How can I make my writing more sophisticated?

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Remember, the mark scheme is looking for ‘sophisticated expression’, but what does that actually mean? Put simply, ‘sophisticated expression’ is actually just when a student has enough confidence in their writing to show that they’ve fully considered what the question is asking of them. That may sound easier said than done, so let me show you a few easy ways to give that illusion of confidence for exams and essays:

Planning Stage:  What’s Weird or Interesting?

When at the planning stage of an essay, ask yourself, ‘what do I find interesting about this text when considering this question?’ Quite often, the thing you find interesting is the thing you will be able to talk most confidently about.

Example: So, for instance, if an essay is asking you to discuss the representation of evil, you may have found Mephistopheles’s devotion to Dr Faustus quite surprising in the play, given that he is supposed to be an evil character. This could suggest that actually the ‘evil’ may actually not be so evil after all. There you have yourself a more sophisticated level of argument, because it has come from something that you have spotted in the text as interesting and worth further investigation, not just listing everything you think is evil in the text.

Writing Stage: Look how deep the text is!

A very simple way of making your writing more sophisticated is to show that there are multiple layers of meaning in texts. Writers often use this technique to make more subtle and complex points and by spotting these, you show you are a sophisticated thinker.

Example: These phrases are very useful when trying to show your knowledge of writers’ levels:

‘On the surface’ (this says, ‘look, I’m going to make a clever, deeper point a bit later!)

‘Although the writer uses lots of ‘x’ technique…’

‘Upon closer inspection’ (this says, ‘look, I’ve seen more than the obvious!)

‘The writer could actually be hinting at…’ (this says, ‘I appreciate the writer might mean more than one thing)

‘Nevertheless, it is more complex’

This can be achieved by spotting patterns in texts: look for when a writer uses a lot of one technique. For instance, if a text has lots of long sentences, this might imply the writer is trying to create a slower and calmer tone. If, however, you spot that there are many words in these sentences with short syllables and with violent connotations, it could mean he or she is trying to mask an underlying anger.

Rounding Off: Be Creative

The purpose of a conclusion is of course to answer the question, but it is also an opportunity to show off your sophisticated voice. This is the last the marker will hear from you, so you must make it count!

Example: The best way to sound sophisticated in a conclusion is to show some flair, but also show that English answers are never clear-cut (hence why they can be so difficult to answer!). There are a few ways you can do this:

End with a strong statement such as ‘Carter therefore reverses the trope of the Gothic so males are the victims and females are free to exert their power.’

Show there’s more than meets the eye: ‘Carter may indeed have reversed the gender roles in her texts, but she always leaves room for tradition to sneak back in and take hold once more.’

Or, end with a cool quotation from one of your texts, ‘whilst both Faustus and Frankenstein warn against evil, it remains as something both tempting and sometimes even positive; after all, ‘misery loves company.’

My main piece of advice would be to have confidence in yourself, as this will naturally come across to a marker. If at all possible, also have a bit of fun with your essays. These are a chance to show how much you’ve learned and how hard you’ve worked, after all. Don’t be afraid of a bit of flair!

Good luck! 

Evie D. GCSE English tutor, A Level English tutor, GCSE English Langu...

About the author

is an online A Level English Literature tutor with MyTutor studying at Exeter University

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