IELTS Study Material
Writing
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Referencing & Substitution

Referencing and Substitution are Cohesive Devices, used to avoid repetition of words and phrases.

It is important to avoid repetition, as it can make writing scripts difficult and boring to read, resulting in the reader losing interest and concentration; then not finishing or becoming confused, often both! Thus the whole point of the writing, 'to convey information to the reader', is not achieved, and in an IELTS test, this will result in a reduced Coherence & Cohesion band score!

It should be noted that they are not two different activities. We replace a word or phrase (Substitution) with a more general word or phrase, which can be a pronoun if replacing a noun! However, this new word or phrase then refers to (References) the substituted word or phrase! So, when talking about either Referencing or Substitution, we are automatically including the other!

Note: For IELTS writing it is not necessary to know which substitution is a pronoun and which is not. Remember, it is a communication test and not a technical knowledge test!

Below are a few examples of Reference & Substitution words.

here

there

he

him

her

she

them

this

that

they

those

these

The top CC band scores require referencing to be used flexibly, and with ease. In lower band scores, it is evidenced, by inaccuracy, omission, or confusion.

‘I live in London, the capital of the UK. There are a large number of free museums here.’

In this text ‘here’ refers to ‘London’.

‘When I was a child, my parents often took me on holiday to Florida. We would always go there in July.’

In this text ‘there’ refers to ‘Florida’.

‘My father is always telling me that I should spend less time working. However, before retiring, he worked even harder than me!'

In this text ‘he’ refers to ‘father’.

‘I saw a man stealing a coat from the store. The police asked if I could identify him.’

In this text ‘him’ refers to ‘man’.

‘I saw a thief stealing a coat from the store. The police asked if I could identify him.’

In this text ‘him’ refers to ‘thief’.

‘My neighbour saw a woman take my car, but when asked by the police, he could not identify her.’

In this text ‘he’ refers to ‘neighbour’, and ‘her’ to ‘woman’.

If we don’t use referencing and just repeat the words, the text will normally be longer and more difficult to read; as we can see in the following example!

‘My neighbour saw a woman take my car, but when asked by the police, my neighbour could not identify the woman. When I originally spoke to my neighbour, my neighbour indicated that he did know the woman, so I assumed that my neighbour would be able tell the police the woman’s name!’


However, if we add Referencing and Substitution, it becomes much shorter, less repetitive and considerably more attractive to read! We can see this in the example below.

When we write something, normally, we want it to be read by the individual or individuals it is intended for! In a long repetitive text, this may not happen, as if the reader finds it boring, they may not complete it, or may not concentrate on it.

IELTS examiners are specifically looking for the use of referencing. Writing with poor or now referencing or substitution typically falls into band 4 or below for CC!


Try to become familiar with Referencing & Substitution, and use it in the IELTS test, but not repetitively. Also remember to use the other important IELTS writing Cohesive Devices, which are indicated below:

Sequencers

Introductory Markers

Linking Devices

Note: Reference and Substitution are specifically referred to in the CC band descriptor marking criteria, and not just included in cohesive devices. Thus, special attention should be made to ensure they are used!

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