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From year 7-10 the traditional essays we have written have had an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. In these essays we write about characters, plot points and themes. Hence, it is understandable that upon entering English Language in year 11 or 12, it can be difficult to grasp a hold on how to write an essay without characters, plots or themes. To be precise, the requirement in an English Language essay is to ‘use key linguistic concepts and metalanguage appropriately to discuss/analyse/investigate…in an objective and systematic way” (English Language Study Design).
What does this mean?
Essentially, in section C of the exam, you are required to present a discussion of a given idea. The word ‘discussion’ is defined as ‘a conversation or debate about a specific topic.’ In this sense, your essay is effectively a written conversation which needs to display an understanding of both sides of the topic.
In saying that, it is still important to form a contention, such as ‘indeed non-standard varieties are more acceptable in speaking than in writing in the Australian context’ however in arguing this contention, you must to explore both sides to show the examiner your understanding of language in Australian society.
The overarching idea of the essay is presented to you in the form of a prompt. For example, in the 2016 VCAA exam, a possible essay prompt given was: “In Australia today, variations from the standard tends to be more acceptable in speaking than in writing.”
In this prompt, the idea to be discussed is standard vs. non-standard Australian English. The main idea or topic forms an umbrella under which the essay is formed. This is the foundation of your essay. Each main argument will relate to this topic. In this example, standard vs non-standard Australian English is a topic from which an array of sub-topics can be extracted, the choice of which is to your discretion.
The sub-topics you choose to delve into will depend on your preferences and strengths. You may choose to discuss online-speak, ethnolects or Australian slang in relation to non-standard English, or legal and political jargon in relation to standard English.
Regardless of the choice of sub-topic, each body paragraph must explicitly link to three things; the prompt, the topic sentence and the contention. This is the criteria for your discussion. Ensuring clear links to these three will assure the examiner that you have confidence in the material you are discussing.
Your body paragraphs should be used to show the examiner how the ideas you have chosen to talk about relate to the prompt provided. Here it is necessary to use a combination of contemporary media examples, personal examples and linguist quotes as a means to prove the link between your chosen paragraph idea, your contention and the prompt. Try to find the most relevant examples which clearly demonstrate your line of thinking to the examiner. You don’t want to give them a reason to question the arguments you choose to present.
It is also important to be wary of this so that your essay flows in an orderly, sequential manner. Each idea presented within a paragraph and across the essay itself should follow a pathway, one leading into another. Use the ending of each body paragraph to come back to your essay prompt and reiterate your contention. This ensures you stay on topic and the examiner can clearly visualize your understanding of your topic.
In the end, your job in your essay is to present a discussion of a given prompt; an understanding of both sides. Use examples and explanations to show your examiner that you comprehend how the prompt can be debated.
Writing the very first sentence of your essay can be difficult. Sometimes, to get yourself into the flow of writing, it can be helpful to integrate a linguistic quote into your first sentence. This also helps solidify your contention. For example:
“One’s idiolect, particularly lexical choices and accent can be strongly indicative of their unique identity and the social groups to which they belong; it is the most natural badge of symbol of public and private identity (David Crystal)”
Your topic sentence for each paragraph should contain a link to the essay prompt, to the topic of your paragraph and to your contention. A link to all three elements should be identifiable. Below is an example of a topic sentence for the given essay prompt. “The language we use is the best indicator of who we are, individually, socially and culturally. Discuss.”
Ethnolects are a quintessential indicator of cultural identity as they are strongly identifiable by their unique phonological characteristics.
This topic sentence shows a clear identification of the topic of the paragraph (ethnolects), a connection with the prompt, (cultural belonging) and a contention, (ethnolects are indeed indicative of cultural identity)
Rather than introducing linguist quotes with expressions such as “in the words of…” or “as said by…” using linguist quotes discretely where they are integrated as part of the sentence will improve the flow of your essay. Consider this example.
“The use of the interjectory ‘reh’ expresses the cultural identity individuals associate themselves with and is part of the language they use as ‘a means to an end of understanding who [they] are and what society is like (David Crystal).”
Not all your contemporary essay examples need to come from news articles or social media. Students can often get caught up doing aimless research trying to find examples through research which really isn’t all that necessary. You should try to find examples of language use in every-day life. Perhaps consider other school subjects you study and the jargon you used within these subjects. You can quite easily discuss this use of language in your essays. Here is an example of a student using the metalanguage from VCE Accounting as an example for their essay.
Jargon and taboo language are often used to express social identity as they are demonstrative of social groups one wishes to belong to. Jargon terms such as, ‘equity,’ ‘profit margin’, ‘cash flow statement,’ ‘debt ratio’ and ‘accrued’ belong to the financial and accounting semantic field. Their use suggests the individual is knowledgeable in business and finance and further suggests they are likely to be working in the business sector. The use of jargon in one’s vernacular can therefore provide hints of the individual’s social identity and is significant to their individual identity.
Link to David Crystal interviews to pick out quotes and ideas for your essays:
Link to Kate Burridge on TED Talk talking about Euphemisms; a good source for examples of euphemisms and how they are used in society. This can be used as foundation for a paragraph in your essays:
Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide
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Plans are one of the most ignored (and underestimated) steps in the essay writing process. Some people don’t do them simply because they don’t want to, some sacrifice them because they think they’ll run out of time, and some do ‘plans’, but in reality, they’re only a rough mental outline. Each of these situations place too many students time and time again in sticky situations come an English SAC or exam.
Why plans are essential for any good essay
They ensure that you can’t mind blank — it’s all on the paper in front of you!
They ensure that you always stay on topic.
Mental plans or not having a plan at all mean that you don’t have a true direction in which your essay is going. If you’re not sure where you’re going, well, how are you going to get anywhere?
They save you time in writing time.
Instead of wasting reading time, you’ve done most of your thinking right at the beginning of the SAC or exam, positioning you to do really well in your essay because you can focus on constructing some really juicy, coherent analysis in your body paragraphs, rather than remembering your basic points and/or making sure your essay is actually answering the question.
Let’s have a look at an essay topic that I’ve tackled in the past. This one is based on Kate Grenville’s The Lieutenant, a current VCE Year 12 English text. To learn more about themes, quotes, characters about this text, and to have a look at an essay topic breakdown, check out this blog post written by outstanding LSG tutor, Angelina!
“But a man could not travel along two different paths.” How does Grenville explore Rooke’s conflict of conscience in The Lieutenant?
Step 1: Highlight key words
Now, it may seem like I've just highlighted the whole prompt, and I understand why you might think that! However, each of the words highlighted convey something meaningful within the prompt. If you're ever unsure about what could be considered a key word, consider whether the prompt would have the same meaning without the word in question.
Step 2: Define key words
In this topic, the main phrase that needs defining is ‘conflict of conscience’. For me, this signals that we must consider morality and the weighing up of right and wrong, especially when tough decisions have to be made.
I’d also take a moment to analyse the quote. This essay prompt is quote-based, so it’s imperative that we discuss the quote and consider the meaning of the quote throughout our essay. For some more detailed info on how to tackle different types of essay prompts, check out this blog post.
Step 3: Start essay plan
Next, I’d start tackling the plan itself. Although it seems like the above steps would take a while, my real-life planning process only takes about 5 minutes. You certainly don’t have to write everything down and you certainly don’t have to make it make sense to anyone but yourself.
Personally, I like to format my plans in dot-point form. I write 1, 2, 3 for each of my body paragraphs and I leave a space underneath each so I can plan each paragraph.
First, I’ll just write rough topic sentences under each, so I can really step back and consider whether my plan of action for the essay’s body paragraphs will do a good job at answering the prompt itself. Again, these are only rough topic sentences — fancying them up will come during the essay writing phase.
Step 4: Important things to include in each paragraph
Once I’ve decided on what each of my body paragraphs will be about, I can them go into a bit more depth for each of them individually.
These are the elements that I include for each:
Essentially, the points that I’ll argue and the reasoning behind the paragraph
The evidence that I’ll be using to reinforce my point(s).
In Year 12, I made a conscious effort to include one literary device or metalanguage example per body paragraph in all of my English essays. This really set me apart from the rest of the state because, in reality, not enough students really focused on the language of their texts, which can really impress examiners.
Strategy: Colour-coded plans
For me, using different colours in my plans helped me organise my thoughts, distinguish between them, and ensure that I had covered everything that I wanted to cover.
Obviously, you can come up with a colour system that works for you, but this is what I came up with:
Green = metalanguage
Red = quotes
Black/blue = everything else!
And that’s it — my four-step but five minute essay planning process. Don’t be afraid to modify this to make it work for you and your needs. However, definitely DO be afraid of not planning — it’s absolutely essential for any good essay.
Hey guys. I've been doing a load of essay topic breakdowns for you guys, and we've been looking at plans for them, so I thought I would actually show you how I actually do a real life plan, one that I would do on paper if I was preparing for a SAC or an exam, as opposed to the ones that I do on YouTube because the ones that I do on YouTube are slightly different. I definitely go into more detail than I normally would. But at the same time I still do use the same concepts as I would when I do read the steps on YouTube. So I'm going to go and show you that today. And before I actually do that, I just want to preface this and tell you guys why doing a plan is so important.
So I know that a plan is something that one, a lot of people just don't do, or two, they tend to sacrifice it if they feel like they don't have enough time, or three, they do a plan in their head, but they don't actually write it down on paper. Now, all of these things are pretty detrimental for you, especially because when you write a plan, it actually helps to secure you and ensure that one, you're not going to mind blank throughout your essay or let me rephrase that, if you do mind blank throughout your essay, you will still have a piece of paper in front of you telling you, "This is what you were thinking Lisa, just go and follow this method or what you've written down here." So that way you don't just get stuck in the middle of your essay and start having a freak out because you've forgotten what you were supposed to write.
Second thing is that it ensures that you don't go off topic. This is something that happens quite frequently. If you don't have a plan, then you have this idea of, "Oh, I'll write this and this", and then somehow halfway through an essay, halfway through a paragraph, you realize, "Holy crap, I have completely veered off the topic or this has gone completely in the other direction from what I intended. This is not what I wanted." So in order to prevent that from happening, just do a plan, please! You will find that it ends up saving you so much time and it just gives you that reassurance that you need in situations where there are so many unpredictable factors, like what prompts you're actually going to get. And your focus and attention should be more about developing those ideas, rather than having a mind blank in the middle of your essay and then having a little bit of a freakout as a result.
So I'm going to base this video on a previous essay topic breakdown in the past, and that is on Kate Grenville's The Lieutenant. I was going to say Lieutenant, because I always accidentally say that, but no, it is Lieutenant. Now, if you are not doing as text as always, don't stress about it because what I want you to take away from this video is how you actually do plans, the thinking that goes behind it and the formatting around it. So let's just get started.
The essay topic that we're doing today is, "But a man could not travel along two different paths." How does Grenville explore Rooke's conflict of conscience in The Lieutenant. So as always, my first step is I will highlight the keywords that I see inside the prompt. Keywords are different for everyone, but these are the ones that I think are most important.
Firstly, the actual quote itself, how Grenville, conflict of conscience. Pretty much in this case I could probably just highlight the entire thing, but for the sake of just defining some keywords, this is what I would do. So the next step is to define key words. I think the only big key word that I need to define here is conflict of conscience. And so to me, the conflict of conscience suggests internal conflict, which implies that we'll need to consider morality and the concepts of right and wrong, especially when a difficult decision must be made and sides need to be taken. So as you can see, I've written these words down next to the keyword and that will just help me ensure that I stay on topic or I stay in tune with what the keyword is about and I don't suddenly change my mind halfway through the essay.
Then what I'll do is, I will analyze the quote itself. So this is unique because this particular essay prompt has a quote inside it, but I'll have to think about, okay, where did I see this quote? Who might've said it and what might it mean? And I'll draw it down a few notes for that. Then I'll pretty much just go straight into my plan. Now, my plans I've written within five minutes, most of the thinking is actually done during reading time. So personally, I've always found that just writing dot points is completely fine. I don't need to go more beyond that. And I'll show you a few examples now of real life year essay plans that I did during that time. And as you can see, they are pretty much just scribbles and if anybody else was to look at my essay plans, they would have no idea what I'm talking about. But you know what, for me it makes complete sense and that's all that matters. You're not graded on your plan, so just go ahead and do it your way. You do you.
So what I'll do is I'll quickly dot down one, two, three, and these represent my body paragraphs. Then I'll just write down very quickly what the topic sentences will be. I don't actually write the full topic sentence itself, but I guess the essence of it, so the key things that I will mention in the topic sentence. By writing down the three topic sentences, this allows me to take a step back and look at the essay holistically and ensure that I am answering it the way that I want to. Then what I'll do is I'll move into each individual body paragraph and write down some things that I think are important for me to remember when I go ahead and write it. So I might write down a couple of ideas that I think are important. I will write down quotes that I think are essential to my discussion. And then what I'll do is I will throw in at least one literary device or a metalanguage that I think is important to discuss.
So in this case, in this first body paragraph, it's limited omniscient third person perspective. By throwing this in, I will ensure that I can show my examiner or show my teacher that I can go on that deeper level. I'll repeat this method with both paragraph two and three. Of course for you, you might need to write down more dot points. You can write fewer dot points, it's really just dependent on every individual. If you are somebody who needs to write down the quotes more, then go ahead and do that. But for me, a lot of the quotes will stick in my head. I just need one point just to bounce off, and then from there, I'm able to pull in all of the other quotes that are necessary.
You also notice that I do things in different colors. Now, I think this is a strategy that I implemented in order to make things a lot clearer for myself before jumping into an essay. So for example, for anything that's a metalanguage based, I'll write it in green. The whole purpose for that is to ensure that in every single body paragraph, I do cover some form of a literary device because that was always really important for me. I thought that it was one of the key things that helped me differentiate myself from other students. So if I took a step back from the plan and I looked at it overall, I could see, okay, there's a green color in every single body paragraph, done. I have ticked off that criteria.
I also used to write quotes in red as well. So red just helped me do the same thing. It helps me take a step back and go, "Yep, there's a bit of red in every single body paragraph. I'm definitely including quotes," which might sound pretty stupid, but it's just that little bit of reassurance that I think really makes that difference when it comes to a stressful situation.
That's pretty much it. It's just five minutes of your time, so we probably don't need to go into it in too much more detail than that. But as you can see from my essay plans, I'm quite minimal. I just keep things as short as possible because that's all I really need because a lot of the information is here, but I just need to reinforce it and ensure that it is concrete when it is on paper.
So for yourself, I would recommend that you start practicing your plans. You can try my method and see if that works for you, but over time, I'm sure that you'll come to find your own way of writing plans that work for you.
Next week I'm going to have another essay topic breakdown for you. Can you guess what it might be? If you want to take a stab, put it in the comment section below, but that's it for me in this week guys. I hope that was helpful for you, and don't forget plans are crucial to an amazing essay.
If you needed any extra help, then my mailing list is always available for you guys. I send out emails every single week just giving you new advice and tips for your studies, so I'll put that in the description box below for you to sign up. Other than that, I will talk to you guys next week. Bye!
We’ll be applying the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy from LSG’s How To Write A Killer Comparative and at how ideas are developed in similar or different thematic directions in these texts. CONVERGENT ideas lead to similar conclusions and messages, while DIVERGENT ideas take us to different conclusions. If you’d like to learn more about this strategy which can help you build more insightful discussions of the text by finding unique points of comparison, then I’d recommend you check out the LSG’s How To Write A Killer Comparativestudy guide. In the meantime, let’s start with some CONVERGENT ideas.
