When writing a Task 2 essay, it is important to use a variety of linking words to connect your ideas coherently. While conjunctions such as but, and, and then are common and easy to use, to achieve a high score in IELTS writing, it is necessary to include more formal linking words. Let’s explore some of the most effective linking words and look at examples of how to use them correctly in your IELTS Writing Task 2 essays.
We use “but” to contrast two statements. We are simply saying there is a difference between them. I can say for example, “I like comedies but I don’t like horror films.”
To write better sentences, there are other linking words that you can use instead of “but” in Task 2. Here they are:
There are two things to remember when using linking words.
1. Where to place your linking word. Does it come in the middle and join the two parts of the sentence or can we put it right at the beginning of the sentence?
2. How to use punctuation. IELTS examiners will be looking very carefully at your punctuation. When do we need to use a comma (,), a semi-colon (;) or a full-stop (.)?
Let’s look at some examples by using this sample IELTS Writing Task 2 topic from Cambridge Practice Tests:
In some cultures, children are often told they can achieve anything if they try hard enough.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of giving children this message?
Look at this sample answer with but:
This message can inspire and motivate some children but it can also lead to disappointment and a sense of failure in others.
When we use although we usually put it at the beginning of the sentence:
Although this message can inspire and motivate some children, it can also lead to disappointment and a sense of failure in others.
Pay special attention to the comma in the middle that separates the two contrasting parts of the sentence.
Many people like to use the words however or nevertheless, which are very similar in meaning. However is a word for special occasions, it is used when we want to say something very important after the first point. Have a look at this example:
This message can inspire and motivate some children; however, it can also lead to disappointment and a sense of failure in others.
Notice that it comes between the two contrasting statements. It combines two sentences into one.
This message can inspire and motivate some children. However, it can also lead to disappointment and a sense of failure in others.
Nevertheless and also nonetheless can be used in place of however in exactly the same way. Let’s use a different example to show this:
Some children push themselves to the limit; nevertheless, they may not achieve their goals.
Another very useful linking word to show contrast is despite but the grammar of this word is different to the others. Usually in English, there is a pattern of Subject + Verb + Complement. For example, “Although (linking word) this message (subject) can inspire (verb) some children (complement)…”
Despite is followed by a different form. This is usually a gerund. Look at how it works:
Despite pushing themselves to the limits, some children may not achieve their goals.
We do not use a subject and verb after despite. In this example, it’s just the gerund “pushing”. The subject “some children” appears in the other part of the sentence after the comma.
We can also use in spite of instead of despite.
In spite of studying so hard, he did not achieve his goal.
There are times when we only need to present a simple contrast. In such cases, we can use:
These linking words are very useful when we want to present two points of view at the beginning of an IELTS Task 2 essay. Let’s look at some examples:
I believe that the main advantage of this message is that it helps children to think and act independently, while the main drawback is that it can lead to unnecessary levels of stress.
The linker while is in the middle. When you use it to contrast two ideas, don’t forget your comma. We can use whereas in exactly the same way.
There will be children who will benefit from this message, whereas others may find it intimidating and detrimental to their mental well-being.
With the other examples, we should pay careful attention to punctuation in the same way we do with however and nevertheless.
There will be children who will benefit from this message; on the other hand, others may find it intimidating and detrimental to their mental well-being.
Or, of course, we can begin a new sentence.
Some children will try their best to be high achievers. Conversely, there will always be those that react negatively to pressure.
Just to confirm, you can use on the other hand and conversely both ways, with a semicolon and with a full stop.
Now, let’s leave contrast and comparison to one side for a moment and think about some simple ways to add new information to what we have just written. Using and is the most common way to do this, but there are other synonyms we can use instead, such as:
Here’s an example.
Positive encouragement can help young people in developing their talents as well as in making them feel more self-confident.
Notice the gerund, making, after the linking words.
We can use along with, together with and besides in exactly the same way, although besides can also be used at the beginning of a new sentence.
Hard work does not necessarily bring children success. Besides, socialising and play are probably more important to their health and development.
We can add or join an additional idea or point to our argument. This is very important in Task 2 essays in particular where we should try to present several points in favour of or against the topic in question.
The simple way to do this is using also. But, let’s look at some other alternatives:
This time, let’s use a different Task 2 Essay topic.
In some countries, owning a home rather than renting one is very important for people.
Why might this be the case?
Do you think this is a positive or negative situation?
Look at this example. I want to make two important points.
Living in a property you own gives you a strong sense of stability and security. Moreover, property is an excellent investment for the future.
Linking two ideas like this in two sentences, with the second one beginning with either moreover or furthermore or in addition, with all three always followed by a comma, is an excellent way to present your ideas in a Task 2 essay.
If the second point you want to make is closely linked to the first or is a continuation of the same point, we can use likewise or similarly. Here’s an example.
In many countries, house prices are so high that it is almost impossible for young people to enter the property market. Similarly (Likewise), the cost of renting is prohibitive for this part of the population, especially in large cities.
Another type of linking words shows the sequence in time or in a process. I’m sure you know words like first, then, after, finally and expressions such as in the first place, first of all and so on.
But what about these? Both can replace the words “after or then”.
Families who default on their mortgage payments lose their properties and subsequently (thereafter) find it impossible to seek a bank loan ever again.
Finally, in today’s video, I’d like to share important linking words that either show the result or consequence of something or explain the cause. Let’s take consequences first. One good way to show this connection is to use as a result but there are other ways too. Here are some:
Homeowners do not need to worry about taking care of someone else's property and, as a result, allow them to make any desired changes freely.
Here I’m comparing those who buy their home to those who rent one. Here’s another one:
Many people take out large loans to help pay for their homes. As a consequence, they may end up being in debt to a bank for many years until they fully repay the loan.
See how we can either put these linking words at the beginning of a new sentence or as part of just one sentence after “and” and separated by commas before and after.
Exactly the same is true for both therefore and thus.
In some societies, home ownership is seen as a sign of social prestige. Therefore, it is something many people aspire to.
We can also use a semi-colon before therefore, like in this example.
In some societies, home ownership is seen as a sign of social prestige; therefore, it is something many people aspire to.
Let’s look at an example with thus:
Recent trends suggest that younger people prefer to spend their savings on travel and thus do not plan to buy property until much later in life.
If we want to explain what the cause of something is, the most common linking word is because. This linking word is placed in the middle of the sentence, like in our example:
Owning property is often seen as a good way to invest money because its value will increase over time.
To add variety to your writing, you can also use:
Both can come in the middle of the sentence or we can start a sentence with them, putting the cause first and the result after.
Since (As) property prices in city centres are practically unaffordable, prospective buyers are forced to look for cheaper homes in the suburbs.
One more point I want you all to pay very special attention to is that you can’t use because of and due to in exactly the same way as because. It is wrong to write for instance:
The linking words because of and due to are grammatically the same as despite and in spite of. We do not follow them with a subject and a verb. Look at this example:
Before the comma, no verb just an adjective and a noun (rising costs).
IELTS examiners will look at your uses of linking words very carefully when they read your essays. These linking words, which are described in the official IELTS writing test descriptors as cohesive devices, will help you get a Band 8 if you “manage all aspects of them well” and a Band 7 if you use a range of them “appropriately”. Moreover, good use of punctuation will help give you a Band 7 at least.
If you want to learn how to meet each Band 7+ requirement, write your essays more quickly and prepare for your exam in less time with less stress and achieve a higher score, check out my online courses.
If you’d like to see a full sample answer, I have one you can download the pdf right now: