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Four ways to avoid repetition

Four ways to avoid repetition

27 May 2016
Many IELTS candidates complain about repeating the same words and structures in their speaking and writing. Therefore, they are determined to learn synonyms for the words they already know; we know this is not always the correct way and may even result in lower scores.

Let's try an example.


It is a common strategy among IELTS candidates to use a less common synonym. As illustrated below, you can see that the underlined word is replaced with a synonym:

  • To solve today's problems, governments must ask the elite to step in, or at least ask for their opinions.   =>
  • To solve today's problems, governments must ask the elite to step in, or at least demand for their opinions.

Although "demand" is a synonym of "ask", we cannot simply replace the word without knowing how to use it, thereby misusing the word.

So what needs to be done to avoid repetition here?

Instead of just saying, let's actually see what needs to be done. Here is a sample paragraph from a real response to an IELTS writing task 2.

 

On the one hand, overly-populated cities result in lower standard of life. Firstly, people in these cities have difficulties finding jobs. That means, the people will commit crimes like drug trafficking and smuggling because they cannot bring food to the table for their families legally. Secondly, the people in these cities may suffer from many health problems. The people living in cities may face problems like air pollution, lack of clean drinking water and psychological problems.
 
 

1- Change the sentence


To add variety to your sentences, you can change the voice to passive.

E.g.
That means, the people will commit crimes like drug trafficking and smuggling ...
=>
That means, more crimes, like drug trafficking and smuggling, will be committed ...
 

2- Add collocations


Sometimes you have no alternative for a word. In our example, the word "people" is rather hard to be replaced with other words.

E.g.
Secondly, the people in these cities may suffer from many health problems.
=>
Secondly, both the young and elderly people in these cities may suffer from many health problems.
 

3- Use referents


How you refer back to the things you have just written or said is an important way of creating a natural flow to your language. Using referents means you can avoid repetition and make your writing more interesting and easier to read and understand. Read this lesson to learn more about referent.
The people living in cities may face problems like air pollution
=>
Those living in cities may face problems like air pollution, ...
 

4- Change the word


Finally, yes! You can replace the repeated words.

E.g.
Firstly, people in these cities have difficulties finding jobs.
=>
Firstly, the citizens have difficulties finding jobs.

 

Here's the modified paragraph:

On the one hand, overly-populated cities result in lower standard of life. Firstly, the citizens have difficulties finding jobs. That means, more crimes, like drug trafficking and smuggling, will be committed because they cannot bring food to the table for their families legally. Secondly, both the young and elderly people in these cities may suffer from many health problems. Those living in cities may face problems like air pollution, lack of clean drinking water and psychological problems.