Men and women and work

This article from the Economist includes some nice vocabulary and structures for IELTS Task 1 writing. Click linked words and phrases for more information or head directly to the analysis below.

Women in England and Wales are having 1.9 children on average, fewer than their mothers who had 2.2 offspring, according to the Office for National Statistics. That’s a small decrease but the lowest level on record and continues the downward trend of the past few years. The decline is in part due to a growing number of women not having children, with one-fifth now childless. There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies. About 6% of women have a baby before their 20th birthday, again continuing a long-term downward trend. But “it’s not just childlessness,” said Emily Knipe of the Office for National Statistics. More and more women are having fewer babies. The data showed about one in 10 mothers today having four or more children, compared with one in eight of their mothers’ generation.
role reversal
Women are also having babies later. By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8. The ONS suggested this is because more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner. Ms Knipe said: “It’s not just a biological factor of people leaving it too late. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests people are choosing not to have children.”

Analysis

Trends

flag-of-indonesia The word ‘trend‘ is only used once, and even then it is used together with ‘downward‘! See this post for further discussion of ‘trend‘.

Although is used to contrast two trends at the same time. This is a good thing to do, if you can, in your IELTS Task 1 overview.

flag-of-indonesia Indonesians notice the contrasted items are separated with a comma without ‘but’ (akan tetapi).

  • Although female-dominated industries have suffered fewer job losses from globalisation and technological change, they also pay less.

Referencing and substitution

One way to avoid repetition in your writing is to refer to nouns using referencing words as substitutes (it, they, this, those, etc). using these will improve your score for coherence and cohesion (CC). Examples here include:
  • This form of segregation.. (= men and women pursue different lines of work)
  • ..those that have long employed women.. (those = ‘the fastest growing industries in America)
  • This does not mean.. (This = slow growth of sectors dominated by men)
  • ..they also pay less. (they = slow growth of sectors dominated by men)
  • ..the figure (= % of American doctors and lawyers who are women)
  • ..this process takes time (= changing male and female roles in the workplace)
  • At this rate.. (= the rate at which full gender equality is to be achieved)
flag-of-indonesia Notice that the pronoun ‘it’ is not used at all as a substitute! Read this post to find out why.

Vocabulary (Lexical Resource)

In IELTS terms there is some high-band vocabulary and interesting collocation:
  • pursue (v) + lines of work (n)
  • segregation (n) – in this case male / female
  • better off (adj) – comparative form of well-off (wealthy)
  • capture (v) + jobs (n)
  • mere (adj) – to emphasise a low figure
  • gender (adj) + parity (n) – sophisticated synonym for gender equality
  • the field – the work field (Make sure you establish a context before reducing a phrase like this!)

Tenses

Present simple is used for situations that are true all the time:
  • Men and women often pursue different lines of work.
  • etc.
Present perfect is used to talk about trends that began in the past and are still happening now:
  • ..many sectors…have grown much more slowly..
  • etc.
Will is used for prediction:
  • ..the field will not achieve gender parity for another 200 years.

Percentages

When a percentage is mentioned for the first time it is always followed by of + the whole. If you’re not sure what is meant by the whole, I suggest you read this.
  • In the 1960s, less than 10% of American doctors and lawyers were women.
  • Today over 60% of chefs and cooks are men.
  • ..a mere 10% of all nursing jobs.
If you’re preparing for IELTS Task 1, I strongly recommend that you read my other posts that deal with percentages.

Structures

The writer uses a participle clause to add information about a trend. In IELTS Task 1 this structure – comma + __ing – is often used to present the result(s) of a trend. For more information, see this post.
  • Today, women graduate from university at higher rates than men, putting them in a stronger position for many well-paid professional jobs that were once male-dominated.

Babies, trends, and past perfect

This story from the BBC features some useful language for IELTS candidates. Click on the highlighted words for separate analysis. Alternatively, jump straight to the summary analyisis at the bottom!


Women in England and Wales are having 1.9 children on average, fewer than their mothers who had 2.2 offspring, according to the Office for National Statistics.

That’s a small decrease but the lowest level on record and continues the downward trend of the past few years.

The decline is in part due to a growing number of women not having children, with one-fifth now childless.

There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies.

About 6% of women have a baby before their 20th birthday, again continuing a long-term downward trend.

But “it’s not just childlessness,” said Emily Knipe of the Office for National Statistics. More and more women are having fewer babies.

The data showed about one in 10 mothers today having four or more children, compared with one in eight of their mothers’ generation.

Women are also having babies later. By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8.

The ONS suggested this is because more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner.

Ms Knipe said: “It’s not just a biological factor of people leaving it too late. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests people are choosing not to have children.”

The data showed that the number of women having children in their teenage years, after peaking in the mid-20th Century, now matches figures for women born in the 1920s.

Imogen Stephens of Marie Stopes UK said it “shows that young people are taking better control of their fertility”.

“It is a big financial commitment to start a family and it is completely understandable that more women are choosing to complete their education, develop their careers and get on the housing ladder before having children.

“What is vital is that we support women’s choices to have children at the age that is right for them.”


Analysis

v/n collocation

  • (to) have children
  • (to) have offspring
  • ..continue (a) (upward/downward) trend
  • ..continues the downward trend of the past few years.
  • ..again continuing a long-term downward trend.

Noun form as sentence theme

  • The decline is in part due to..

Noun form of used rather than verb form

  • There has also been a fall in the number of teenage pregnancies.

Describing a trend without using the word trend

  • More and more women are having fewer babies.
  • Women are also having babies later.
  • ..more women are going into higher education and are also delaying finding a partner.
  • ..people are choosing not to have children.
  • ..more women are choosing to complete their education, develop their careers and get on the housing ladder before having children.

By + time expression

  • By their 30th birthdays, women today are likely to have had one child. Their mothers were likely to have had 1.8.

By their 30th birthdays is a future time expression for ‘women today’ (= future perfect), and a past time expression for ‘their mothers’ (= past perfect).

For more information about past perfect click the past perfect tag.

Postmodified nouns

Statistics noun postmodified with a preposition phrase, __ing, and another preposition phrase:

  • ..the number of women having children in their teenage years

Noun post-modified with V3 – without the Indonesian ‘yang’ (the English ‘that’!).

  • ..women born in the 1920s.

For more information about the Indonesian ‘yang’, see this post.

More than one ‘most’!

Over-grazing is one of the most significant factor in environmental land degradation.

I know what you’re thinking – one means singular. Well, true, but that’s ‘over-grazing’ – even though it’s uncountable, the subject ‘over-grazing’ is a single thing. In this structure, one of + superlative adjective is telling us about ‘factors’, not about ‘over-grazing’.

I know what else you’re thinking – surely there is only one most?! Well, not always! When it comes to land degradation there is more than one ‘most significant factor’. For example, ‘deforestation’ is another ‘most significant factor’, and so ‘factor’ needs to be plural:

Over-grazing is one of the most significant factors in environmental land degradation.

Repeat after me..

one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
one of + superlative + plural countable noun
(repeat until you get tired..)

More examples using ‘most’ here.

Remember to be passive

As the tap handle rotated the spindle moves up inside the tap body.

flag-of-indonesia Bahasa Indonesia has a special construction for passives – ‘di‘ + verb: diputar. Maybe that’s why Indonesians writing in English find it easy to produce the passive form of the verb, adding ‘ed‘ to regular verbs as a substitute for their own ‘di‘. However they often forget to include ‘to be’ in the English passive structure:

  • As the tap handle is rotated the spindle moves up inside the tap body.

If you want a good score for GRA in IELTS writing, don’t forget ‘to be’ in passives. Here’s a little rhyme to aid memory:

  • to be + V3, the English form of ‘Di’, to be + V3, the English form of ‘Di’!

