© 2014 Steve Campsall
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write to analyse, review, comment or explain
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These four types of writing share many elements. Each one requires:
an analysis of a given topic, i.e. breaking a topic down sufficiently into its important parts;
a careful selection of the parts / information provided by the analysis to suit both the purpose of the writing and the audience's needs;
a style of writing that is suited to the audience, i.e. writing that is authoritative, clear, well-structured and lively.
Writing to Analyse
Analysing means breaking something down into its key parts. This is necessary to allow you to choose which key parts are relevant to the purpose of the writing and to the audience it will have.
Having selected the key parts, you then need to examine and assess their individual meaning or qualities to learn how they contribute to the whole.
A piece of analytical writing is
usually in the form of an argumentative essay. For detailed help on
this kind of essay,
A piece of analytical writing is usually in the form of an argumentative essay. For detailed help on this kind of essay, click here.
The audience for this kind of writing can be thought of as
This means you need to write in a formal manner using standard English.
The audience for this kind of writing can be thought of as your teacher. This means you need to write in a formal manner using standard English.
Writing to Review
Reviewing requires you, once again, to analyse/break down a given topic to uncover, consider and discuss its key parts. Reviews require writing that is lively and authoritative and which shows good judgment and careful consideration.
A review is usually written as a magazine or newspaper article with a media audience in mind, i.e. a general adult audience. It's usually subject is a film or TV programme.
Reviews require a friendly, lively yet also authoritative style. This requires some skill as it combines standard English with careful use of appropriate colloquial language.
To read some excellent film reviews that will show you this style in action, click here.
For more help with writing an article - click here.
Writing to Comment
Commenting is a more personal and opinionated style of writing; it is, therefore, more subjective than reviewing or explaining.
You might be asked to write a comment for a magazine or newspaper article or as a speech.
A commentary needs to be a well-considered personal assessment, one that remains focused tightly throughout on its topic, sticking with just this: it is your individual view of what you consider important about the topic.
Commentaries must never be a
mere summary or précis of their topic .
Writing to Explain
Explaining is about breaking a topic down into the kind of "parts" its audience/reader need to know to enable them to understand the topic better. This means giving either objective balanced factual information or subjective but balanced opinion.
Writing to explain needs, above all, to provide information that is useful and accessible to its audience. This means it needs to be lively, balanced, truthful and trustworthy.
A CAREFUL ANALYSIS WILL BE AT THE CORE OF THIS WRITING
As you read above, a key aspect of this kind of writing is the need to break down – that is, analyse – your topic so you can identify which key individual aspects are important, relevant or interesting for your audience’s needs.
It will be your ability to be able to sort out what is from what is not important that will determine, in part, the marks you are awarded.
Having sorted out what you believe is important, you then need to discuss and evaluate your topic at several levels:
As an introduction, you’ll need to cover the topic as a whole, concisely and with a ‘broad brush’, e.g. in a film review, mention its genre, its storyline, its director and its main stars.
You’ll need to discuss its key individual parts and comment on how these contribute to the effect of the whole.
You’ll need to discuss how the parts have been combined to create an effective overall structure.
In a review, you’ll need to be careful not to create a ‘spoiler’ by giving away too much of the plot and risk ruining the audience’s enjoyment.
...EQUALLY IMPORTANT IS A CLOSE AWARENESS OF AUDIENCE
Clearly, if your potential future readers were able to carry out this analysis and evaluation for themselves, there would be no need for you to do the job for them. This points to another key aspect of this writing: you need to show in the writing a close consideration of the needs of your audience. This means that what you write must be useful, interesting and clear.
Because your readers will be relying on what you say another key quality of this writing is its authoritative tone. You will need to sound convincing, knowledgeable and certain.
... AND BECAUSE STRUCTURE IS CRUCIAL, PLANNING IS A MUST!
A further important aspect of mark schemes is to award marks for the quality of the organisation of your writing. The examiner is looking for evidence that you have consciously shaped your writing to allow its meaning to unfold clearly, usefully and in an interesting way for your audience.
In explanations especially, releasing the details you give in a controlled way, in ‘bite size chunks’, will help your reader understand and enjoy reading about your topic.
