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September 17, 2017


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How can I practice paraphrasing? Is there any reference or something that can help me to improve?
Looking forward to your advice.
Thank you.

Hi Simon,

Thank you for all your advice.

By the way, I have 2 questions regarding the English language in general, and the IELTS writing skills in particular (and communication to some extent).

The 1st one is how can we write more like a native. I mean, can you recommend a book about correct writing style, language usage and all. We, Asian English learners, seem to possess a good range of grammar and vocabulary, and some even know very complicated, high-level grammar. But now we know that they all are just building blocks of the English language. It is how we put those blocks together that indicates our proficiency level of English, not the memory of a dictionary. And I know that this is a long-term process, so I am not asking for a quick shortcut to better writing skills. However, some guidelines would be definitely beneficial. I agree that writing papers for checking and grading is a practical way for improvement, but it also seems to me like shooting in the dark. It seems to me like someone outside is telling me how I should move my hands so as to hit my target, but at the end of the day, I still cannot figure out how it came to that hand placement. In other words, if the situation changes, I find it really hard to adapt without any instruction. Even when we have a good structure of an essay, our sentences still sound foreign. And so I am looking for a way to make my writing more native, a book, or method, etc.

My 2nd question is, in your view, should topic vocabulary be acquired by going through (series of) books about vocabulary ? Or are there any better ways ?

I know these questions are quite general, so I don't need actually a solution. Just a few help, or a little advice will do a lot for me.



Topic vocabulary is always acquired best by reading or hearing words and phrases used by natives in natural settings. Vocabulary books are usually not natural (unless they contain real texts by natives and not just lists).

The best ways are to read and watch the news in English (in a wide variety of areas, such as health and technology), and also to always be reading an English fiction book.

As for your first question, the answer is basically the same. Good writers real A LOT of native English, and notice and copy the style, vocabulary and structures that they see. They also receive regular feedback from experts to eliminate bad habits.

Remember that learning to write at a native level in a foreign language is extremely difficult and takes many many years. Most people actually never reach it.

Hi sjm,

Thanks for your comment.

The reason I ask the question is because writing style in IELTS is different from what I do almost every day, which is e-mails.
E-mails are quite straightforward. However, I needed to study the styles, sentence structures, expressions, etc in advance before I went to a teacher. This made the learning process a lot faster for me.

Still, I guess for IELTS, things are much more difficult and support from trainers are of greater benefit than using books.

Dear Simon:

I myself is an IELTS teacher, firstly please let me express how helpful and inspirational you and your courses have been to me, you are marvelous.

Now, I shall get to the chest of everything, I mean, the firstly, secondly and thirdly approach concerning IELTS writing is well adopted by my students, they love it and the feedbacks are lovely and encouraging, but they do not feel the same for the idea, explanation, example approach, and they find the latter a tad bit difficult to master.

I now am thinking to have them write the second main body paragraph using an on top of this, furthermore and last but not least approach, the essence is the same as the firstly, secondly and thirdly one, the only difference is the cohesive devices. I have checked the rubrics, there seems to be nothing against them but still I cannot reassure myself until I am confirmed by some professionals hence my turning to you.

Can I use firstly approach for the first main body paragraph and on top of this for the second and still get a reasonable score, say 7+, given that other rubrics are well met?


Hello Simon
Are you offering any course in October ?

Hi Tommy,

I'm glad you find my lessons useful.

Yes, it's fine to use the 3-idea approach in both main paragraphs. You can use many other 'linkers' instead of 'firstly, secondly, finally'.

Have a look at this document for example:



Probably, yes. I'll put the details on the website below soon.


Thank you for your prompt reply .
I will reach Uk in the first week of October & I will be there for three weeks .Is there any of your course during this period ?

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