ESL and IELTS Help 4 U

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Learning to write well in English is challenging!

Many students struggle with forming a sentence with a proper subject and verb.

But a good writer must go beyond this point.

After the first draft of an essay, a good writer looks at each point the essay is making and every sentence used to make that point.  Do all the sentences look the same?

Dan is an engineer. He studied very hard for many years. He went to Chiang Mai University and graduated from the Faculty of Engineering. His father is an engineer, too. Dan’s father told him about being an engineer. Dan was interested and decided to become an engineer. An engineer has to be good at mathematics. Dan was not good at math. Dan’s father hired a tutor to help him. Dan is grateful to his tutor for helping him become good at math. He is not sure he would have passed mathematics without his tutor. Dan knows his tutor helped him to become a good engineer.

There is nothing wrong with this paragraph. Each sentence is correct. But the structure of each sentence is the same. A few changes make the paragraph better.

As a young boy, Dan already wanted to become an engineer. His father, who was an engineer all his life, told Dan many interesting stories about his career. Dan liked these stories and decided he would become an engineer, too. But there was one problem. In order to become an engineer, Dan had to be good at mathematics. He wasn’t. He struggled in math at school. So Dan’s father hired a tutor, and Dan spent many extra hours studying with his tutor to improve his math. Finally, after many years of hard work, Dan graduated from Chiang Mai University with an engineering degree. Dan will always be grateful to his tutor for helping him fulfill his dream.

This second paragraph uses different sentence structures. Different structures make the thoughts flow more smoothly.

Some sentences are long. Others are short which makes the paragraph more interesting to read.

New words have been used to add interest. The idea of Dan “fulfilling his dream” adds emotion to the paragraph. Telling us that Dan struggled brings the reader into the paragraph because we all know what it means to struggle.

Finally, the points in the paragraph were rearranged. The second paragraph begins with Dan’s childhood and takes the reader from there to graduation. This helps the reader because it begins at the beginning and takes the reader through to Dan’s graduation.

There are many ways this paragraph can be written. But hopefully, this example of varying sentence structure will be useful the next time you are writing an essay.

I know that working on your sentences means that you have to work longer and harder. But as you practice, it will get easier and easier. You’ll begin to think differently, and creative sentences will be the first sentences you think of when you’re writing the first draft.

It’s not easy but it is very rewarding! You will know that your writing is the best it can be.


The IELTS essays are challenging.  And when you write yours, you don’t want to look like this:

You want to look like this:

So…first, you get your topic. Then, usually one of two things happens.

1. Ideas fly around in your head.

2. You have no idea what to write.

In case number 1, your job is to get all those ideas and thoughts on paper. Write them all down. Notes or doodles or drawings are fine. No need to organize. Just get them in front of your eyes so you can see them. This will clear your mind. Then you can organize. Then you can begin to write.

In case number 2, your first task is to calm yourself. Breathe. Allow your breath to clear your mind. Look closely at the topic and separate it into sections. Begin to ask yourself small questions about each section. Answer one question at a time.

For example, let’s say this is your topic: Athletes come in two forms. Some are on teams, others participate in sports where they play alone. What are the benefits and challenges of being an athlete playing on a team and playing alone?

Maybe you’re not an athlete. Maybe you don’t care for sports at all. You think this is a topic you know nothing about.

But the key is not about athletics as much as it is about working at anything alone or in a group. You have had this experience. You know what it feels like to work with others and by yourself.

What is it like for you when you work as part of a group? What do you like? What are the problems?

When you are working alone, how does it feel? What do you like? What are the problems?

When you answer these questions, you have the points for your essay.

An IELTS essay is about your ability to think, organize and present. It is your opinion about the topic so there are no right or wrong answers. You can do it! You can think your way into the question, apply your own experience and write a clear, clean essay.

Have a beautiful day!

Improving your vocabulary is always

After writing the post on “how often” I continued to think about different words. I thought about the words that my students used over and over.

Often students would use the phrase “very good” or “very well” when they were really trying to say something was…

meaningful: something that adds meaning or effects

valuable: something that adds value or worth

crucial: critical importance

essential: necessary

fundamental: something that has to do with the basic facts or principals

key: an essential component

significant: an important effect or meaning

critical: extremely necessary

important: of significance or value

or vital: urgently needed

These words all mean “important” but each adds a slightly different meaning.  Here are some sentences to help you see how you might use them.

Today is an important day. It’s the first day that our team will meet and begin to work together.

We hope that everyone will make a valuable contribution to the team project.

Good teamwork skills are critical to our success so one of our fundamental goals is to improve our ability to work together as a team.

The attitude of each team member will be key to our success.

It will be vital that everyone attend and participate in each team session because each person brings a essential skill to the process.

Together, we will look at the most crucial issues facing our school.

In order for our project to succeed we will need to create meaningful and practical guidelines for students to follow.

If we are successful, we could have a significant impact on the future of our school.

Now…this is really important! Knowing new words is valuable but using them is essential! So look up these words. Begin to use them in your conversation and writing. Practice. Learn. Most of all, enjoy!!!

I’ve been thinking about words that describe how often something happens. There are many great English words that we can use depending on….well depending on how often!

