Writing – The Process

Writing task 2 (an essay)

How should you write the essay? What is the process? Where do you start? What do you need to think about? Here’s a view of the process I go through when writing an IELTS essay.

Question:

Some people think that governments should provide subsidies to farmers to produce cheap healthy food. Others think that governments should tax companies producing unhealthy foods. Give your own opinion and examples.

  1. Read and understand the question. What is it asking? In this case it takes the form … what do you think; X (subsidy) or Y (taxes).

Your approach can be any of the following.:
X, not Y,
Y, not X,
both X and Y,
neither X nor Y. There are several possible points of view you can take

  1. Think about your position and think about what you know about the topic. My view on the topic is that governments should do both; subsidy and taxes. So my next step is to think about the content or arguments. I’m going to use a standard 4 paragraph essay. So I can have a body paragraph on X and one on Y.

NOTES

These notes are organized by paragraph. I am just brainstorming – I’m not worried about grammar or sentence structure. I start by thinking about the ideas for the body. These ideas may or may not be used in the final essay and they may or may not be used in the same order. 

BODY 1 – SUBSIDY – ideas
Food is a basic requirement / security issue – society needs farmers / farmers need to produce food despite bad weather (floods / droughts) and despite profit and loss. If they are not making profits, they won’t continue producing. The government should ensure their survival by bolstering income. In particular the govt can intervene and ensure the health of its citizens by providing incentives to grow cheap and healthy crops.

BODY 2– TAXES – ideas
health problems today – diabetes, obesity – in part caused by food choices. Cheaper to buy foods with little nutrition. Buying fresh fruit and vegetables – quite expensive. Fresh food prices vary according to whether a crop had a good or bad season. It’s cheaper to buy food at places like McDonalds and Hungry Jacks. Sugar-filled foods can also be amongst the cheapest. By taxing companies that produce unhealthy foods unhealthy foods will cost more to produce and prices will go up making them less affordable. This will cause sales to go down. The companies may react by changing their foods to healthier options which they will be able to bring to the market more cheaply than their unhealthy options.

  1. My next step is to start writing the essay. I need to be mindful of these things:
    • 250+ words
    • Don’t repeat exact phrases from the essay question.
    • Use some synonyms instead of repeating the same words. eg.
            Subsidies – financial incentives – bolstering income
      Taxes – penalties – disincentives
      Farmers – food producers
      Cheap healthy food – affordable nutritious food
      Unhealthy foods – foods that impact negatively on health

I may or may not use all of these options, but I need to be aware of them and I need to vary my language.

  • Use a mix of simple and complex sentences. (Complex sentences involve combining ideas using ‘while’ ‘on the other hand’ ‘meantime’ and so on.)
  • When I finish, and while writing, I need to be mindful of grammar and vocab.

I’m ready to begin writing. My intro should begin with a general or background statement and the last sentence should outline the main ideas of my body paragraphs.

INTRO
The new century has brought with it a marked rise in health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. The reasons for this are puzzling, but dietary issues are strongly implicated in the problem. Governments may be able to help reduce and manage these problems by taking a twofold approach. This essay will consider the steps of subsidising the growth of affordable, healthy produce on the one hand and of taxing companies involved in the production of unhealthy foods on the other hand.

4. As I was writing, I made an effort, NOT to use the same phrases as the question. My introduction has some general information to start. The last sentence outlines what the body paragraphs will be about. The length of the intro is 82 words – that’s a bit long, but it’s okay. There are 4 paragraphs – if each paragraph had 65 words, that would get me to 260 words which would be perfect. Generally intros and conclusions can be a bit shorter than 65. So I’m a bit over, but it’s not a disaster.

On to the first body paragraph. I need to begin with a topic sentence. The topic sentence outlines the content of the paragraph. I also need to use examples.

BODY 1
Crops are particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and this can be detrimental to the health of the society they service. A good season can mean a bumper crop, but a bad season can mean a crop is ruined. The boom or bust cycle experienced by farmers can mean that after a run of several years of particularly dry or wet conditions they may leave the land. Governments should provide financial assistance by way of subsidy to ensure that farming is a profitable enterprise and to encourage farmers to produce cheap, healthy products.

