Week 5

POLISHING YOUR WRITING: Variety is the spice of life, and of writing!

The golden rule in writing is K.I.S.S. → Keep It Simple to Succeed!

This rule is useful and relevant for all three parts of the TOEIC writing test. It is better to use language and structures that you are familiar with, and use them correctly, than to use vocabulary you don’t really understand or complex phrases that become awkward. Being simple and direct in your writing will help ensure success on the TOEIC.


With that being said, however, it is almost just as important to add variety to your writing. Multiple repetition of words or using the same length of sentences over and over makes your writing seem immature, unpolished or deficient. The key is to be simple and direct while at the same time demonstrating your ability to use a range of vocabulary and structure. If you find that you are overusing a word, look it up in the thesaurus and try a synonym. Learn to express similar thoughts in different ways. Read the following short paragraph for example:

Some people think that watching television is a waste of time. I think that people who think that just don’t watch the right programs. I have a friend who really hates television. She thinks that it is bad for your brain. Her parents think the same way. They never let her watch. I think she is missing something very valuable by not watching TV.

Count how many times the word ‘think’ is used in this Paragraph? Notice how all the sentences are very similar in Length? This paragraph is boring and repetitive, and therefore has a weak impact on the Reader? Now read the paragraph again after making a few small changes:

Some people assert that watching television is a waste of time. I, on the other hand, believe that those people just don’t watch the right programs. I have a friend who really hates television and insists that it is bad for your brain. Her parents are of the same opinion and so they never allow her to watch. I, however, maintain that she is missing something very valuable by not watching TV.

Does this paragraph seem more eloquent and convincing? By employing synonyms for the word ‘think’ (assert, believe, insist, to be of the same opinion, maintain) and combining a few of the shorter sentences to create longer ones, this paragraph has become polished and persuasive. Well-chosen language lends credibility to whatever argument you are presenting.


One way to expand your vocabulary without much effort is to think not in terms of individual words, but word families. Most words can appear in three different forms: as verbs, nouns or adjectives. To avoid overusing words, mix it up by using all three forms of the same word at different times.


Here are some exercises you can do to practice using various forms of the same word. Fill in the blanks with all the words in each ‘word family’.

Example: deception deception deceive deceived
1 success      
2 measure      
3 recognition      
4 explore      
5 persuade      
6 comparison      
7 educate      
8 acceptance      
9 imagine      
10 construct      
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Example: deception deception deceive deceptive
1 success success success successful
2 measure measurement measure measurable
3 recognition recognition recognize recognizable
4 explain explanation explain explicble
5 persuade persuasion persuade persuaasive
6 comparison comparison compare comparable
7 educate education educate educational
8 acceptance acceptance accept acceptable
9 imagine imagination imagine imaginative
10 construct construction construct constructive
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Another simple technique to use for writing simply and directly is to make sure your verbs are in the active voice, rather than the passive voice. This means that the subject of your sentence is directly doing the action you are writing about, instead of the action being done to the subject. For example, the following is a passive voice sentence:

The brakes on the car were slammed and hitting the dog was avoided.

It is not as powerful as this active voice one:

She slammed on the car brakes to avoid hitting the dog.


Here are some exercises you can do to practice using the active voice. Change the following sentences to reflect ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ verb tenses.

  • Mistakes were made by everyone on the team.
  • The book was read by the entire tenth grade literature class.
  • Findings will be presented by Mark at the conference next Tuesday.
  • Korean is spoken very well by my friend Jessica.
  • In summertime, ice cream is enjoyed by people young and old.
  • Everyone on the team made mistakes.
  • The entire tenth grade literature class read the book.
  • Mark will present his findings at the conference next Tuesday.
  • My friend Jessica speaks Korean very well.
  • In summertime, people young and old enjoy ice cream.

Writing Topic

1. Picture Description
2. Email Response
From Bob Pilger
To Madeline Wright
Subject Cancelation of contract
Sent September 28th, 5:17 am
Dear Ms. Wright,

I regret to inform you that WOW! Recordings will no longer be able to honor the proposed recording deal that was arranged on July 15th, 2008. As per our contract, you were supposed to provide us with a sample of your vocals and instrumentals on or before July 31st. As this has not yet been accomplished, in spite of one verbal and two written requests from our project manager, we are canceling the contract and no longer wish to do business with you.

Bob Pilger,
WOW! Recordings Production Manager
Respond to this email as though you are Madeline Wright. Explain why you did not honor the contract, ask ONE question and make TWO requests.
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