IFI | Writing about Disadvantages

IDP Education

IELTS writing task 2 topics can sometimes require you to write about both the advantages and disadvantages of a particular idea or action. Let’s say you are asked to write down what you think are the advantages and disadvantages of running a family business. There certainly are advantages which we have dedicated a separate lesson to, so our only focus in this lesson will be learning the words and phrases needed to point out the disadvantages. Let’s start with a number of synonyms for the word “disadvantage.”

Drawback Downside 
Minus Demerit
Flaw Pitfall

Learning these synonyms would allow you to:

  1.  refer to as many disadvantages as you know about a topic
  2. not repeat the word “disadvantage” over and over again 

Now, we shall see examples of how they are used in a sentence.

  1. A drawback is that some family members might get roles and responsibilities in a business which they don’t have the skills for.
  2. One of the minuses of starting a family business is the risk of family conflicts.
  3. A flaw of family businesses is that family members personal and business lives would mix.
  4. Another downside of establishing a family business is the possible lack of punctuality.
  5. The demerits of a family business include establishing boundaries for family members and potential disrespect.
  6. An evident pitfall of starting a family business if choosing the wrong family members for the job.

It’s time now to make your sentences about disadvantages more complex. In order to do this, you have to start by saying whether there are MANY or A FEW disadvantages about the topic. This is how you should write about it:

Many Disadvantage Few Disadvantage

There is a multitude of downsides to . . .

Only a few downsides can be seen with . . . 

Important point

In IELTS writing, you are usually given topics which have more advantages than disadvantages about them. Therefore, you are more likely to use “only a few downsides can be seen with . . .” in your essay unless there really is a lot of disadvantages to mention. On the writing test, you’ll probably need to write:

  • Only a few downsides can be seen with working from home.

and writing the sentence below would make it difficult for you to provide enough supporting information.

  • There is a multitude of downsides to working from home.

It’s perfectly clear that “working from home” does not have many disadvantages.

Once you have started writing about the disadvantages, it is highly recommended that you CREATE AN ORDER based on how SERIOUS or MINOR those disadvantages are. Use the phrases in the following table to do this.

Serious Disadvantage Minor Disadvantage

A distinct drawback would be . . . 

Another demerit which isn’t too severe is . . .
One of the severe downsides has to be . . . . . . is a minor minus.
A grave disadvantage in . . . is . . . . . . has the slight disadvantage of . . .

 The best way to paint you the full picture is writing a paragraph, so here we go.

The disadvantages of marriage

People think differently in regards with the idea of marriage, but it appears that to most people, a distinct drawback of getting married is the restricted personal freedom. As well as that, a grave disadvantage in marriage is gradually becoming bored of each. There are also other downsides which aren’t too obvious or severe. Having to deal with the in-laws (= your wife’s or husband’s family) is a minor minus for a lot of people. Furthermore, Tying the knot (= getting married) has the slight disadvantage of the expenses of starting and supporting a family, but families without children are not troubled by this so much. 

Going back to the paragraph above, it’s plain to see that the serious disadvantages are mentioned first and the minor ones next. That’s the order which you should follow as well whatever the topic is. The smart art below clearly displays what the structure of a disadvantage paragraph is.


Important note

Even though you are writing about the disadvantages, there is no need to make them sound too serious or worse than they actually are. IELTS writing scores can be reduced for exaggerating an issue or problem so stay away from overstating a disadvantage. You’re advised against writing sentences like the examples below:

  • A very serious disadvantage of marriage is the constant fighting and arguments at home.
  • Marriage has a distinct drawback which is losing all of your personal freedom.
  • Having to raise children is a minus of marriage which makes life impossible to enjoy.

There’s some truth to the statements above, but what makes them difficult to support is their extremeness. In other words, stating highly controversial ideas should be avoided when discussing disadvantages. 

Don’t stop now!

The practice exercises await. Turn to that section to see how far you have learnt about including disadvantages in IELTS writing. Check out the details here.

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