Power, Race and Oppression
In both texts, we see racial systems that take power away from Bla(c)k people. In the play, settler-colonialism is a big one. It’s depicted as a home invasion, a ship taking up a whole harbour, and as a process of devaluing land and ignoring its custodians. This trickles into contemporary institutions (widely understood patterns, rules or structures within society) which perpetuate these dynamics of race and power, such as the police and the media. Oppression is similarly maintained in The Longest Memory, where physical violence, and even just the threat of possible physical violence, is used to enslave African Americans. Plus, all of this racial violence was justified by the socio-economic interests of enslavers. Both texts see Bla(c)k people disempowered by a range of white institutions.
On the other hand, family and the wider community are depicted as a galvanising or healing force in both texts. In The 7 Stages of Grieving, we see how death can bring together entire communities to commiserate, dance and mourn collectively, drawing on one another’s strength. Depictions of families in projections of photographs also outline how joy and solidarity can be drawn from community. In the novel, family ties are also important. Whitechapel and Cook build a committed relationship to one another; she even says, “he proves he loves me every day.” At the same time, Cook also provides her unconditional love and support to Chapel, whose education and eventual relationship with Lydia are facilitated by her.
Memory and Grief
Both texts show how memory and grief are significant burdens for Bla(c)k people and operate at multiple dimensions. The play is sort of built around the five stages of grief but demonstrates how First Nations grief isn’t neat or linear. It can go from highly expressive to numb in moments. It also has roots in Australia’s genocidal history such that the death of any First Nations person—but especially elders—is felt widely. In The Longest Memory, there’s a physical dimension to Whitechapel’s grief. He earns the name “Sour-face” because of the worry lines that developed after Chapel’s death. He feels extremely guilty and only after Chapel dies does he realise why Chapel disagreed with him so stubbornly in life. He actually learned the tough lesson that he’d been hoping to teach Chapel.
What about divergent ideas? Let’s break down two now.
Struggle and Resistance
Both texts offer ideas about what the fight against racism might look like, but at times these ideas are more different than similar. In The 7 Stages of Grieving, the main struggle is to be heard and understood. In the play and in real life even, we can see how the media is stacked against First Nations peoples, so their fight is about cutting through the bias and making sure they are fairly represented. In The Longest Memory, the fight against slavery is portrayed quite differently. In a scenario where physical violence was used the way it was in order to oppress, self-emancipation was seen by many as the only path out. Enslaved workers weren’t fighting to be heard, they were fighting to survive. It’s also worth bearing in mind the history of abolition, which happened in Northern states first. This gave them a destination, as well as hope.
The Generation Gap
The other thing that the texts diverge on is the relationship between parents and children. In the play, family is consistently shown to provide support and community. As the woman speaks about her father and brother, the unconditional love and support between them is palpable. However, the novel depicts a bit more conflict— Whitechapel argued with Chapel based on his lived experience, and the many young people he had seen be killed for trying to free themselves. However, Chapel was far more committed to freedom than to survival. There isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ answer either way, but this definitely isn’t a tension that we see in the play.
I discuss all these themes in further detail in A Killer Comparative Guide: The 7 Stages of Grieving & The Longest Memory. In this guide, I offer you a deep dive into these two texts through plot summaries and analyses, structural features, critical readings, and best of all, 5 sample A+ essays fully annotated so you can understand exactly how to achieve better marks in your own essays.
Essay Topic Breakdown
As with all our essay topic breakdowns, we'll follow LSG's THINK and EXECUTE technique, as taught in our How To Write A Killer Text Response. The LSG's THINK and EXECUTE technique follows three steps in the THINK phase - Analyse, Brainstorm, and Create a Plan. Learn more about this technique in this video:
Let's use essay topic #1 from the section below.
Compare the ways in which the two texts explore the possibility of social change.
Step 1: Analyse
‘Social change’ is a key term here, but the word ‘possibility’ also stands out to me. Social change—probably towards equality—isn’t something that just happens, so the prompt also wants us to think about how to get there, and whether that seems achievable in the contexts of these stories. The prompt is phrased as an instruction (“Compare”) which invites you to analyse both texts together, but you totally knew that already!
Step 2: Brainstorm
I’d probably start by brainstorming what exactly needs to be changed. In each text, we see institutions and structures which are violent and harmful—from the play, police and the media, and from the novel, the economy itself. However, these institutions are upheld in different ways, and require different mechanisms of change—while the play emphasises grieving and unity, the novel focuses more on emancipation.
Step 3: Create a Plan
Because we’ve got two sets of ideas for each text, let’s alternate the texts (Essay Structure 1, as discussed in How To Write A Killer Comparative) to cover these ideas in four paragraphs.
P1: Starting with The 7 Stages of Grieving, social change is required at the institutional level. Police and the media are racially biased, and Aboriginal people aren’t given a platform to tell their stories. Reconciliation needs to include Aboriginal voices.
P2: With The Longest Memory, social change is required across the economy that depends on enslaving people and stealing their labour, while others have an economic interest in the status quo.
P3: Because of this, change seems more possible in the play, and we start seeing it happen towards the end, as the ice thaws and people, Bla(c)k and white, march across the bridge together.
P4: On the other hand, emancipation is seen as the only path to change in the novel, as intergenerational social pressures among the enslaving class in the South are insurmountable.
So our contention will probably revolve around the idea that ‘social change’ means different things in each text as social inequalities exist at different levels (Paragraph 1&2)—as such, the ‘possibilities’ for that change look different as well (P3&4), particularly the extent to which white people can be involved in that change.
Finding out that your school has selected to study a Shakespeare play as your section A text can be a pretty daunting prospect. If I’m honest, I wasn’t all too thrilled upon discovering this either...it seemed as though I now not only had to worry about analysing my text, but also understanding what Shakespeare was saying through all of his old-fashioned words.
However, let’s not fret - in this post, I’ll share with you some Measure for Measure specific advice and tactics, alongside excerpts of an essay of mine as a reference.
Having a basic understanding of the historical context of the play is an integral part of developing your understanding of Measure for Measure (and is explored further in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare). For example, for prompts that open with “What does Shakespeare suggest about…?” or “How does Measure for Measure reflect Shakespeare’s ideas about…?” it can be really helpful to understand Shakespeare’s own position in society and how that influenced his writing.
There’s no need to memorise certain parts of Shakespeare’s history - as that would serve no purpose - just try to gauge an understanding of what life was like in his time. Through understanding Shakespeare’s position in society, we are able to infer his stances on various characters/ideologies in the play.
Measure for Measure is often regarded as an anti-Puritan satire. Although Shakespeare’s religion has been a subject of much debate and research, with many theories about his faith being brought forward, many believe that he was a secret Catholic. He is believed to be a ‘secret’ Catholic, as he lived during the rise of the Puritans - those who wished to reform the Church of England and create more of a focus on Protestant teachings, as opposed to Catholic teachings. It was often difficult for Catholics to practice their faith at this time.
Angelo and Isabella - particularly Angelo, are believed to embody puritanism, as shown through their excessive piety. By revealing Angelo to be “yet a devil,” though “angel on the outward side,” Shakespeare critiques Puritans, perhaps branding them as hypocritical or even unhuman; those “not born of man and woman.” Thus, we can assume that Shakespeare would take a similar stance to most of us - that Angelo wasn’t the greatest guy and that his excessive, unnatural and puritanical nature was more of a flaw than a virtue.
Tips for Moving Past the Generic Examples/Evidence Found in the Play
It’s important to try and stand out with your examples in your body paragraphs. If you’re writing the same, simple ideas as everyone else, it will be hard for VCAA assessors to reward you for that. Your ideas are the most important part of your essay because they show how well you’ve understood and analysed the text - which is what they are asking from you, it’s called an ‘analytical interpretation of a text,’ not ‘how many big words can you write in this essay.’ You can stand out in Measure for Measure by:
1. Taking Note of Stage Directions and Structure of Speech
Many students tend to simply focus on the dialogue in the play, but stage directions can tell you so much about what Shakespeare was really trying to illustrate in his characters.
