stepan didn’t contact me in the New Year. He had gone home to visit his family and was arranging for them to come to the UK.  He was also busy working and organising a hospital placement for when he was able to work.

He called me to ask one or two questions and then in February I received a letter telling me he had taken IELTS again and got his 7s (with an 8 in listening!).

Now he could begin work, bring his family to the UK and start a new and exciting phase of his life.

October 27, 2009

7 great virtues to help you write well in English

In this the 3rd and final piece on writing and error analysis I will look at things to do rather than things not to do. I talk a lot about planning and I feel very strongly that this is key to good writing. Checking comes next, you don’t want to throw away marks, or make yourself look stupid with silly errors. Of course practice is the key and the more you practise the better you will become.

Here are my 7 glorious virtues to help achieve a good, low error, written style.

   1. Less is more – this maxim can refer to several areas of writing

  • don’t make your sentences too long, long sentences give more room for mistakes if they are going on to 3 lines check them carefully!!
  • word limits are a guide – if you have 220 and the guide is 250 don’t add 30 words for the sake of it.  If you have concluded your argument and feel satisfied with the piece you have written leave it. 30 extra words will not gain you marks if they are not relevant in fact they could destroy your essay altogether!
  • don’t write more than 1 essay at a time – if you produce  3 essays at the same time it is likely that they will all have the same mistakes. Have your piece of writing marked or looked at before you begin a second.

  2. Analyse your mistakes – make sure you understand how to improve on any errors and add them to your mental check list for next time

  • this may seem like common sense but I was horrified once to find that an IELTS class of mine were putting marked essays in their folders and not looking at my comments or suggestions! As a consequence their scores were not improving and they produced the same type of writing each week.
  • understanding where you went wrong is key – unless you do this you will simply repeat the same mistakes over and over

 3. Make synonym lists – look at words you use a lot in your writing find synonyms – rich vocabulary demonstrates your language ability and gives your writing sophistication

  • opening phrases (Some people, On the one hand, Although etc.)
  • closing phrases (Finally, In conclusion, In my opinion etc..)
  • linking words (in spite of, moreover, nevertheless etc.. See my post on Linking words)

Find more of these on Gapfillers How to Write.

 4. have a list of knock-out words and phrases – pick out a few words that will enhance your writing and use them once – sometimes a beautiful sentence or word is used in an essay and it has an amazing effect! Then it is used again and sometimes a third time and that initial effect is destroyed.

some examples might be –

  • starting sentences with present participles (…ing) – Having weighed up all the pros and cons, it is vital that …. etc (make sure you don’t lose sight of your subject in these sentences)
  • using the passive –
  • cleft sentences (see my post on this)
  • inversion

Of course it depends on the type of writing you are producing as to which of these is appropriate but you need one or two in your armoury. Use them deliberately for effect (making sure, of course, that you can use them correctly!!)

   5.  look at models – unless you are planning to break the mould with your writing (which would be dangerous in an exam or with a job-related report!) use models as examples. You can find these easily on the internet. If you are an IELTS student look at newspaper versions of data reports (the business sections have lots of these). Type in your essay title and see what comes up. DO NOT COPY THESE, use them to analyse how things are expressed and what words are appropriate for the topic. Make notes and then use these phrases and words in your own writing.

    6.  be bold – (this may seem to contradict 5 above, but I am talking in microcosm here – not the entire piece) try new things (this is best done before the exam or final draft) some new phrases or grammar items -it can only help to give your writing more variety. Even if it doesn’t go completely right you’ll get some credit for trying.

    7.  read more and widely – your reading also acts as a model for your writing. By reading widely you are exposing yourself to different styles and models. You will become familiar with a wider range of phrases and vocabulary as well as good grammatical usage.

You can find more advice here.

So, as with many things, writing is 80% preparation and 20% execution!!

October 22, 2009

7 deadly sins to avoid in your writing

This is the second of 3 posts about English language writing.

A piece of English language writing whether for an exam, an assignment or work should demonstrate your ability and flexibility with the language. Getting your message across clearly and expressing yourself  with good style will gain you more marks and/or make a good impression.

Here are my 7 deadly sins that are easy to avoid and will certainly help you to add a little more sophistication to your work.