One way to recognise the care and
risks of these kinds of writing is to reflect on your own past experiences
of reading reviews, explanations and comments:
If the answer is 'yes' to any of the above, you’ll begin to recognise the care needed with these kinds of writing. Of course, whoever made you feel this way probably didn’t aim set out to patronise, confuse, lose or bore you. They simply made poor judgments about their audience - that is, you, their reader or listener - and their style. Either that or they lacked the knowledge of how to explain, review or analyse their topic. Their writing was unsuccessful and would achieve a low grade.
When you write to explain, review or analyse, you should aim to avoid such common pitfalls. How clear your explanation or review needs to be for its audience, how detailed, how deep, in what tone and register - these are important aspects to consider.
GRADE -BOOSTING TIPS
MAKE SURE YOUR ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION IS CLEAR
Have you broken your topic down into its key segments and written about only these?
Is your writing lively as well as easy to understand and follow?
Have you shown from this analysis how the individual parts work together as a structure?
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CONSIDERED THE NEEDS OF YOUR AUDIENCE
Have you taken account of what or how much your reader already knows?
Have you given your readers what they need to know in a way that can be easily digested?
Have you tried to interest and involve your reader by writing in a lively style?
Have you organised your writing so its structure is effective, logical and clear?
Have you used, if appropriate, tables or and bullet points if these would help clarify a point?
If needed, have you used a technical vocabulary?
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SUPPORTED YOUR POINTS
Have you used examples and explained these and their effect and purpose in sufficient detail?
Have you drawn comparisons with other similar things to clarify points?
Have you drawn on similar events or used an anecdote to create a clear and lively piece of writing?
Have you given relevant facts, descriptions, examples or, if relevant, statistics?
An explanation of bullying might...
give key information about the topic
... mention one or two brief anecdotes to make your point more clearly and to gain interest
... include an analysis of the background to the bully's and the victim's situation
... explain the psychology of the bully and the victim
... classify different types of bullying
... reflect on why and how bullying might happen
A review of a film might give...
information about genre, director and stars
... a brief explanation of its storyline and plot
... some brief background to the film and a mention of other key films that are comparable
... a brief discussion of how the film develops as a structure, from beginning, to middle to end (avoiding spoilers!)
... how these parts work together to create an effect or explore a theme
... likely future developments.
check your work
Each year, literally thousands of students fail to achieve the marks they could. Don't be one of them ALWAYS CHECK YOUR WRITING BEFORE HANDING IN!
each sentence after you write it,
thinking of your future reader's reaction
Use a variety of sentence types and styles and remember that shorter sentences are often clearer and crisper sounding. An occasional ultra-short sentence can add real impact to writing.
Read each sentence before you proceed to the next to check it is fluent, accurate and complete. Does it follow on logically from the previous sentence?
A paragraph is a series of sentences (five is an average - it is good style to avoid overly short paragraphs) that develop from a single topic sentence used to introduce the point of the paragraph.
Avoid creating overly short paragraphs as this suggests either a) you do not know what a paragraph is or b) that you have no explained the point of the paragraph in sufficient detail. Try to make sure that each paragraph flows naturally on from its predecessor by using the final sentence of each paragraph to subtly 'hook' into the topic of the next paragraph.
To correct a missed paragraph simply put this mark where you want in to be: // then, in your margin write: // = new paragraph. The examiner will not mark you down for this so long as you have not forgotten all of your paragraphs.
A very common error and poor style is to use a comma instead of a full stop to end a sentence. This makes two or more stylish, short and crisp sentences into one long, drawn out and boring sentence! Always end each sentence with a full stop - or a semi-colon if you know how to use this punctuation mark.
Apostrophes are only ever used for two reasons. But so many students fail to use them effectively. If two words are squeezed together into one and a letter is missed out in the process, show where the letter was by inserting an apostrophe. So should not becomes shouldn't
And when one of two nouns belong to the other, show which one possesses which by adding apostrophe+s to its end. So the school's entrance is correct because the entrance is 'possessed by the school, also Alan's book shows a similar possession.
But watch out for it's: with an apostrophe it only ever means a shortened form of it is or it has, as in it's cold. or it's got a piece missing. If you want to write belonging to it, as in its fur is smooth but its claws are sharp, no apostrophe is needed.