For example, in his monologue, I would often reference how Angelo is alone on stage, appearing at his most uninhibited, with his self-interrogation revealing his internal struggle over his newfound lust for Isabella. I would also reference how Shakespeare’s choice of syntax and structure of speech reveal Angelo’s moral turmoil as he repetitively asks himself “what’s this?” indicating his confusion and disgust for his feelings which “unshapes” him.
Isabella is shown to “[kneel]” by Mariana at the conclusion of the play, in order to ask for Angelo’s forgiveness. This detail is one that is easily missed, but it is an important one, as it is an obvious reference to Christianity, and symbolises Isabella’s return to her “gentle and fair” and “saint” like nature.
2. Drawing Connections Between Characters - Analyse Their Similarities and Differences.
Drawing these connections can be a useful way to incorporate other characters not necessarily mentioned in your prompt. For example, in my own English exam last year, I chose the prompt “...Power corrupts both Angelo and the Duke. Do you agree?” and tried to pair Angelo and Isabella, in order to incorporate another character into my essay (so that my entire essay wasn’t just about two characters).
A favourite pair of mine to analyse together was Angelo and Isabella. Although at first glance they seem quite different, when you read into the text a little deeper you can find many similarities. For example, while Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, “nun,” Isabella, wishes to join the nuns of Saint Clare where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” Shakespeare’s depiction of the two, stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” plaguing Vienna. What’s important about this point is that you can alter your wording of it to fit various points that you may make. For example, you could use this example to prove to your assessor how Isabella’s alignment with Angelo signals Shakespeare’s condemnation of her excessive puritanical nature (as I did in my body paragraph below) or, you could use these same points to argue how Angelo was once indeed a virtuous man who was similar to the “saint” Isabella, and that it was the power that corrupted him (as you could argue in the 2019 prompt).
Another great pair is the Duke and Angelo. Although they certainly are different in many ways, an interesting argument that I used frequently, was that they both were selfish characters who abused their power as men and as leaders in a patriarchal society. It is obvious where Angelo did this - through his cruel bribery of Isabella to “lay down the treasures of [her] body,” however the Duke’s behaviour is more subtle. The Duke’s proposal to Isabella at the conclusion of the play, as he asks her to “give [him her] hand,” in marriage, coincides with the revelation that Claudio is indeed alive. It appears that the Duke has orchestrated the timing of his proposal to most forcefully secure Isabella and in this sense, his abuse of power can be likened to Angelo’s “devilish” bribery. This is as, through Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella, it is evident that she has little interest in marriage; she simply wishes to join a convent where she “must not speak with men,” as she lives a life of “strict restraint.” The Duke is aware of this, yet he demands Isabella to “be [his]”- wishing to take her from her true desire and Shakespeare is able to elucidate Isabella’s distaste through her response to this: silence. By contrasting Isabella’s once powerful voice - her “speechless dialect” that can “move men” - with her silence in response to the Duke’s proposal, Shakespeare is able to convey the depth of the Duke’s selfishness and thus his similarity to Angelo.
We've got a character list for you in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare (just scroll down to the Character section).
What’s important to realise about these bits of evidence is that you can use them in so many different prompts, provided that you tailor your wording to best answer the topic. For example, you could try fitting at least one of the above examples in these prompts:
‘Give me your hand and say you will be mine…’ The characters in ‘Measure for Measure’ are more interested in taking than giving. Discuss.
‘More than our brother is our chastity.' Explore how Shakespeare presents Isabella's attitude to chastity throughout Measure for Measure.
‘I have seen corruption boil …' To what extent does Shakespeare explore corruption in Measure for Measure, and by what means?
‘Measure or Measure presents a society in which women are denied power.’ Discuss.
How To Kick Start Your Essay with a Smashing Introduction
There’s no set way on how to write an introduction. Lots of people write them in many different ways and these can all do well! This is the best part about English - you don’t have to be writing like the person sitting next to you in order to get a good mark. I personally preferred writing short and sweet introductions, just because they were quick to write and easy to understand.
For example, for the prompt...
“...women are frail too.”
To what extent does ‘Measure for Measure’ examine the flaws of Isabella?
...my topic sentences were...
Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo.
Shakespeare explores the hypocrisy and corruption of Isabella as a flaw, as she deviates from her initially “gentle and fair” nature.
Despite exploring Isabella’s flaws to a large degree, Shakespeare does indeed present her redemption at the denouement of the play.
...and my introduction was:
William Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure’ depicts a seventeenth century Viennese society in which disease, misconduct and licentiousness are rife. It is upon a backdrop of such ordeals that Shakespeare presents the character of Isabella, who is initially depicted as of stark contrast to the libertine populate of Vienna. To a considerable extent, ‘Measure for Measure’ does indeed examine the flaws of the “gentle and fair” Isabella, but Shakespeare suggests that perhaps she is not “saint” nor “devil,” rather that she is a human with her own flaws and with her own redeeming qualities.
Instead of rewording my topic sentences, I touched on them more vaguely, because I knew that I wouldn’t get any ‘extra’ points for repeating them twice, essentially. However, if you feel more confident in touching on your topic sentences more specifically - go ahead!! There are so many different ways to write an introduction! Do what works for you!
This body paragraph included my pairing between Angelo and Isabella. My advice would be to continue to incorporate the language used in the prompt. In this paragraph, you can see me use the word “flaw” quite a bit, just in order to ensure that I’m actually answering the prompt, not a prompt that I have studied before.
Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo. Where Angelo is “of ample grace and honour,” Isabella is “gentle and fair.” Where Angelo believes in “stricture and firm abstinence,” Isabella too believes that “most desire should meet the full blow of justice.” This similarity is enhanced by their seclusion from the lecherous society in which they reside. Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, whilst Isabella desires the life of a nun where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” This depiction of both Angelo and Isabella stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” that the libertine populate is drunk from. However, Shakespeare’s revelation that Angelo is “yet a devil” though “angel on the outward side,” is perhaps Shakespeare’s commentary on absolute stricture being yet a facade, a flaw even. Shakespeare presents Isabella’s chastity and piety as synonymous with her identity, which ultimately leaves her unable to differentiate between the two, as she states that she would “throw down [her] life,” for Claudio, yet maintains that “more than our brother is our chastity.” Though virtuous in a sense, she is cruel in another. Although at first glance, Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella’s excessive puritanical nature appears to be her virtue, by aligning her with the “devil” that is Angelo, it appears that this is indeed her flaw.
Conclude Your Essay by Dazzling Your Assessor!
My main tip for a conclusion is to finish it off with a confident commentary of the entire piece and what you think that the author was trying to convey through their words (in relation to the topic). For example, in pretty much all of my essays, I would conclude with a sentence that referenced the entire play - for example, how it appeared to be such a polarising play, with largely exaggerated, polarising characters/settings (eg. Angelo and the Duke, or the brothels that stood tall next to the monastery):
Ultimately, Shakespeare’s play ‘Measure for Measure,’ depicts Isabella as a multifaceted character. She is not simply one thing - not simply good nor bad - her character’s depiction continues to oscillate between the polar ends of the spectrum. Although yes, she does have flaws, so too does she have redeeming qualities. Though at times deceitful and hypocritical, she too is forgiving and gentle. Thus, as Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure,’ does centre on polarising characters in a polarising setting, perhaps through his exploration of Isabella’s flaws alongside her virtues, he suggests that both the good and the bad inhabit us.
Measure for Measure is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Extinction by Hannie Rayson is usually studied in the Australian curriculum Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
[Modifed Video Transcription]
This is the prompt that I have decided to approach for this video and blog post:
Heather Dixon-Brown and Piper Ross’s dynamic is fuelled by competitiveness unique to the female experience in contemporary times.
Let’s break it down!
Different Interpretations of Extinction
Today I’ll be talking about different interpretations of texts, specifically the feminist lens, which is a critical lens for you to know if you’re wanting to get those top marks. Even if you’re not there yet, and you want to amp up your essay, this is it. So keep watching (or reading)!
