(i) Read and understand texts, selecting material appropriate to purpose, collating from different sources and making comparisons and cross references as appropriate;
(ii) Develop and sustain interpretations of writers’ ideas and perspectives;
(iii) Explain and evaluate how writers use linguistic, grammatical, structural and presentational features to engage and influence the reader.
Key Things to Consider
- The heading or title - this should help you decide on the main subject of the text
- Audience - who is the text aimed at (eg men or women, adult or youth)?
- Purpose - what is the text trying to do (eg inform, persuade, argue or advise)?
- Vocabulary - the kinds of words (nouns) used to give information will also indicate a particular subject. For example, an article about global warming will include words such as "environmentalist, carbon footprint, greenhouse gasses and sustainability".
- Attitude - adjectives and intensifiers should tell you what the writer thinks about their subject. Look for words like "totally brilliant, absolutely ridiculous, complete nonsense, straight forward common sense".
- Argument - the author will use points to develop their argument. Look for discourse markers - phrases such as "on the contrary, what is more, and another thing, as a result, in conclusion".
Remember GAP: Genre/Audience/Purpose
Answering these questions briefly will help:
- What kind of text is it? and What do I expect it to contain/be about?
- Do I need to read it closely or should I skim it for basic meaning or scan it to
- ocate the relevant part?
- Words-Why has the writer used particular words?
- Sentence-Why is the writer using long/short sentences?
- Paragraphs-What is the topic sentence of this paragraph? If I had to give this paragraph a title, what would it be?
- Meaning of the whole text- Are there any connectives that show me how ideas are linked in this text?-Does this piece present itself in the usual way for a text of this type or does it do things differently?-What other writing does it remind me of, or contrast with?-Is there any other meaning ‘between the lines’ that I have to work out for myself?-What is the character thinking or feeling? What would I think/feel if I were them?-What does the writer want me to think at this point?
- Evaluation-Why do I like/dislike what I am reading?-Do I agree with the writer’s point of view?
Identifying Writing Techniques
- Words: are they simple or difficult, formal or informal?
- Sentences: are they short or long?
- Paragraphs: are they short or long? Are they all the same length, or do some stand out for emphasis or dramatic effect?
- Personal pronouns: does the text use the personal pronoun 'you' or 'we' to address the reader? Using 'we' is a technique the text could use to create a close personal relationship.
- Persuasive techniques: does the writer use rhetorical questions (eg "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a billionaire?"), groups of three (eg "The good, the bad and the ugly...") or alliteration (eg "sizzling sunshine")? These can all be used to persuade the reader to feel a certain way about something.
- Discourse markers: does the writer use casual, chatty discourse markers (eg "anyway, you know what I mean, so") or more formal ones (eg "nevertheless, therefore, however")?
- Emotive vocabulary: are the words colourful (eg "extraordinary, teeming, resplendent") or plain (eg "good, full of, organised").
- Exclamations: does the writing sound angry and argumentative (eg "This must stop..." or "We must think again...") or is the writing more thoughtful (eg "probably, it might be, on the other hand").
- Facts and opinions: does the text use lots of facts and statistics or are there more opinions? Is the text intended to inform or to persuade, review and entertain?
Non Fiction Writers methods to create effects
- They use language that sounds convincing - this is called rhetorical language.
- They use language that affects your emotions - this is called emotive language.
- The use of the personal pronoun 'you' is called the direct address pronoun: it can be used to add a personal touch and engages the reader; it sounds friendly, inviting and even confiding (e.g. 'Have faith in us; you just know it makes sense')
- When used as an inclusive pronoun, 'we' can make the reader seem to be a part of a special group of people (e.g. 'We're all in this together, aren't we?') ; as an exclusive pronoun it can separate groups of people (e.g. 'We're working for a better world. Will you help?').
- The use of interesting, short anecdotes adds interest and engages the reader's attention (e.g. 'Let me tell you about John, a poor beggar in Ethiopia...').
- The use of hyperbole can create a persuasive impact (e.g. 'This earth-shattering event will blow your mind away!').
- Description creates imagery that can be very engaging and involving, even persuasive. It can be made very vivid and used to create mood and emotion (e.g. 'Like a sliver of shiny steel, the white crescent moon cut a gash in the heavens'). Look for the use of effective metaphors, similes and emotive language.
Non Fiction Writers methods to create effects
- Facts and opinions are used to support a writer's point of view or argument but you must be able to separate worthwhile from biased facts and facts from factually stated opinions, always recognising how reasonable and effective the evidence really is.
- Rhetorical questions imply their own answer engage and help to persuade the reader. They help make a point in a more powerful and emotional way.
- Repetition and lists of three can be effective persuasive devices.
- Personal viewpoint or 'direct address' (when I... / We... speaks to you... ) can create a friendly tone and involve the reader.
- Structure allows an effective build-up of a persuasive series of points.
- Tone - a formal tone can add authority and sound authentic or sincere; an informal, or even conversational tone can add warmth and fun - it can be very persuasive, too.
- Quotations and evidence from expert sources are used to provide support and create added authority.
- Sentence style can be varied to add interest - and a very short sentence can add real impact.
Parts of the text to highlight
- The viewpoint -who is writing? Is the narrator biased?
- The audience (who it was written for) and purpose (why it was written).
- The content/ideas e.g. use of facts – “Belfast is a large city in Northern Ireland” and opinions – “Belfast has the best shops in Northern Ireland”.
- The structure - how it is put together. Look for: Introduction of topic/Development of argument/ideas, paragraph by paragraph. Look how this is done using examples, statistics, advice, expert opinion, details, anecdotes, interview, questions, etc./Conclusion or summary finishes the piece.
- The language - Look at how words are used to create certain effects e.g. outrage, persuasion, humour.
- The Language: Formal/Informal/Chatty/Complex/ serious/Alliterative/ descriptive
- ALWAYS comment on the language that has been used – this is the hardest part but will get you higher grades because it is a challenge. Read the text thinking about the choice of words – look out for: similes/ metaphors/ alliteration/ catchphrases. Think about the tone of the words chosen; are they positive or negative?
- Look for adjectives – descriptive words. Are they over the top? Are they vivid? Do they make things come to life? Or is the language mostly factual and informative?
Do's and Dont's
- exploit the detail of the passage
- use the bullet points to focus their responses
- appreciate aspects of linguistic devices. For example
- the impact of the sentence length
- the use of capital letters for dramatic effect
- the use of exclamation marks
- Show how events have developed through the text
- comment on and appreciating the writer’s style
- recognise and comment on the humour in the text
- comment on techniques such as alliteration/onomatopoeia etc
- retell events in the text
- write an unstructured response
- write basic and straightforward comments
- simply list some words, with little or no understanding
- fail to provide examples from text to support statements
Style describes the ways that the author uses words — the author's word choice, sentence structure, figurative language, and sentence arrangement all work together to establish mood, images, and meaning in the text. Style describes how the author describes events, objects, and ideas.
Informal -"Nothing like that ever happened," Tony replied.
Formal-"With great fortune, that happenstance did not become a reality," Tony stated.
Journalistic-"It did not happen," Tony said.
Archaic-"Verily, it was a circumstance, to be noted, that appeared not to so much have been a reality as to have evolved as a thing that had not yet come to be," Tony impelled.
Extra things to comment on
- Sentence-structure/length: simple, compound, complex.
- Punctuation: excessive use of commas or semi-colons for pauses; exclamation or question marks, especially rhetorical ones, to provoke thought.
- Typescript: italics, change of font, capitalisation.
- Voice: first and third are the most common- I, me, my; he, she, they..or a name; second person is possible- you, singular or plural.
- Use of dialogue: look at ‘said’ words that suggest how the speaker is feeling- eg: ‘Stop it!’ he snarled; ‘Stop it!’ she pleaded.
- Detailed description: especially use of adjectives, adverbs or more general evocation of the senses.
- Use of vocabulary: simple/straightforward, complex, academic, jargon- ie vocabulary associated with a specific subject or group: anaesthetic, drip(medical); mortgage, life assurance(estate agents or bank managers); compost, bulbs(horticulture).
- Standard (formal) or non-standard language: slang, colloquial- ordinary or familiar conversation- ‘see you later!
- Use of paragraphing: how is this related to structure? How does this help develop the line of argument?
Extra things to comment on
- Grammar: use of verbs, prepositions, adverbs, adjectives, connectives, participles- eg: going, gone; being, been. Consider too use of active/ passive: the man walked (active); they were seen (passive).
- Use of tense: present, past, future, in particular. If this changes, why has this been done: what is the effect?
- Syntax: arrangement of words in a sentence, sometimes inverted for emphasis- eg: Rough was the weather that night; If I were to tell you my secret, you’d faint!
- Literary/ figurative techniques: exactly the same as for an analysis of literature. There are obviously lots of these, but familiarise yourself with: simile, metaphor, alliteration, sibilance, pun, personification, onomatopoeia, assonance, hyperbole- as the principal ones!
- Tone/mood: this is of the writer! Is this persuasive, angry, sarcastic, appreciative, sad, happy etc? How is this mood conveyed? Does the mood change- and if so why? If a passage is particularly amusing, what sort of humour is it? Eg: ironic, situational, straight, black?
The passage you will be asked to analyse will be a non-fiction or media text and it is useful to decide the category of writing this falls into, for either of the above, before you start writing. This will dictate its audience and purpose to a large degree and the kind of language used.
- Narrative: description of events, anecdotal, possibly telling part of a story.
- Autobiography: extracts from someone’s life-story, told by that person, sometimes in diary, journal or newspaper format.
- Biography: extracts from someone’s life-story told by someone else on their behalf- or several people.
- Reportage: literally reporting events or experiences or an opinion on an incident(s), eg: newspapers, magazines, diary, letters etc.
- Speech: public address to a given audience on a set topic, universal issue.
There is often overlap between genres and a passage might have features of two or three, so do not get too prescriptive; simply consider ‘the best fit!’ You do not have to define the genre necessarily but it is a good idea to think about the format before you start as its features will influence the style overall.