Again I’m a bit overlength at 95 words. On to the next body paragraph. Again I need a topic sentence and examples.

BODY 2
By taxing producers of fast food and sugary foods, the government can provide incentives for the companies to produce healthier options and can encourage consumers to opt for more nutritious foods. This will help to reduce and manage health problems such as diabetes and obesity which both negatively impact lives and are very costly to individuals and governments.

This time I’ve managed to keep the paragraph down to 58 words. Yay!

Now on to the conclusion. The job of the conclusion is to summarise the main idea/s of each body paragraph. The last sentence should come back to the question and provide a clear answer.

CONCLUSION
Diabetes and obesity can be tackled by encouraging consumption of fresh goods. By using the approach of providing financial incentives for farmers to grow cheap, fresh produce while at the same time penalising companies that continue to market foods with detrimental health consequences, governments can improve the overall health of citizens while at the same time reducing expenditure on health.

The whole essay is 294 words long. It is a bit overlength, but there is no penalty for that. The only issue is whether I can do it in the allotted time (I know that I can). So here’s the essay.

“Some people think that governments should provide subsidies to farmers to produce cheap healthy food. Others think that governments should tax companies producing unhealthy foods. Give your own opinion and examples.”

The new century has brought with it a marked rise in health conditions such as diabetes and obesity. The reasons for this are puzzling, but dietary issues are strongly implicated in the problem. Governments may be able to help reduce and manage these problems by taking a twofold approach. This essay will consider the steps of subsidising the growth of affordable, healthy produce on the one hand and of taxing companies involved in the production of unhealthy foods on the other hand.

Crops are particularly vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and this can be detrimental to the health of the society they service. A good season can mean a bumper crop, but a bad season can mean a crop is ruined. The boom or bust cycle experienced by farmers can mean that after a run of several years of particularly dry or wet conditions they may leave the land. Governments should provide financial assistance by way of subsidy to ensure that farming is a profitable enterprise and to encourage farmers to produce cheap, healthy products.

By taxing producers of fast food and sugary foods, the government can provide incentives for the companies to produce healthier options and can encourage consumers to opt for more nutritious foods. This will help to reduce and manage health problems such as diabetes and obesity which both negatively impact lives and are very costly to individuals and governments.

Diabetes and obesity can be tackled by encouraging consumption of fresh goods. By using the approach of providing financial incentives for farmers to grow cheap, fresh produce while at the same time penalising companies that continue to market foods with detrimental health consequences, governments can improve the overall health of citizens while at the same time reducing expenditure on health.

What did I learn by practicing with this essay? I already knew that I have a tendency to be overlength, and again I’m overlength, but not too much. I was reminded that although we are asked to give examples, there really isn’t much room for it in a 250 word essay. So that’s always a challenge. What I need to do is make sure that what I say is clear and examples or explanations are used where needed.

Some things to note:

  • 4 paragraphs.
  • Each body paragraph has one main idea
  • I considered the total length as I was writing

When I finished I used a checklist to ensure I met the following conditions:

CHECKLIST
  • Word length 250 or more
  • Clear paragraphs
  • All information is relevant to question and is on-topic
  • Synonyms have been used at times
  • There is a mix of simple and complex sentences
  • Grammar is okay

If you check these things each time you write a practice essay, it will become far more automatic. An additional benefit is that you will develop a greater awareness of the mistakes you are making. Knowing where your weakest areas are will help you to improve your skills.

Using a checklist such as this will also help you to concentrate on all four of the criteria that the examiners use to mark your writing.

As a reminder, these are the criteria (they are also covered in the checklist above). 

  • TASK ACHIEVEMENT – did you answer the question and do what was asked?
  • COHERENCE & COHESION – Did you have an introduction, clear body paragraphs and a conclusion? Did you use some complex sentences?
  • LEXICAL RESOURCES – Did you use a range of vocabulary, synonyms and some less common vocabulary? Did you use the vocab correctly?
  • GRAMMATICAL RANGE & ACCURACY – Did you get basic tenses right? Did you use a range of grammar? Was it largely correct?

For details, click here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s