I won’t be talking about the feminist lens in detail in this video/blog, but know that this is one of the must-know VCAA criteria points I discuss in my How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook. It is particularly relevant to Extinction because by viewing your text through a feminist lens, you’ll be able to get so much more out of your discussion. Think about it this way, you can wear all sorts of ‘glasses’ (i.e. lenses) when you’re reading a text: a feminist lens, a pro-sustainability lens, an ecocritical lens. If you were to put these lenses on, how would it change your interpretation of the text? By adopting this advanced way of approaching a text, you’ll undoubtedly wow examiners because you’re able to discuss your texts on a level that the majority of students aren’t even aware of! I touch more on feminist and ecocritical lenses at the end of the video above :)
This prompt specifies two characters – Dixon-Brown and Piper – and therefore mandates an in-depth discussion of them within your essay. However, it is important to be careful of focusing exclusively on the explicitly mentioned characters when given a character prompt. After all, while Dixon-Brown and Piper are both very important to Extinction, they are not the only relevant characters! In order to ensure that your discussion covers enough of the text, make sure your brainstorming stage includes the ideas and themes exemplified by the unmentioned characters, and how they relate to the ones that are specified.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Agree to the prompt, but not entirely – Dixon-Brown and Piper do experience competitiveness between themselves, as two women in the twenty-first century, but it is not the only factor impacting their relationship dynamic
Female competitiveness in relationships and desirability – e.g. having sex with Harry without the other knowing (make sure to use DB’s quotes about competition!)
Make this more specific – competition in terms of sex, sexuality and whether or not one is desired (can link this well to the young/old dichotomy)
Young/old – related to female competitiveness, but more specific – tension between what is wanted and considered attractive versus what is no longer given value
Idealism/pragmatism – separate from the sphere of gender; has more of its roots in politics and contrasting schools of thought
Adopt traits from a feminist lens – focusing on women, power, relationships with men, when they can speak versus when they can’t, etc.
Step 3: Create a Plan
Body Paragraph 1: Contemporary demands for female competitiveness undoubtedly underlie the dynamics between Dixon-Brown and Piper Ross.
Under the modern-day patriarchy, women are encouraged to compete over social resources – reputation, desirability, and, crucially to Extinction, one’s sex and sexuality against the context of men. Both women are attracted to Harry, and eventually, both engage in 'covert sexual relationship[s]' that 'compromise the integrity' of the tiger quoll project. Beneath the veneer of assertiveness, Dixon-Brown’s underlying insecurities expose her treatment of Piper as a rival.
Although she openly denounces Harry’s assumption that 'You thought I wanted to compete for your affections', she nevertheless demands to know if Harry is 'quite smitten with Piper'. Dixon-Brown tries to distance herself from such romantic bindings, insisting that she 'do[esn’t] need a relationship' and thus subconsciously pitting herself as Piper’s opposite – in other words, a competitor for the different instances of Harry’s affection.
Rayson is quick to highlight and consequentially reject this modern female infighting, arguing that the insecurities as birthed from the patriarchy directly and unnecessarily demean the relationships between women.
Body Paragraph 2: The primary source of female conflict between Dixon-Brown and Piper is that of their incongruent ages; Rayson maintains that the tension between ‘younger’ and ‘older’ individuals contributes massively to the wider tenseness in their dynamic.
Patriarchal values dictate that the value of a woman decreases with age: Dixon-Brown claims that Harry 'would prefer a younger woman', implying that her desirability has decreased with the increase of age.
The professor’s obsession with appearances and reputation as a woman is almost completely absent in Rayson’s consideration of Piper, who is actively pursued by both Andy and Harry throughout the play. She is 'adore[d]' by the former, and the latter is enthusiastic at the prospect of 'mak[ing] love like that…again' during Act Two, Scene One. Rayson attacks the systems of patriarchal value that have driven both women to resist and distrust each other in the first place.
Body Paragraph 3: Conversely, while the spheres of politics certainly overlap occasionally within feminism and the question of female competition, they nevertheless form a largely distinct motivation behind the conflict between Piper and Dixon-Brown.
Piper and Dixon-Brown’s dynamic is perhaps most aptly summarised in Act One, Scene Two, with the introduction of the Dixon-Brown Index. Dixon-Brown claims that 'five thousand' is the 'latest magic number' with which to determine what animal populations are most feasible to make conservation efforts towards. Piper criticises the index immediately, pointing out the ridiculousness of having it 'apply to every mammal on earth', regardless of any other relevant factors. To Piper, every animal life is 'worth saving', whether they be 'killer whales or teeny potoroos' – Dixon-Brown, by contrast, must 'liv[e] in the real world' and exists at the mercy of funding, of which there is 'only so much… to go around'. The tension within their dynamic thus bears this underlying current of idealism versus pragmatism, and persists even after the primary establishment of the tiger quoll project.
If you're studying Extinction yourself, then LSG's A Killer Text Guide: Extinction study guide is for you! In it, we teach you to think like a 50 study scorer through advanced discussions on things like structural feature analysis, views and values, different interpretations and critical readings. Included are character breakdowns, a play summary, 5 A+ fully annotated essays and so much more!
Written expression is often overlooked in our essays. Often, if we are made aware of clunky or awkward expression, we are also not quite sure how to go about improving it. Although sophisticated and pertinent ideas serve as the foundation of a successful essay, how we construct our sentences and express these ideas may be what distinguishes a good essay from a great essay.
These differences can be rather subtle, but the small things can and do matter.
1) USE YOUR VOCAL CHORDS
(to read out loud, not sing… unless you really want to)
Take your essay and read it out loud. Let your own conscience guide you in terms of whether a particular sentence flows well, is complete and makes sense. Keep your eye out for these small errors in particular: Grammar:Does your sentence actually make sense? Let’s have a look at an example:Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on.
(This is not grammatically correct! This is because this example only contains a subordinate clause and is lacking a main clause.)
But wait… what is this ‘subordinate clause’ and ‘main clause’?
A clause includes a subject and a verb.
Melissa ate an apple.After Wendy ate an apple.
What is the difference between the two clauses above?
‘Melissa ate an apple’ makes grammatical sense on its own. This is what we call a main clause (or an independent clause). On the other hand, ‘After Wendy ate an apple’ is an incomplete sentence as it does not make sense. What happened after Wendy ate her apple? This is the information that is missing from the latter clause, making this a subordinate clause (or a dependent clause).
So now let’s try again…
Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on, ultimately, these individuals can never be truly free from the past that has irrevocably defined them.
(Hooray! This is a complete sentence now.)
Spelling: Are the title of the text, the author or director’s name, characters’ names, publisher’s name, etc. all spelt correctly (and capitalised, underlined, and italicised appropriately)?
Did you use the correct there, their and they’re? How about it’s and its? (and so on).
Sentence length: Did that sentence just go on for 5 lines on a page and you are out of breath now? You can most probably split that overloaded sentence into two or more sentences that make much more sense. Check whether you have a clear subject in your sentence. If you have three different ideas in one sentence, give each idea its own opportunity (ie. sentence) to shine. The opposite also applies: if it is for a very short sentence, did that sentence pack enough content or analysis?
One spelling error or half-finished sentence in an essay will not severely affect your mark, but they can easily add up if they occur often enough. Consequently, this will distract the reader from engaging with your ideas fully and thus disrupt the flow of your essay.
By being aware of these aspects, you are now able to easily fix them and boost your writing.
2) BE SUBTLE
Try not to be casual or overt in your writing as it can be quite jarring to read and unfortunately give readers a potentially negative impression of your piece.
Try not to use phrases such as:
- In my opinion… (You do not need it as your entire essay should be your implicit opinion!)
- This quote shows that… (Embed the quote and link to its implication instead)
- This technique is designed to… (Identify the technique and be specific, especially in Language Analysis)
- I think that…, I believe… (Avoid using first person in a formal essay. Use of first person in creative writing is fine though if required)
They are redundant and do not add much to your ideas and analysis. Try omitting them and see whether that helps your sentence flow better and seem more formal.
3) LINK ‘EM UP
Sentences that seem disjointed or a clear connection can make it difficult for your teacher or the assessor to join the dots between an idea and an implication or consequence. Use linking words as they are fantastic for explicitly showing the reader how your ideas are related and thus allow your writing to proceed smoothly.
Therefore, hence, thus, thereby, consequently, subsequently, in addition, additionally, furthermore, moreover, on the other hand, on the contrary, however, henceforth, and so on… The list is endless!
4) ADD OOMPH (through vocabulary)
In general, having a wide vocabulary will allow you to express your ideas and analysis more accurately as you are likely to have access to a precise word that can capture the essence of your idea. Make a vocabulary list for a particular text or for Language Analysis (such as tone words) and aim to use varied language to convey yourself well.
If you’d like to see a list of sentence starters and essay phrases to help you get a headstart on expanding your vocabulary, check out this blog.
Focus on verbs and expanding your list of synonyms for words such as shows, demonstrates, highlights, emphasises, suggests and so on. An individual, character, author or director may not only be conveying but also denigrating or remonstrating or bolstering or glorifying or insinuating. Adding precision to your writing through careful vocabulary choice will distinguish your writing and also add complexity.
BEWARE! There is a fine line to tread with sophisticated vocabulary - do not overload your writing as you can risk writing convoluted sentences that hinder the reader’s ability to understand your piece. Also make sure that you understand the nuances of each synonym and that they are used in the correct context! (They are synonyms after all - not the same word!)
If you are debating whether to use a word, ask yourself: do you know what it means?
If yes: Go for it!
If no: Do not use it until you know what it means.
Reading sample essays, The Age Text Talks, reviews and more of the texts you are currently studying will expose you to not only a multitude of interpretations of your text, but also to different sentence structures, writing styles or vocabulary that you could incorporate into your own writing.
I would also highly recommend that you read outside of the texts you are studying if you have time, whether that may be novels by the same author or even newspapers. Your written expression will only benefit from this exposure as the ways you can express yourself through writing continue to increase upon seeing others’ eloquence.
6) GET WRITING
If you do not write, you will never be able to improve your written expression. Put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) and start constructing that essay. You can only fix your writing once you have writing to fix.
For many students, writing creative pieces can be slightly daunting. For some, it is about unleashing the writer within as the boundaries and thematic constraints that exist in Text Response are lifted. For others, it can be an opportunity to discover new writing styles, branching out from the generic T-E-E-L structure.
Formats of imaginative pieces include:
a personal diary entry ,
chronicling the character's thoughts,
Writing in an imaginative style allows you to draw from your own morals, views and feelings. You can weave in personal anecdotes, experiences, and metaphorical language which gives one's writing that pizazz and individualist factor!
Moreover, you can showcase how you have perceived and interpreted the characters within the novel/film, the landscapes they inhabit. Alternatively, you can step into different personas. For example, for the topic of conflict, I can write as an injured army medic, a doctor, a foreign correspondent and a war photographer.
However, imaginative writing also has many pitfalls students tumble into (do not despair; you can get out of it!):
1) Don't get too caught up in emotions and flowery language.
Great imaginative pieces are not only graded on how good your story telling skills are. More importantly, your teachers would be grading on the palpable links to the themes of the text and prompt you have been given.
In Year 11, when I wrote an imaginative piece, I went overboard with the flowery metaphorical language. My teacher said ‘Overall, the piece is good however, at some parts it sounded like purple prose.’ When I read it over now, I shudder a little.
2) In Reading and Creative, there is greater emphasis on extrapolating themes and ideas from your studied text.
So, those radical and out-of-the box ideas and views you have in relation to the text can now be used.
For example, the overarching themes in Every Man In This Village Is A Liar encompass the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, inequality (the unequal status of women in Middle East), the effect of war on the physical body and the human psych and, how the media portrays war and violence. The starting point to planning any context piece is to use quotes and ideas within your text. Infer meaning from those quotes and main ideas and ask yourself:
'Does it hold a great degree of relevance to issues prevalent today?'
'Can I link it to my sac/exam prompt?'
So, here's an example of planning a creative piece. Two of my favourite quotes from Life of Galileo are:
'Science is the rightful, much loved daughter of the church.'
‘Our ignorance is limitless; let us lop off a millimeter off it. Why try to be clever now that we at last have a chance of being less stupid.’
In essence, this conveys the overarching theme of science vs. religion, and how Church and the inquisition exploit the peoples' views through their own ignorance. Their fear of change, pioneering and gaining of new knowledge stems from the prospect of chaos if society's entrenched values are uprooted. I interpreted this as 'ignorance is not bliss' and instead, it breeds fear in people. This is in relevance with the tragic events that has occurred in recent years - acts of terrorism, and/or racially motivated attacks. In the context of our modern society, religion and science still maintain an intriguing and tumultuous relationship. As the advancement of technology and ethics are not at equilibrium, this is where controversy arises. Conversely, we now have to consider whether this relates to the prompt:
A person never knows who they truly are, until tested by conflict.
Possible idea for this example:
"Is it ethical to administer a new drug capable of rewiring and regenerating brain function at a neuronal level to someone who has sustained extensive brain damage? Is it deemed humane to potentially change a person's character? At what personal cost will this have? - Playing god."
Tips to achieve A+ in creative writing
1. Ensure it is related to the text.
A lot of students believe that the reading and creating essay is exactly the same as the old context essay. However, there is a significant difference! While a creative context essay does not have to link to the text in any way and only needs to explore a certain idea (e.g. encountering conflict), the reading and creating essay needs to offer a relevant interpretation of the text as well as show understanding of the text’s messages and how the text creates meaning.
The easiest way to write a creative response that links clearly to the text is to write about a scenario that is related to the plot line. You can do this by writing a continuation of the storyline (i.e. what happens after the end?), or by filling in gaps in the plot line which the author did not explicitly outline (what happens behind the scenes that caused the outcome?) In this way, your response will be completely original and still demonstrate an understanding of the world of the text.
2. Write in a way that shows understanding of how the text creates meaning.
When creating your response, be aware of the features present in your text (such as characters, narrative, motifs etc) that you can use in your own essay. For example, if the text is narrated from a first-person perspective, you may also mimic this in your essay. Or, you could tell it in first-person from another character’s point of view to demonstrate another interpretation of the text. You may also include motifs from the text into your own response. But be careful when making decisions about structure, conventions and language. If the text is written in very formal and concise language, it is probably not a good idea to use slang. Similarly, if the text is a play, structuring your response as a script might be a better choice than writing a poem!
3. Explore the explicit and implied ideas and values in the texts.
Lastly, remember that whilst it is a creative response, your purpose is NOT to tell a nice story but to explore the ideas, values and messages left by the author! There will always be various interpretations regarding these values, and you can express your understanding of the text through your portrayal of certain characters, or through the events in your response. For example, if you were studying Measure for Measure and wanted to explore how human nature cannot be restrained or limited by law and punishment, you could write a continuation of the play in which the city of Vienna has reverted to its original state of moral decay.
4. Show, don't tell
Creative essays are great because they offer interesting and unique stories; however, there is one common downfall that occurs in writing. Some students create pieces that are too straightforward. Rather than using vocabulary, imagery and symbolism to express a point, they simply write down a statement that sums up what they wish to say. Your aim is to invite the reader to experience the story through your words. This can be done through the character’s thoughts, feelings, actions etc. Thus the well-known phrase among writers, ‘Show, don’t tell’. Keeping this idea in mind turn you into a much more successful writer – and you’ll see the difference!
Tell: Katie was very happy.
Show: Katie’s face lifted. Little wrinkles appeared around her bright eyes, her dimples made an appearance that dug into her cheeks as a big grin emerged to show her perfect teeth.
Tell: She felt horrible for the weeping children.
Show: Guilt throbbed inside her as she stared at the weeping children. Her heart pounded against her chest, her hands trembling beside her still body, her brain screaming at her to do something.
Tell: I was scared.
Show: I hear my breathing; heavy, and rapid. I shut my eyes tightly. I can feel goosebumps running up my arms and down my back.
