This might seem like a strange article for some, but I think it’s an important issue to address. It concerns variations on the phrase “With the development of technology…”
If this is something that you use in your IELTS essays, then I recommend you read this short article to find out why you should probably stop right now.
What is this all about?
It is very common in IELTS writing task 2 essays to see people use the phrase “With the development of technology…” It usually occurs in the first line and there are many variations:
- With the development of modern technology…
- With the development of science and technology…
- With the development of the economy…
- With the development of society…
People sometimes add other words:
- With the rapid development of…
- With the fast-paced development of…
You get the point. There are many more ways we could alter this expression and use it to begin an essay.
What’s the problem?
Technically, there is nothing wrong with any of these phrases, not in a grammatical sense at least. The problem is that they are grossly overused. In fact, an IELTS examiner in China might mark 100 essays and see this phrase appear at the start of 80 of them!
Again, you might think, “Well, what’s the problem?” After all, everyone will likely use certain common words in their IELTS essays, so is it a big deal?
IELTS is an English exam and you are expected to use your own words. You should not just copy words and phrases from textbooks or teachers that you see on the internet. If you begin your essay “With the development of technology…” then the examiner immediately knows that you aren’t thinking for yourself. You are attempting to copy a certain formula.
This shows a lack of originality and an inability to think properly.
When you use formulaic language, it is also possible that you might misuse it. When I taught in China, I often saw students attempt to cram “With the development of technology…” into every essay, even when there was no relation to technology!
For example, one of my students wrote:
With the development of technology, some people argue whether teachers or parents have a bigger role in educating children.
It doesn’t really make sense and it shows the examiner that this person lacks the ability to use basic logic. They are just copying set phrases in the hope that it will magically get them a better score.
A bigger issue
This phrase is incredibly common among Chinese IELTS candidates but there are other phrases and related problems all over the world. In India, many students are taught to use random big words plucked from a dictionary. Their teachers tell them that this will guarantee a band 8!
Of course, this is totally illogical. No language functions in this way, and this method will only serve to lower their score.
If you ever hear a teacher tell you some shortcut to success or imply that a certain word or phrase will earn you a high band score, then know that they are a liar or an idiot! I’m serious. This is a major issue and it costs people a great deal of time and money.
I have an article about other words and phrases that you should avoid and also this video covers the topic pretty thoroughly, with many examples:
Remember that IELTS is simply a test of your English skills and also sort of a basic thinking test. Just use your own words and ideas. Don’t try to repeat certain formulas or believe the idea that there is some magical word that can guarantee you a certain score. Anyone who says that is a fraud.
Then how should I start my essay?
I don’t want to suggest that there is some magical way to start your essay because any formula has its problems. Instead, treat each essay as an individual task and write a first sentence that is appropriate to it. Here’s a basic, visual guide:
You can also read my guide to writing a good introduction, which of course covers this whole issue.