Idiomatic Vocabulary for IELTS (6 of 25): Smoking is ‘cool’, right?

Cool smoker.jpg

In the previous posts, I made the case that idiomatic language is good for IELTS Speaking, but what about using idiomatic language in IELTS writing?

The answer is that it is good for IELTS Writing, but there are three rules you must follow.

Rule 1

It is important to ‘flag’ this using inverted commas (as I did with ‘flag’, which is an idiomatic and imprecise term). This shows the examiner that you are aware the term is idiomatic, but wish to convey meaning with the term, since it can actually be more concise and stylish to do so. For example,

Some people think smoking is ‘cool’.

It would actually be very difficult to define ‘cool’ using formal language (‘suave’, ‘debonair’, ‘sophisticated’). The idiomatic use does it far more efficiently. By the way, smoking might look ‘cool’ (as in the above picture), but there’s nothing ‘cool’ about the stink of cigarette smoke, premature ageing, and dying of cancer. Anhow, let’s move on to ….

Rule 2

Do not use idiomatic terms which are long, or have too many words. The previous example – ‘cool’ – was just one word – so it certainly passes this rule.

So, think one, or two, or maybe three, but no more. Being too long makes it too casual or perhaps too imprecise to be appropriate to formal writing.

Rule 3

Do not use idiomatic terms which are too dependent on a single individual attitude – for example, ‘my cup of tea’. Idiomatic language works better in formal writing when it can be applied more generally – for example, ‘Mr Right’ [‘Women generally still seek their ‘Mr Right’, but it may be only an idealistic illusion’).

Okay, now that we know all about idiomatic vocabulary, the next 19 posts will give examples for you to learn.

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