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IETS Coherence and Cohesion score

Podcast – Improve your IELTS Coherence and Cohesion score by removing “people” from your essay

Improve your IELTS Coherence and Cohesion Score

One of the great things about working at My IELTS Classroom is that it gives me the chance to collaborate with a range of great highly-qualified teachers. Juliet has been working with us for over 3 years now and, as a teacher who specialises in Cambridge exams that are not IELTS, she always brings a fresh approach to her teaching. One particular point that Juliet has been focussing on recently in marking is encouraging students to move away from using “people” repeatedly in their essays. This is not something that I had considered before, but once she had pointed it out, I realised that doing this can make a massive difference to a student’s IELTS coherence and cohesion score.

So, today, join Nick and I as we go through three different ways that you can remove “people” from your sentences to make them more concise and academic.

Below, you can find a summary of the episode, which includes all of the links to useful materials and the times of each part of the discussion (so you can go directly to the part you want to listen to)¬†ūüöÄ

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Ways to remove “people” from your writing

Introduction – England lost the Euro2020 final (so Nick and I are sad!)¬†ūüŹīů†Āßů†ĀĘů†Ā•ů†Āģů†Āßů†ĀŅ

1. Use referencing

The most obvious way to remove “people” from a sentence is to use referencing. This means replacing the word “people” when it appears for a second or third time in a sentence with “they” (subject) or “them” (object).

  • it is much easier for people to interact with each other if people work in an open-plan office.¬†
  • it is much easier for people to interact with each other if they work in an open-plan office.¬†

However, this is not really the type of “people removing” that I want to focus on today. Any student who wants a 6.0 or higher for IELTS Coherence and Cohesion should be using simple referencing anyway. I am more interested in what we can do to remove the FIRST mention of “people” in this sentence!


Learn about the 5 most common IELTS Coherence and Cohesion errors (based on my experience as an examiner) in this blog post!

The words coherence and cohesion sit on a blue background. Some of the letters are falling down the page to signal that this lesson is about the 5 most common IELTS Coherence & Cohesion errors


2. Replace “people” with a more specific noun

Let’s look at that sentence again.

  • it is much easier for people to interact with each other if they work in an open-plan office.

A word like “people” literally means “anybody”, but in this sentence I think that we are focussing on a particular group of people: people who work in an office.¬†Can you think of a specific word or words that you can use to describe these people? I can think of three:

  • workers
  • colleagues
  • employees

Using ANY of these in the sentence would not only make it more specific, but it would also raise your score for Lexical Resource as it would be using more topic-specific vocabulary.

  • it is much easier for workers /¬†colleagues /¬†employees¬†to interact with each other if they work in an open-plan office.

Once you start thinking about using specific nouns to describe “people” in your essay, you will discover that there are many of these words. Here is a table with a few that I have thought of, but please add more in the comments if you can think of them!

PeopleWords to replace "people"
people (who travel)holidaymakers / tourists / travellers / backpackers
people (who drive a car)drivers
people (who own a house) house owners
people (who do a sport) athletes / sportsmen / sportswomen
people (who buy from shops) shoppers / consumers / customers
people (who visit restaurants) diners / customers / restaurant-goers
people (who stay in a hotel) guests
people (who study) students / pupils / schoolchildren / graduates
people (who read books)readers
people (who watch TV) viewers / the audience
people (who live in a city)urban residents / city-dwellers
people (who work together)employees / workers / office staff
people (who live in a country) citizens
people (who live in a foreign country)locals

Warning: Not all instances of “people” can be replaced

I just want to be clear at this point that not all instances of “people” can be replaced by a specific noun. This is very important! I don’t want you suddenly inventing phrases that do no exist in English. All we are looking for are words that are commonly used to described groups of people. Have a look at the following four sentences. In which one can “people” NOT be replaced? (you will find the answer in the podcast!)

  1. laws can make people more aware of the quality of the products that they buy
  2. for some people, making changes can be difficult, especially if they like having a routine
  3. when people visit a country, they should be mindful of the local traditions
  4. the government should run campaigns to raise people’s awareness about obesity

3. Check if you need to use “people” at all in a sentence

Very often, students add “people” to a sentence even though it is not needed. Usually this is when it is totally obvious that it is people who are undertaking the action (and not dogs or aliens or trees, for example!) Look at these sentences. We can remove “people” and the meaning of the sentence remains clear.

  • the government should run campaigns to raise people‚Äôs awareness¬†about obesity
  • taking out a credit card can result in financial trouble for many people

In fact, I would argue that these sentences are vastly improved by removing “people” as they are now more concise and to the point!

Be careful Рthere are some verbs that always require an object! 

English has very strict rules about verb patterns. There are some verbs that are always followed by an object, so with those verbs you will need to keep “people” even if it is obvious that you are talking about humans! Verbs like this are:

  • allowHaving a¬†holiday¬†allows¬†people¬†to relax.
  • causeNot being able to find a job can cause some¬†people¬†to feel depressed.
  • enableA¬†degree¬†can enable people to get a well-paid job.
  • encourage –¬†Companies¬†can encourage¬†people¬†to exercise in their lunch hour.
  • forceHaving¬†rules will¬†force¬†people to start taking¬†recycling¬†more¬†seriously.
  • persuadeIt can be hard to¬†persuade¬†people¬†to¬†change¬†their¬†behaviour.
  • warn –¬†Governments should¬†warn people of the danger of eating fast food.

4. See if you can re-write the sentence to remove “people”

In the two sentences above, we could simple remove “people” directly from the sentence. However, in many cases it is not quite as simple as crossing “people” out. Very often, we will need to change the structure of our sentence so that it is grammatically correct with “people”.

There is no simple answer as to how you will do this, but the main three ways are¬†to change the sentence from active to passive,¬†to start your sentence with a gerund, or¬†to start your sentence with a noun phrase. Look at the following three sentences and see if you can remove “people” using one of these methods (again, answers in the podcast!):

  • I would argue that if people arrange everything in order, then homes are more relaxing places.
  • However, people throw away too many products instead of recycling them
  • Moreover, people‚Äôs wish to keep up with new fashion¬†trends can lead them to spending money that they do not have

I hope that you can see from this lesson that getting a high IELTS coherence and cohesion score is much more than just sticking some transition signals between sentences! Good writing is skill that takes time (and good guidance) to master. If you are looking for a school with the expertise to take your IELTS score to the next level, then take a look at courses we offer at www.myieltsclassroom.com

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