To test whether or not you are ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, think about whether or not your sentence leaves room for questions. In Example 1, ‘Katie was very happy’ would leave the reader thinking – what thought or action showed that she was happy? Whereas ‘show’ demonstrated that she was happy without directly stating it.
The key is to go into the finer details of your story!
Finally, have fun and enjoy the process of planning a creative narrative, let your imagination run a little wild and rein it in with your knowledge! Hopefully these tips were helpful and you are now more confident and informed on the Reading and Creating response!
This blog post was written by Amanda Lau, Rosemary Chen, and Lisa Tran.
The political correctness debate is one which has been surfacing over the past few years, particularly with certain political figuring bringing this debate to the public platform. Let’s firstly define politically correct language. Political correctness is the avoidance of expressions which may offend, exclude or marginalize certain groups or individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Politically correct (PC) language is a framework used to promote and maintain social harmony. However, PC language can also be viewed to be a hindrance to expression and freedom of speech. The take an individual has on this debate is dependent on the connotations they associate with the phrase “political correctness”. Do they consider political correctness to be a social stabilizer or do they see it as language policing?
On one hand, the use of political correctness helps to confront prejudice in society and reinforce the idea of egalitarianism. This is achieved by slowly weakening the links between certain titles and the social groups they are associated with. This includes terms such as ‘black’, ‘wogs’, ‘curries’, ‘retarded’, ‘spastic’. Using PC terms such as ‘African-American’, ‘from Greek ethnicity’, ‘South-East Asian’ and ‘person with a disability’ are more respectful ways in which to address individuals without using titles which associate them with certain stereotypes or prejudiced thoughts. In particular, using ‘person with a disability’ rather than ‘disabled person’ is a way in which to dilute the link between the individual and the “disability” and to reiterate that the disability is only a single element of many which make up the individual.
While these are the currently accepted, politically correct terms, their appropriateness is likely to change with time. Originally, it was socially acceptable to use terms like ‘retard’, ‘chairman’, ‘policeman’ ‘black’, ‘man up’, ‘mother tongue’. However, with time, values change and society progresses and what is at one point considered socially acceptable becomes politically incorrect as further neutral terms are normalized. Thus, replacements such as, ‘differently abled’, ‘chairperson’, ‘police officer’, ‘African American’ and ‘native language’ are formed. As society continues to progress, these phrases will be outdated and replaced by new, more socially acceptable terms. This consistent cycle is spinning at a more rapid rate with globalization. With globalization, ideologies and values can be shared on wide platforms instantaneously. Through the sharing of ideas, new ideas and perceptions are molded and with this, the language we use to express ourselves also changes and develops.
This rapid evolution in “socially acceptable” language angers the public. Certain PC subtleties are seen by many as unnecessary. The trend towards political correctness is seen to inhibit freedom of expression, restricting individuals from speaking their mind in fear of causing offence. When there is public backlash over the lack of political correctness in a given situation, many individuals find this reaction to be highly excessive and a sign of over-sensitivity of the millennial generation. In an interview with ABC News, former solider stated that, ‘we just seem to bend over backwards for anyone that’s different. It is making Australia a lot softer, it’s making us a big more of a pushover country’.
This frustration of many is further exasperated by the rapid evolvement of normalized accepted terms in society.
When language used in the public domain borders on politically incorrect, there is a public uproar, in particular, by the younger generation. Donald Trump is a prime example of this and as put by The Atlantic, “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Simply put, the language choices of Donald Trump are strikingly bold; they incite fear and frustration amongst the public, deepening social prejudice through the reinforcement of stereotypes.
However, Trump’s language echoes the frustration of Americans. It is void of obfuscating, complex politically correct language, giving the indication that Trump speaks his mind, hence garnering public support and above all trust. Building trust for a politician is next to impossible, however, when Trump speaks his mind, without fear of causing office to minority groups, he is indeed able to build trust, as he speaks aloud what many think but fear to vocalize.
While this may sound bizarre given the strong global hatred towards Donald Trump, the matter of the fact is that Donald Trump won a majority vote. With a strong following of supporters despite his many controversies, it is important to recognize the power of Trump’s linguistic choices.
We all remember the famous, ‘build a wall’ statement, which became a defining factor of Trump’s presidential campaign. While a highly politically incorrect agenda, which marginalized Mexican people, many people supported Trump’s endeavors. In particular, Americans who were frustrated with their employment conditions are given an excuse to place blame onto a certain group of people. Trump, an influential figures’ use of politically incorrect language to target Mexican’s effectively gave the freedom to others to speak what they had previously restricted themselves from vocalizing for fear of being politically incorrect.
Aside from freedom of speech, the second major issue associated with political correctness is obfuscation. This form of political correctness is institutionalized and because of this here is a genuine danger that the immense emphasis on being politically correct means that often, vital information can be omitted from news scenarios because it targets or potentially targets a certain individual or minority group. As a result, information presented can be bias and incomplete. The 2013 Rotherham child sex abuse scandal in the United Kingdom is a strong example of this. An estimated 1400 children were violated sexually. However, in the media, it was intentionally omitted that the majority of perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage. Similarly, in fear of provoking racial attacks against migrants during refugee resettlement, the German media made an effort to hide that the multiple sexual assaults during the 2016 New Year celebrations were conducted by men of North African or Middle Eastern ethnicity. The omission of such details does avoid marginalizing ethnic groups, but at the cost of significant and rightful information for the public. This tradeoff is one which is still being explored in society as the wave of political correctness is still quite new.
This debate is one which is still raw in society; it is yet to progress and as the world develops, the role PC language plays in our society will become clearer. Will PC language become more prevalent as society focuses more on social inclusion? Or, will the movement towards PC language be restricted due to the black-lash it faces for the shortcomings of this framework of communication?
Understanding the Syntax Subsystem for English Language
One of the most common areas of difficulty and confusion in English Language is the syntax subsystem, so you are not alone if you find this difficult. You will already have an intuitive understanding of how syntax in English works (you speak the language after all), but being able to effectively analyse and parse sentences and utterances can be tricky. It is important that you understand what the following word classes (aka parts of speech) are, and what their role is in a sentence, you may need to revise them from Unit 1/2.
There are innumerable online and physical resources, such as Sara Thorne’s fantastic Mastering Advanced English Language, which you can look at to revise these word classes. These are the fundamental building blocks that we have at our disposal when building up a sentence and are vital for understanding syntax. Syntax is how we arrange these building blocks into phrases, which we combine to form clauses, which in turn create sentences.
What Is a Phrase?
Phrases are words or groups of words that function together in a clause. Often we class phrases in terms of what role they are playing: we might have a noun phrase, a verb phrase, or an adverbial phrase, for example. Look at the example below to get a feel for what is meant by a phrase.
Authorised Officers are here to help keep your public transport running smoothly and make sure everyone is paying their way.
The main phrases are:
'Authorised Officers', 'your public transport', 'everyone', 'their way' (noun phrases)
'are', 'to help keep…running', 'make sure', 'is paying' (verb phrases)
'here’, 'smoothly' (adverbial phrases)
’and’ (coordination conjunction)
What Is a Clause?
Clauses can be entire sentences or be one of several parts of a sentence. At a minimum, standard clauses must contain a subject and a verb, but usually have other components too. To help us understand what makes up a clause, it is important to re-familiarise yourself with the five clause elements:
Clauses must contain a verb, or else we class them as fragments. The following is a clause:
They watched the sunset together.
But this is a fragment:
What a sunset!
Note that the clause above contains a subject (They), verb (watched), object (the sunset) and adverbial (together), whereas it is not entirely clear how to classify the elements of the fragment, because there is no verb telling us how the words relate to each other.
There are two types of clauses we need to be concerned about: independent (main) clauses and dependent (subordinate) clauses. An independent clause can stand by itself as a simple sentence, whereas a dependent clause sits inside another clause and usually adds extra or supporting information.
Now for one of the key skills that is assessed in short answer questions and analytical commentaries: understanding how we combine clauses to create different structures.
