Student Blog

How can I ‘smash’ the GCSE English Language paper?

Don’t panic! Questions on ‘language’ may sound very vague – it’s just words – right?! However, this paper asks you to consider the way particular words are used. In order to start answering the question on comparing language you need to consider what the purpose of the source is – to entertain, inform, persuade, argue, describe or explain AND what the target audience is. This will effect the language and register (tone – and level of formality) used. Most media, magazine and newspaper articles will use a range of persuasive techniques (otherwise known as Rhetorical devices) for a number of reasons. Cast your mind back to year 9 and beyond…you may well remember that you were taught the use of the ‘rule of three’, rhetorical questions and pronouns? Remember though – it is important to describe what the effects of these are in question 4. It’s not enough to ‘feature spot’ – with no explanation as to how these techniques work. This may seem A LOT to remember!! – but the good news is that you can use some of these techniques when you have to write your own articles/leaflets/descriptive pieces in Section B – so it’s well worth the slog – ‘Because you’re worth it’!!

Here is a Mnemonic (a way to remember these techniques) It may seem quite a task initially but I’m sure that as you read on some of these will sound familiar.

Alliteration, Assonance and Anecdote.
Alliteration and Assonance (Repetition of consonant sounds and vowel sounds) – join words and ideas together to make them stand out. Also add an aural (sound) effect – can be linked to form a memorable slogan e.g. ‘Live Well For Less.’
Anecdote – the telling of a short interesting personal experience can be entertaining and persuasive linking the audience with the writer.
Facts, Flattery, Fun (Humour)
Facts are something that can be proven and are therefore convincing.
Flattery such as ‘as the sort of person who appreciates quality’ appeals to one’s ego, and
Humorous advertisements are always more memorable.

Opinion as Fact
Obviously Hilary is the best tutor in the world…..(?!!) Much
writing in the media is couched in these terms – it is sometimes difficult to identify – and convinces the reader of the truth of something which may not actually be true.

Rhetorical Questions, Repetition, Register
Rhetorical questions are easy to spot – because of the question mark! They make the reader think about the issue being discussed and connect them to the writer in a sort of dialogue.
Repetition obviously ‘hammers a point home’ – but sometimes the repetition of certain words and synonyms is much more subtle and persuasive working on the reader’s mind without them being aware of it.
Register – Often a mix of an informal and formal (posh!) tone is good in that it makes the writer sound accessible but also authoritative.

Experts, Exaggeration, Emotive Language
Experts are clearly convincing – for example a piece on skin cancer in a newspaper will be more persuasive if it contains some quotation from a dermatologist (Skin doctor).
Exaggerated language – or ‘Hyperbole’ is similarly convincing and grabs the reader’s attention – (using Comparatives and Superlatives)
Emotive Language – makes the reader feel emotion – e.g. ‘Dolphins are being tortured and are dying horribly painful deaths in evil barbed fishing nets.’

Statistics, Similes and Metaphors, Sentence Types
Statistics seem to lend an air of authority and try to convince the reader that they are supporting ‘facts’ (although they can be used to prove almost anything!)
Similes and Metaphors (and here I include other descriptive writing techniques such as adjectives, adverbs etc) as being entertaining, surprising and unusual, thus grabbing the reader’s attention.
Sentence Types – longer sentences are often more descriptive. Shorter sentences are used for dramatic effect and quicken the pace of a piece of writing (where the ‘action’ is happening) A variety of sentence types make a piece of writing more interesting, entertaining and gripping.

Triples (Rule of Three) and Tense
Triples – ok – we don’t really know why! – but the repetition of the same word three times (such was Tony Blair’s often repeated speech where he said that what was most important to a New Labour Government was: Education, Education, Education) It doesn’t have to be the same word however – you can use synonyms (different words with similar meanings) e.g ‘school dinners are deadly, disgusting and poisonous…’
Tense – the present tense lends an impression of urgency or immediacy (that something is happening NOW), the past tense can create a reflective and thoughtful mood, the future tense predicts and can be something hopeful or pessimistic (such as ‘the future of the world will be unpredictable if governments will not face increasing environmental destruction’.)

+ Pronouns (You, I, Me. We, Our, Your…)
Connect the reader with the writer, setting up the illusion of a ‘dialogue’.

Good Luck!

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