Grammar for Process Diagrams – Part One

A process diagram contains a sequence of steps or stages. To describe a process, test-takers need to use language that creates an order of events (known as sequence language) and use a range of tenses (in active and passive voice) competently. 

This five-part series will look at several different techniques that test-takers can use to connect steps and stages across a process.

Basic Sequence language

Sequence language means words and phrases that provide an order of actions. It is vital that all process diagram essays contain a variety of this language. Read the sentences below.

The dough is rolled. The dough is cut into shapes. Meat is placed in the dough. 

These sentences are grammatically correct, but without sequence language they do not feel connected. Test-takers who write like this will receive very low scores for Coherence and Cohesion, which is 25% of the IELTS writing grade.

The easiest way to avoid this is to use simple sequence language, which can be simple ordering (first, second, then, next etc.). Although simple, this language should be used throughout a process diagram essay, together with more advanced techniques. However, try not to only use numbering, or repeat the same sequencer.

First the dough is rolled. Second the dough is cut into shapes. Third meat is placed in the dough. ✘
First the dough is rolled. Then the dough is cut into shapes. Then meat is placed in the dough. ✘
First the dough is rolled. Then the dough is cut into shapes. Next meat is placed in the dough. ✔︎

The table below gives a nice variety of basic sequencers to use in every process diagram essay.

Basic Sequencers

To beginThenFinally
InitiallyAfter thatLastly
To startSubsequentlyAt the end
At the beginningSecond / third etc. *To finish

*In British English these words are written ‘firstly, secondly etc.’

Now that the basics have been examined, it’s time to think about more advanced techniques. Part two looks at subordinate clauses to connect steps and stages.

More lessons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.