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TIPS FOR INTERMEDIATE ESL WRITERS TO CONSTRUCT SENTENCES WHICH CARRY STRAIGHTFORWARD IDEAS




What a straightforward idea? It is a sentence which carries a concrete idea which means that the idea in the sentence is presented clearly. Every word in the sentence can be understood with clarity; there is no need to explain, clarify or interpret any of the words. All words in the sentence do not carry any underlying or hidden meaning. The sentence which carries a straightforward idea is longer (e.g The Japanese boys play basketball after recess) than the one which carries a simple idea (e.g. The boys play basketball). Obviously, the sentence which carries a simple idea is shorter than the one which carries a straightforward idea. A sentence may also carry a complex idea such as this, “The boys were over the moon to be allowed to play basketball”. “Over the moon” requires interpretation or it carries a hidden meaning and because of that, the sentence carries a complex idea.


How can teachers coach their learners to construct sentences which carry straightforward ideas? This sharing may not be the best suggestion but it has been helping my own students to present straightforward ideas in their essays. What teachers can suggest to their students perhaps to make sure their sentences have at least three parts or sections. Make them realise a single sentence can be “compartmentalised” into a few parts. Since straightforward ideas are not conveyed through short sentences, the candidates should be given “tools” to lengthen their sentences.


There are a number of options to break a sentence into at least three parts. These could be the choices and definitely, ESL teachers may create or propose other own options:


· Subject + purpose + adjective

· Subject + verb + reason

· Subject 1 + subject 2 + verb

· Topic/subject + place/location + adjective + time

· Topic/subject + verb + adverb + purpose

· Cohesive device + Subject 1 + verb + subject 2

· Subject 1 + verb + subject 2 + reason


Simple terms like subject and purpose above are chosen to help school students understand the parts better. I avoid using linguistic jargons to describe the parts as the SPM 1119 paper does not test students’ understanding of linguistic terms. The followings are detailed examples of those parts or sections in sentences:






In essence, to construct a sentence which carries a straightforward idea, the sentence should have at least three parts. If the sentence has two parts, there is a possibility it will be short and only carry a simple idea. For example, “The food (Subject) is delicious (adjective). It may take some time for certain students to be familiar with the proposed structures shared above. However, if they are exposed to the structures early and they have sufficient practices, they will gradually be confident in constructing sentences which carry straightforward ideas.



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