While preparing for IELTS Academic, I was practicing Writing Task 1.
In the task it is said:

Below is a map of the city of Brandfield. ...

Commonly, the first sentence of an essay should rephrase the task, so I came up with:

The map presents a sketchy scheme of ...

By sketchy I mean something that contains few details, as according to Cambridge definition.

But I'm afraid that sketchy is not the appropriate word for the formal writing, and I am certainly sure that IELTS Academic essays should be formal.

Research before asking:
1. Google responds to "sketchy meaning" with 2 slang dictionaries out of 3 top results.
2. In 4 out of 5 first not slang dictionaries that Google gave (Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Cambridge, The free dictionary, Macmillan) the word sketchy has an informal meaning among others. 3. However, in SkELL there are 126 entries of sketchy in British National Corpus.

The question: Is this appropriate to use sketchy in this case?

  • sketchy will generally be taken to imply a negative connotation
    – user13267
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 11:02
  • Just say The map outlines [whatever it presents a sketchy picture of] and move on. Not everyone will even recognise the relatively modern extended figurative use (questionable, iffy, immoral, etc.), but that definitely wouldn't be desirable in a formal context, so it's best to play safe and not use the word at all, even if all you want it to mean is the straightforward outlined without much detail, as a sketch sense. Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


"sketchy" for me has the same connotation as "dodgy" - a slang term that means that something or someone is of a questionable nature - for example, a "sketchy neighbourhood" would not be a place one would want to live. Slang or not, the way in which you are using it doesn't seem to fit the context - to my ear at least.

I'm sure there are many alternative ways of phrasing this, but seeing that you are describing what the map depicts, and the map is only a rough draft, the phrase "The map presents a rough outline of..." seems more fitting, and less entrenched in slang.

  • I think the meaning he was going for is more like the one used in the phrase "the details are a bit sketchy at the moment", meaning not particularly thought-out. But this is not a meaning that comes naturally in all contexts, and the meaning of "dodgy" is one that I would jump to in the context OP used it in, but I can't articulate why. In either case, I would expect to see them used in informal environments rather than an essay. Rough outline is definitely better for this context, IMHO.
    – Muzer
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 14:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .