You may not have realized that punctuation mistakes can lower both your Grammar and Cohesion/Coherence scores on IELTS Writing.

Listen in today for tips that will help you avoid the most common punctuation mistakes.

We often tell students not to focus on grammar.

This is because the other 3 scores are faster and easier to improve!

However, there are grammar tips that can help quickly boost your score.

For all the strategies you need, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

How do punctuation mistakes affect your score?

Even if you have amazing sentences, if you make too many punctuation mistakes, you can’t score higher than a 6.

The most common mistakes we see are with commas.

Commas are used differently in every language.

It is devastating when an essay packed with impressive, correct grammar is negatively affected by punctuation mistakes.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Student question #1: Brackets and parentheses

This first question was left as a comment on one of our YouTube videos.

Could you please tell me, why can’t we use brackets in the essay or report?

The main reason is that brackets and parentheses replace better grammar.

They replace prepositions and linking phrases that are necessary for your Cohesion/Coherence score.

Students will add numbers in Academic Task 1 inside parentheses.

Instead, these numbers should be included with correct prepositions.

  • Incorrect: Protein was markedly highest (20 pounds), while dairy was the most paltry (5 pounds).
  • Correct: Protein was markedly highest, with 20 pounds, while dairy was the most paltry, at 5 pounds.

Use this opportunity to show the Examiner you can use correct punctuation and prepositions!

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Student question #2: Comma splice

A 3 Keys student in our Facebook group asked for grammar correction on the following sentence:

I hope you are doing great, I saw you last week on the beach and I thought about coming to greet you and introduce myself to you, but you were…

This is a perfect example of a comma splice.

It is one of the most common punctuation mistakes made by students.

  • Comma splice: a comma used incorrectly to divide two independent clauses.

You can see that we have the independent clause, “I hope you are doing great.”

This needs to be its own sentence, as the thought doesn’t continue, so it doesn’t make sense to add a conjunction and create a complex sentence.

It is followed by the independent clause, “I saw you last week on the beach.”

Here, we can add a comma before the conjunction to make this a complex sentence.

I saw you last week on the beach, and I thought about coming to greet you and introduce myself to you, but you were…

How to know if sentences should be divided

A good rule of thumb is sentences should not be longer than 2 lines.

If they are, they are likely a run-on and need to be split up.

You need a full stop in there somewhere!

Additionally, if these two lines contain no conjunctions or punctuation such as commas or semicolons, something needs to be added to split the clauses.

Further information about this can be found in this episode.

In it, we share details about the only types of grammar structures you need to score 7+ on your IELTS essays:

  • Simple
  • Compound
  • Complex

You’ll get details about why and how to use punctuation for each type of sentence.

How to use conjunctive adverbs

This is a higher level way to divide sentences, instead of just the standard conjunctions

  • and
  • yet
  • but
  • so

These can begin a sentence.

If they divide clauses, you will need a semicolon before these.

  • however
  • therefore
  • nevertheless
  • hence
  • thus

Watching sports is not my cup of tea; however, during the Olympic games, I watched several races.

Conjunctive adverbs vs. conjunctions

The main difference is that a conjunctive adverbs can be moved around in a sentence.

Look at the following example, to see how we can move this conjunctive adverb to a different place in the sentence.

Watching sports, however, is not my cup of tea, but during the Olympic games, I watched several races.

This is not possible with regular conjunctions.

They must be used to divide clauses, and can’t be moved elsewhere.


Punctuation matters on the IELTS exam!

Todays tips will help boost your Grammar score for IELTS writing.

You may have a variety of grammar structures, but make too many punctuation errors.

This can keep you from scoring the 7+ you need!

Avoid comma splices and make sure you’re using commas correctly!

Additionally, use conjunctive adverbs as linking words and make sure you use them with the proper comma or semicolon.

For more tips, sign up today for our IELTS course, 3 Keys IELTS.

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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