Aggressive contents(!)

Children these days spend a lot of time using interactive media which increases their exposure to aggressive contents.

It’s difficult to imagine contents behaving aggressively:

aggressive contents

Take a look at some examples of sentences using content (uncountable) and contents (plural countable). Remember that when you’re talking about something that can be countable or uncountable, and if you are writing in general terms about that thing, then you should use the uncountable form.

  • Children these days spend a lot of time using interactive media which increases their exposure to aggressive content.

Half-baked comparison

Some Asians have less difficulty in intercultural communication.

Indonesian flag If your reader speaks Indonesian he will understand that you’re translating kurang. Other readers, however, will begin to ask themselves:

Is he comparing Asians with some other group of people?
Which people?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of difficulty?
Which kind?

Is he comparing difficulty in intercultural communication with some other kind of communication?
Which kind?

What is he comparing?!

If you’re an Indonesian translating kurang then you’re probably not comparing anything. You’re simply saying:

  • Some Asians find intercultural communication easy.

As a general rule, when you use comparative adjectives, include the thing or things that you’re comparing in the same sentence. If you’re not comparing things, then don’t use a comparative adjective.

Today shit happens/is happening!

Today, with the introduction of information technology, life becomes more complex.

Here you use a time expression – today – in order to provide your reader with time context, or a time frame. Unfortunately your verb and your time expression do not match.

Today can mean literally ‘today’, so if today is Thursday then today means Thursday. But today can also mean other things. In academic papers today often refers more generally to time around now.

Time around now began at some point in the past and is likely to continue until some point in the future. Exactly how far into the past and how far into the future does time around now extend? Well that depends on the topic. Since ‘information technology’ implies quite recent innovations, then we’re probably thinking – in this example – of a roughly twenty year period with ‘now’ somewhere in the middle.

Time around now can also refer to a recently new, more permanent condition, that may not be likely to change, at least not for a long time.

Depending on which verb tense we choose, we can communicate either new, permanent condition OR continuous action.

Since information technology is changing continuously – i.e. becoming more complex all the time – then we need present continuous tense.

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, life is becoming more complex.

Indonesian flag ‘Become’ always implies a change, unlike the Indonesian ‘menjadi’, which can communicate a permanent state: “Siti bilang bahwa rumahtangganya tidak bahagia, karena suami tak pernah memberikan nafkah batin yang menjadi haknya.”

If we want to describe a more permanent state in English, then present simple tense is used:

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, people communicate more easily than they used to.

Remember that state verbs are never used in continuous form:

Today, with the introduction of information technology, people prefer to send emails rather than write letters.

There’s a time and a place for everything

In the last 10 years there is an increase in aquaculture.

Context is important. Context is generally about time and place. If you want to contextualise time then you need to communicate meanings such as:

  • time around now
  • time up to and including now
  • past and finished time
  • past unfinished time
  • future time related to the present
  • etc.

Time context is achieved using carefully chosen verb tenses and time expressions. In the sentence above, “in the last 10 years” is a time expression that carries the meaning time up to and including now. In this case the correct tense is present perfect:

  • In the last 10 years there has been an increase in aquaculture.

Create time context using verb tenses and time expressions. Make sure your verb tenses and time expressions match!

It’s difficult to adjust my schedule, sorry.

Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I will meet my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

These days this kind of meeting is difficult to re-schedule. Academic staff are increasingly busy and the time allowed for consultation increasingly short. If you try to change the time you may lose the opportunity altogether. This plan is fixed. You may have written it down in a diary. if you only made a mental note then that note is burned into your subconscious. It’s an important meeting. In this case you need:

  • Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I’m meeting my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

I know, the meeting is due to take place in the future, but when a plan is difficult to change use present continuous tense, especially when you’re excusing yourself from some other offer.

Sorry but I have to go now. I’m teaching a class in 10 minutes!

Fighting crime(s)

The government need to make more of an effort to fight crimes.

Crime can be countable or uncountable, and as with other nouns that behave like this, the uncountable form has a more general meaning and the countable more specific.

Another way to look at this is to notice that fight and crime (without ‘s’) collocate strongly:

  • The government need to make more of an effort to fight crime.

Try googling fight crime and fight crimes. Which is more common? What are the differences in meaning? 

It will likely blah!

Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it will likely to decline slightly.

Another collocation problem. Use one of the following instead and never mind why. Just do it.

  • Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it is likely to decline slightly.
  • Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it will most likely decline slightly.

And make sure you complete the structure with a verb:

  • s.th. / s.o. + is likely to + V1
  • s.th. / s.o. will most likely + V1

Having the right to rights

The principle of the social services is that people have rights to live happily and without discrimination.

I know, I know. You mention more than one right. Normally your teacher would be yelling at you to add an ‘s’. But this is a vocabulary/collocation issue.

  • The principle of the social services is that people have the right to live happily and without discrimination.

Indonesian flag You can think of it as a phrasal verb (Indonesians will be translating berhak untuk..). Sometimes it’s have the right to + V1. Sometimes have a right to + V1. 

Try googling “have the right to” and then “have rights to”. Which is more common? Which is the meaning that you want?

Raise the issue

The growth of cashless payments has raised the debatable issue whether this payment method is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Raise the issue
One problem here is that the issue is the growth of cashless payments, while one aspect of the issue is whether or not it is useful. Another problem is that an issue is normally raised by someone

It would be better to begin with someone raising the issue, and then focus on a specific aspect of the issue:

  • In a recent meeting the prime minister raised the issue of the growth of cashless payments. We discussed whether this payment method is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Note this structure: raise the issue + of + [name of issue]

Alternatively you might avoid doing any raising of issues and stick to more standard cause / effect:

  • The growth of cashless payments has caused much debate about whether this payment method is part of the problem or part of the solution.

Whatever you decide, note that in English raise collocates strongly with issue. Otherwise it goes together with things like ‘your hand’, ‘the Titanic’ and other items that need to be lifted from a lower position to a higher position. If this is not the meaning of raise that you are trying to communicate then your IELTS score for writing and speaking may go down, rather like the Titanic!

(The) Government(s)

Government must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation.

There are more communicative uses of the word government:

  1. Government (without ‘the’, without ‘s’)
  2. Governments (with ‘s’)
  3. The government (with ‘the’, without ‘s’)

1. Government (without ‘the’, without ‘s’)

Here you are talking about the abstract concept of government, which means the phenomenon whereby an elected minority govern the majority:

  • Government is a potentially effective tool to tackle the problem of unemployment.

2. Governments (without ‘the’, with ‘s’)

Here you are talking about all governments, in all countries, everywhere:

  • Governments must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation if they want to be competitive in the global market.

3. The government (with ‘the’, without ‘s’)

Here you are usually talking about your government, although you may be talking about a different but specific government that you have already mentioned elsewhere in your text:

  • The government must work hard to tackle the problem of inflation in Indonesia.

Indonesian flag Note to Indonesians..
Next time you want to translate pemerintah, consider which of these three meanings you want to communicate. If you choose the right one, your meaning will be clear and you will receive a high score for vocabulary (Lexical resource – LR) and a high score for coherence and cohesion (CC),  because it will be easier to understand what you are saying or writing.

Browse the IELTS public band descriptors.