Blah changed, resulting in blah!

Sales increased dramatically reached 2,000 in July.

So, this is obviously bad grammar because there are 2 verbs in the same clause: increased and reached. There are three possible corrections:

1. Separate sentences

The easiest solution would be to put verbs increased and reached into separate sentences:

  • Sales increased dramatically. They reached 2,000 in July.

2. Conjunction

Another approach would be to use comma + conjunction (‘and’) to join two clauses together:

  • Sales increased dramatically, and reached 2,000 in July.

3. Comma + __ing

A third solution is to use comma + ___ing.

  • Sales increased dramatically, reaching 2,000 in July.

This last example is little used by lower level IELTS candidates but very common in native speaker speaking and writing, particularly when describing statistical changes over time. It’s especially useful when you want to include the result of a series of changes:

  • Sales increased dramatically but then remained steady, finishing at 10,000 at the end of the period.

Ultimately you want to aim for variety in your grammar, and so aim to use a mix of all three structures in your writing.

Fancy a challenge?

Take a look at the highlighted area of the graph below. Can you describe what’s happening using the three structures that I have demonstrated? Answers in the comments box below!

comma __ing exercise

Trends can make you ill

Australians who disagreed or remained neutral had an upward trend during the period.

I mentioned in a previous post that ‘trend’ is a dangerous word and perhaps best avoided because:

  1. it is usually redundant
  2. it carries with it unusual collocation that does not translate easily from other languages

The wrong collocation can cause meaning to change. In the example above, ‘upward trend‘ sounds like some kind of illness, which is something that we ‘have’, for example “I had a cold last week.” We might imagine the following conversation:

You: Sorry I missed our appointment yesterday. I had an upward trend.
Your friend: Sorry to hear that. I hope you’re feeling better!

trend

Once again, it’s possible, and usually preferable to describe a trend without using the word ‘trend‘. Avoid it!

@guruEAP

In(the) first place

In the first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation.

Not a terrible error – we know what you mean! But still, it’s important to understand the distinction between ‘in first place’ and ‘in the first place’.

In IELTS Task 1 writing we often find ourselves ranking items as follows:

  • In first place is over-grazing, which caused 35% of land degradation. Meanwhile in second place, 20% of land degradation was caused by deforestation.

But what if you’re listing rather than ranking? Let’s say, for example, that you’re listing supports for an argument. In this case you need ‘in the first place’, ‘in the second place’, etc.:

  • Mr Jones cannot be the one who stole your car. In the first place he was in a different city when the car was stolen, and secondly he is blind!

In this case ‘in the first place‘ means ‘as the first consideration‘. It’s often used to introduce reasons that should be obvious but may need to be emphasised, as in the above example. Notice that it is unusual to continue ‘in the second place‘, ‘in the third place‘, etc. Better to switch to ‘secondly‘, ‘thirdly‘, and so on.

To sum up..

  • In first place..’ is useful in Task 1 writing (for ranking)
  • In the first place..’ is useful in Task 2 writing (for emphasising reasons)

TIP! If you’re doing this in IELTS Speaking, it can sometimes help you to structure an argument if you count off items using your fingers, perhaps under the table!

firstsecondthird

@guruEAP

PS. See also my earlier post dealing with ‘in second place’ instead of ‘second winner’ (which does NOT mean ‘in second place’!).

The widespread misuse of ‘widespread’

The widespread of this crime can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

Widespread’ is an adjective, not a noun. Nouns used in this context might include  ‘incidence’, or indeed ‘spread’. These we might classify as ‘statistics nouns’, which are particularly useful in IELTS Task 1 writing.

Widespread’ as complement:

  • This crime is widespread. However, its spread can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

Widespread’ as noun modifier:

  • Widespread criminality can be reduced by imposing stricter penalties.

And if you’re interested in ‘spreading‘ and need a laugh, check out ‘manspreading‘!

@guruEAP