Writing an article

You’re sure to be asked to write an article at some time during your course or for your exams. It might be a piece of writing that needs to persuade, argue and inform, for example. Above all, though, being an article, it will need to be interesting and lively.

Here are some typical questions:

Write an informative / persuasive article for…
…your local newspaper / a teenage magazine / your school magazine / a travel guide

on the topic of…
…adventure holidays / the benefits of exercise / keeping a pet / eating healthily / cycling to school.

WHAT IS THE EXAMINER LOOKING FOR?

In an article written for the exam, technical accuracy is often worth many marks so spelling and grammar are important. Marks are also awarded according to the how well your writing shows that you have considered the following key aspects:

AUDIENCE
This is far more important to the marks you will receive than most students realise. The examiner will be looking closely for evidence that you have considered your audience in your writing.

· What style of language will suit the type of reader you are writing for?

· Would a formal style be best? Or a more informal – even chatty style?

· You will certainly need to capture and hold your reader’s attention and this means being lively and interesting – most especially when you begin writing (a flat sounding… y-a-w-n …opening to any article is a sure mark loser!).

The chances are you will need to adopt a rather formal style but many modern newspaper and magazine articles often intersperse chatty, informal features to soften the formality and create a rather conversational tone; in magazines, it’s sometimes almost as if the article were one half of a conversation between a friend and his or her slightly older, rather wiser friend.

PURPOSE
What style of writing will achieve the aims of your article? Are you writing to persuade, inform or explain? The Englishbiz pages on these kinds of writing should help.

GENRE
What style and form (i.e. format) of writing would satisfy the genre conventions you need to follow?

* Think what you would expect to see and read in such an article: catchy or witty headlines – maybe a pun (i.e. a witty play on words), subheadings to aid clarity and reading, use of bullet points, lists, images, tables, etc.

* Would the writing need to be very lively, even chatty or perhaps much more formal – perhaps a mixture of the two styles (which is an increasingly common aspect of the style of articles these days)?

CONTEXT

* Where and in what situation is the article likely to be read and understood?

* What language choices will help here?

* What tone of voice needs be adopted to suit such a context?

Often an article is not read ‘in depth’ and at a time when full concentration is possible, so… a catchy lively style which does not demand too much of your reader and which follows a clear and logical structure is almost certain to be a good choice for many articles.

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