  1. nice, get –  useful words but they really don’t mean much. Write down a list of synonyms that you can use instead.
  2. translating – this rarely works, if you can’t express your idea well in English then think of another idea that you can! (see my post on thinking in English)
  3. phrasal verbs – these are not appropriate for formal pieces of  writing – make a list of alternatives. (see my post on Register)
  4. wandering apostrophes – its/it’s, your /you’re – PLEASE make sure you understand the difference and know where and when not to use these!
  5. adding new ideas in the final paragraph – this is usually the result of not planning and it not only destroys your piece it also shows a lack of  joined up thinking. Even if it’s an earth shattering idea if it ruins your essay or report it’s not worth it!
  6. not planning – if you don’t plan you won’t know where you are going and you’ll end up with a very fragmented piece and the danger of Number 5 above!
  7. not sticking to your plan – I have known students who constructed their plan after the essay just because I had asked for a plan! This shows a fundamental lack of understanding, in my view, of the writing process. It causes Nos. 5 and 6 and if you have a good plan then stay with it – remember the ideas will not come across if your language is poor and it doesn’t flow. This, again in my view, can only be achieved by careful planning. (see my last post on planning and checking your writing)

For a general overview of writing and the process of producing exam essays see the section How to Write on the Gapfillers site.

My next post will look at the ‘dos’ rather than the ‘don’ts’ of writing.

October 19, 2009

Warning: mistakes cost marks!

Why would you spend time studying for an English language exam, revise, prepare well before the exam day and then hand marks to the examiner on a plate? It doesn’t make sense, yet I see students time and time again doing this because they don’t plan or check their essays well enough in the exam itself.

Let me dispel some myths:

  1. I don’t need to plan my essays, they flow – er.. I think you do, no, they don’t and with time and exam pressures you’ll waffle and digress.
  2. I don’t have time to plan, it’s wasting my writing time – yes you do and no it doesn’t, it helps you use that time to write a good essay.
  3. I’ll check if I have time at the end – why not check as you go along?
  4. I can’t check, I have to get my ideas across – but isn’t this a language exam? the ideas are important up to a point but isn’t it the way you use language to express those thoughts the priority here?

I think students often lose sight of what they are doing which is demonstrating their ability to get ideas and opinions across in English and the key word here is English. Your exam is not medicine, or sociology although the subject may be – it’s English and it’s important not to forget this!

Two things can ensure that you produce a well written and well expressed essay to the best of your ability – planning and proof  reading.

Planning: some tips (I’m sure you’ve heard it all before!)

1. read the essay title carefully and underline the keywords – have a look at this essay title, what are the key words?

  • Juvenile crime is often ‘blamed’ on single mothers. Young parents today do not have the commitment required to maintain a relationship and look after their children. What measures are required to help young couples keep their families together?

The most important is – What measures – that tells you what sort of essay to write, the main topic is Juvenile crime, single mothers is a possible cause and the second sentence gives you some background.

2. sketch out your paragraphs (this is just an example, your version will depend on your essay and ideas)

  1. introduction: re-hash the opening with phrases like People feel, Some people think that juvenile crime etc…
  2. paragraph 1: maybe the reasons for the situation
  3. paragraph 2: the measures to support families referring to your reasons above
  4. conclusion: this should balance your introduction and may include your own opinion

3.  Decide how many ideas you want in each paragraph and make sure you support each statement and give examples for some of them

your plan will look something like this: (this would be an essay of about 200 – 250 words IELTS type)

  • Intro – juvenile crime – big problem – some people say – single mothers
  • P1 problems – lack of support, stress, commitment e.g. need to work, too busy, children look after themselves….
  • P2 measures – good free child care, parenting classes, mentors/experienced parents in a buddy system etc…
  • conclusion: – society we live in so need to help and support not criticise…..

4. write the essay – your introduction and conclusion will have 2/3 sentences and your main paragraphs perhaps between 6 and 9 (make statement, support it and give (if appropriate) examples). This should give you your 200-250 words and you simply need to convert your notes into sentences. The structure is tight and the writing therefore controlled so there is less room for mistakes.

Now make sure you proof read – don’t leave anything to chance!

Checking your writing:

You should know the mistakes you often make. If not then make sure you compile a mental list before your next exam! (see my post on Doing a language audit)

The following mistakes are very common and you should check for them:

  1. articles – are these used correctly? You will have used a lot so it’s a good idea to check as you write.
  2. subject-verb agreement – any problems here?
  3. ‘s’ on the 3rd person –  the silliest of mistakes
  4. use of present perfect tense – check any you have used
  5. past participles – are they right?
  6. check any long sentences to make sure you haven’t got ‘lost’ in them and it’s clear who or what you are talking about (if your sentence is going over 2 lines I would be inclined to look at it as this can be a sign that you’ve got lost.)

For more in-depth study check out this Gapfillers section on writing.

Practice does make perfect but only if you get good feedback 3 essays written in the same evening are likely to contain the same mistakes.

Look at good models for ideas.

Try and read your work out loud and you will see and hear any mistakes more easily.

For short one day and weekend courses in Writing skills and IELTS check here

August 25, 2009

Linkers – using these to best effect.

In writing and formal speaking linking words can create a great impact. It is, however, not always easy to know which ones will be correct, most appropriate or give the best impression.

Have a look at these sentences – can you spot the problems?

  1. At first we found skiing difficult but at the end we became quite good.
  2. Joe caught an early train, because he could get to work early. 
  3. Despite he was a great actor, he didn’t appear in many films.
  4. At first you mix the sugar and butter, then add the eggs and finally the flour.
  5. Even I see your point of view, I cannot agree with it.
  6. Beside your family and mine who else should we invite?
  7. Although we have spoken about this many times, but you still won’t accept my decision.
  8. Because of people spend too much time using computers, they can become overweight.
  9. I am going to cover four main areas of grammar in this section, like tenses, adverbs, gerunds and prepositions.
  10. Our sales figures for 2009 are somewhat disappointing, moreover they are better than last year.

 These are some of the problems I often come across. The answers!

  • At first we found skiing difficult but at the end we became quite good.

              At first (the beginning of the process) …..in the end we became quite good.

  • Joe caught an early train, because he could get to work early. 

            so that he could get to work early.

  • Despite he was a great actor, he didn’t appear in many films.

             Despite the fact that he was a great actor…. (Despite being a great actor…)

  • At first you mix the sugar and butter, then add the eggs and finally the flour.

              First you mix the sugar and butter ………

  • Even I see your point of view, I cannot agree with it.

             Even though I see your point

  • Beside your family and mine who else should we invite?

              Besides your family ….

  • Although we have spoken about this many times, but you still won’t accept my decision.

             Although …………………………., you still  …

  • Because of people spend too much time using computers, they can become overweight.

             Because people spend…..

  • I am going to cover four main areas of grammar in this section, like tenses, adverbs, gerunds and prepositions.

             ……………………………………… namely tenses, adverbs ……………

  • Our sales figures for 2009 are somewhat disappointing, moreover they are better than last year.

               Our sales figures ……………………………., nevertheless they are …..

The ‘rules’.

There are basically 3 types of linking word that we use in English:

  • Conjunctionsbut, while, although, though, even though, even if etc..
  • Prepositions – despite, in spite of, though, etc..
  • Adverbs – however, nevertheless, still, moreover, besides, though etc..

Remembering the part of speech might help you to assess whether you have made the right choice. The linking words have a greater function than simply linking ideas – they also dictate the relationship between the ideas. These relationships can be, for example, contrast, concession, cause/effect, addition, temporal relationships.

Some examples:

If we use the linking words from the above sentences as examples we can see how they should be used and why they are used wrongly here.

  • At first – the beginning of a process – goes with in the end and shows a time-related relationship – the beginning and end of a process
  • First – the first point, item or step – goes with finally – another time-related relationship
  • At the end – denotes the point at which something finishes
  • Because –  explains the reason for an action because of – expresses a consequence
  • So that – explains the outcome of an action
  • Despite expresses contrast and must be used with -ing, a noun, or the phrase ‘Despite the fact that..
  • Even if/though- also expresses contrast and is not used by itself
  • Besides –  don’t confuse this with beside (preposition) it expresses additional information
  • Namely – is specific and mentions all items on a list (compare with such as, or like, which give examples)
  • Moreover/furthermore – add information, nevertheless/nonetheless show a contrast

This is a quick romp through some of the linking words that can be used to add style to your language. It is an area that requires some study but in the long run it will be worth the effort especially if you want to make an impression!

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