How often do you study?  go to the mall? talk to your friends? have dinner with your parents? play a game? take a walk? watch television? go online? get your hair cut?

Starting with not doing something at all to doing it all the time, here are some words you can use to stretch your vocabulary. When there is more than one word that means about the same thing, I’ve inserted (or).

Not at all: I never seem to have time to get any exercise.

Not often: We rarely (or) seldom (or) hardly ever see squirrels in the city any more.

Sometimes: Occasionally, during the term, your teacher will meet with you to discuss your term project.

From time to time we can see the stars, but the smog is usually too thick.

Every so often, especially when we’re in a crowd,  my dog will just jump out of my arms and run away.

Often: He usually goes to the cinema on the weekends.

In the summer I frequently travel to the beach with my friends.

She loves art so she makes regular visits to the local galleries.

Very often: I see him all the time when I go to the park.

I walk daily, the first thing in the morning.

He is constantly forgetting to do his assignments.

Day in and day out you will find most students online doing research, watching movies or playing games.

Those two girls are always together.

Theirs is a never-ending love affair.

The planets are in perpetual motion.

Wow! Now you have many new words and phrases to use when you want to describe how often something happens. Try them out! Experiment! Take a risk! We say in English: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This means you can only grow and improve if you try new things.

Study hard! Enjoy your English! Use a new word today!

Wow! These young people look frustrated! They must be trying to understand prepositions!

They need to step back, take a big breath and become calm. Prepositions are tricky but they are also simple. Please remember to use the most simple preposition for the sentence you are writing. It’s not useful to try and write in an advanced way when you’re choosing the correct preposition. Keep it simple…KIS!

A preposition is just a connecting word.

I am going to the store. The preposition “to” connects what I’m doing (I’m going) with a place, (the store).

I paid $1000 for my computer. “For” connects what I paid ($1000) with what I bought (my computer).

The meeting starts at 3 o’clock. We use the word “at” to connect the time with the event.

I often study with my friend, Pam.

So we can say that often, when we add more information to a sentence, we use a preposition, especially if we’re adding information that tells, who, where, what or when.

Here are some more prepositions taken from a good list which you can find at the English Club website with examples of how you might use them in your writing. I’ve chosen ones that are a little more challenging.

Everyone except Jane is going to class. Jane’s sick and cannot attend.

We will be going through the entire book of exercises during this term. When you’re finished, you will have learned everything you need to know!

This movie is unlike any you have seen in the past. You will enjoy it because it is so different.

Try to make your presentation without using your notes. It is good practice to try and speak naturally, not reading from a sheet of paper.

He is better at speaking than she is, but she is better at writing.

Since you’ve already taken the introductory course, the intermediate course will be easy.

Sometimes he feels like everyone is against him. He feels like everyone wants him to fail.

They gathered around the table for the meeting so everyone could see one another.

He was dressed as a clown at the costume party.

Try to begin using these prepositions in your writing and speaking. Experiment!!

Take a risk!

Practice and enjoy your English!

Many students feel like this when they think of prepositions.

It’s easy to see why. There are over 150 prepositions in English. There are some rules to help you but not every preposition seems to follow a rule every time it is used. So we have to memorize.

In this post, we will review some of the most often used prepositions, ones that refer to  “where” something or someone is and give some other uses as well.


This water comes in a bottle.  

We are also in love. My friend is in training to be a doctor. A student could be in trouble if he gets caught cheating on a test.  If you are giving a speech you are probably standing in front of your audience.


This cute kitten is on the table.

We are also on time if we have a 3 o’clock appointment and we arrive at 3.  My friend is on TV if she’s in a reality show. If I’m traveling to Thailand and my plane has departed, I am on the way.


The Peanuts kids are sitting under the tree.

We are also under pressure if we are stressed. Fish swim under water although we can also say a fish is in the water. If a building is in the process of being built we say it is under construction.


This little pig is behind the fence.

If my essay is due tomorrow and I have not started it yet, I’m behind on my homework.  If a soldier goes into the country of his enemy in a war, he is behind enemy lines.


These young people are laying on the grass beside one another.

But if you hear someone say: “Your comment is beside the point,” it means the comment is not important, does not relate.


This beautiful girl is standing between two cute guys.

I could also say, “Between you and me, I think Tata is the best singer in Thailand.” This means I’m telling you something that I don’t want you to tell anyone else. I’m sharing a secret with only you.  In English we also say someone is between jobs if he lost his job and has not found a new job yet.

More prepositions to come! Enjoy your English! Study every day!

This came to my mind after a lesson the other day.

Do you have trouble deciding when to use the word “during” and when to use “while?” It is not difficult.

During:  Use this word with a noun.

During the day I often went to the museum to sit and relax.

During class I find myself dreaming.

During my trip to South America, I often felt homesick.

While: Use “while” when you are using a verb.

While I was studying, my phone rang five times!

While he was at his mother’s, he finished his thesis.

While we were visiting Paris, I met many students my age.

Sometimes you can choose either word, but your sentence must follow the same verb or noun rules.  For example:

Please don’t talk during the test.   Please don’t talk while taking the test.

I hope this is helpful!!

We’re all different in wonderful ways……and English helps us share our differences with one another. We do not lose our culture by learning English. We expand it.