Simple Sentences & Utterances
The first sentence structure is the simple sentence, which contains only one clause. Often these are seen as “short” sentences, but this is not always the case. For instance below is an example of a simple sentence:
All the school children, their families and their teachers were at the carnival for a day of fun and competition.
Compound Sentences & Utterances
Compound sentences consist of at least two independent clauses (ones that have a subject, a verb and form a complete idea on their own), joined by a comma, semicolon or a coordinating conjunction. Take for example the following compound sentence comprised of three clauses:
She swam and she surfed, but her thoughts inevitably returned to the dangers of the sea.
Complex Sentences & Utterances
Complex sentences, on the other hand, contain one independent or “main” clause, as well as one or several subordinate clauses. To identify a subordinate clause, you need to think about whether the clause you have identified stands as a complete thought, or whether it relies on the rest of the sentence to make sense. An example is included below, where only the main clause is bolded.
Now, if you turn to your right, you’ll see the gallery, which was constructed in 1968.
Compound-Complex Sentences & Utterances
Compound-complex sentences, exactly as one would expect, are a combination of several independent and subordinate clauses, to form what is most often quite a long sentence. If you know how to identify compound and complex sentences, this one should not pose much difficulty. Here is an example, where only the dependent clause is bolded.
Now it wouldn’t matter how fast he ran, he would never make it there in time, nor would he have anyone to blame but himself.
Give me a ring if you’re coming, or tell Max on his way home from work.
Sentence Fragments (Minor Sentences)
It may occur to you that not every sentence or bit of language that you ever come across fits neatly into one of the above categories, especially if there is not any identifiable independent clause. These we class as sentence fragments, and they are often found in informal spontaneous discourses.
Too easy mate, good on ya, etc.
Like any skill in English Language, getting good at syntax takes practice. To build your confidence, try parsing any of the texts you come across in school, or even texts you see in a magazine or newspaper. Check with a teacher, friend or tutor to see if you got it right, and where you might still need a little bit of work. And, come back to this blog post anytime you need a refresher!
Language has many uses which go beyond simple communication. Language can be used to entertain, to convey abstract ideas and to mold one’s perspective. A strong understanding of linguistic features, of words and their connotations can allow one to manipulate their language in order to convey certain ideas and thoughts. This brings us to the topic of face needs. One’s face need is the sense of social value that is experienced during social interactions. There are two types of face needs; positive face needs and negative face needs. Positive face refers to the need to feel accepted and liked by others while negative face describes the will to do what one wants to do with freedom and independence.
In daily conversations and in media, language is used to either appeal to face needs or to avoid meeting face needs. Basic politeness markers are frequently used to appeal to face needs, often subconsciously. Imagine a teacher asks you to pass them the pencil they just dropped. Most likely, they will ask something along the lines of, “are you able to pass me that pencil please?” The teacher’s relationship with you is that of an authoritative nature. Therefore, when asked to pick up the pen, you will almost certainly oblige unless there is a compelling reason not to. While the teacher has technically posed a request or a question, it is a in fact a command in disguise. The teacher has an expectation that you will pick up the pen, however, by framing this command as a question, it appears as though you are being given a choice. This appeals to your negative face needs as you are not being imposed upon to pick up the pen, but are given a choice should you wish to “pick it up”. In situations where interlocutors do not have a very close social distance, linguistic features such are politeness markers, rising intonation and interrogative sentences are used to appeal to negative face needs. If this same situation occurred with a friend, they might say something along the lines of ‘oi, chuck us that pen.’ This is a blatant disregard for negative face needs, but due to the close social distance between you and your close friend, appealing to negative face needs for such small things is unnecessary.
Appealing to negative face is most commonly observed in interactions with strangers or with those who do not have a strongly established relationship. However, appeals to negative face needs can also be observed with close individuals, particularly used to further the relationship by extending its boundary. For example, when asking a big favour from a relatively new friend one will most likely use methods to appeal to negative face needs, using phrases such as, ‘do you mind if,’ ‘would it be possible if,’ ‘could I please ask you a huge favour’. Such phrases do not impose of the individual, allowing them to “choose” whether or not to oblige. Appealing to the negative face demonstrates that one recognizes the other’s freedom and wish to do as they wish.
Appealing to positive face needs occurs through slightly different linguistic and paralinguistic techniques. Compliments, minimal response, eye contact, politeness markers and the use of interrogatives are all ways in which one can appeal to another’s positive face needs. These techniques are very often employed in radio and television interviews. It is the duty of the host to make their guest feel welcome and wanted on the show. Television hosts such as Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen often introduce their celebrity guests by mentioning their achievements, thus making them feel special. They frequently employ interrogatives to display avid interest in their guests. Furthermore, back-channeling and vocal effects such as laughter allow the guests to feel that their presence is welcome and appreciated. Think of this from the perspective host and their social purpose. They want to make their guests feel appreciated to promote their viewership and build solidarity with the guests so they may return on the show.
This is interview is an example of positive face needs where interviewer Rajeev Masand compliments Stanger Things actors Milly Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp at the beginning of the interview for their show.
Tom Holland on Ellen:
In this example both Tom Holland and Ellen meet one another’s positive face needs. Politically correct language and euphemisms are also another example of appeals to positive face needs. Calling people ‘differently abled’ is done in attempt to avoid discrimination and allow individuals of different abilities to feel equally accepted and welcome. However, this does not always come across as intended. Often politically correct labels are not embraced by the given community as they feel that such labels further alienate them from society. Politically correct labels can act as reminders to such groups that they are considered minority or, they may feel that these labels are a feeble attempt to push aside previous, conflicting history. This is important to note as it demonstrates that appealing to face needs can sometimes be a hit or miss. In everyday conversation, people use cues in attempt to understand the individual they are conversing with and hence alter their language accordingly. They will use these cues to understand how to use language to appeal to the face needs of the other individual. In a context with school friends, there is likely to be less use of politeness markers and politically correct language as the pre-established relationship means there is a mutual understanding the one does not wish to offend. In contrast, the use of language is likely to be very different in transactional conversations, interviews and conversations with an authoritative relationship.
Techniques used to appeal to face needs always come back to the social purpose of the interlocutors and the contextual factors. By understanding the link between these elements, you can form a holistic analysis of face needs. Therefore, when writing about face needs in your exam and sacs, it is vital to be considerate of the context as this impacts how face needs are approached.
Here are some other examples of celebrity interviews where there is evidence of appeals to positive face needs. Watch them carefully and you’ll notice the specific linguistic features used in these interviews to build solidarity with the guests and create engagement with the show. The hosts compliment their guests and frequently employ minimal response to allow the conversation to progress smoothly. There are minimal overlaps as the hosts are cautious not to talk over their guests. You will notice that in certain interviews, when the host and guest are known to one another, appeals to face needs are not adhered, allowing them to strengthen their bond and further audience engagement.
Malala Yousafzai on Ellen:
Eddie Redmayne interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:
There are several strategies you can use to your advantage to extend yourself in VCE English Language.
Make Finding Examples a Habit
One simple way to expose yourself to more examples is to follow news pages on social media so that you can see regular updates about current affairs. Have a read through of point 7:Year 12 Essay Topic Categories in our Ultimate Guide to English Language so that you can understand what types of examples you should be keeping an eye out for.
Right from the start of the school year, make sure you set up a system to keep track of your examples. You could do this by setting up a document with headings (such as ‘free speech’, ‘egalitarianism’, ‘political correctness’, ‘double-speak’, ‘ethnolects’ and ‘Australian identity’) and adding examples to this document throughout the year as you find them. For more information about the potential headings you could use, have a look at the dot points in the VCE English Language Study Design from page 17 onwards.
The advantage of creating an example/evidence bank of some sort is that if you start looking for examples right at the start of the year, you’ll have more time to analyse and memorise them. Additionally, you’ll also be able to use them far earlier in your essays, which means that the quotes and examples you select will become much easier to remember for the final exam.
Have a Basic Understanding of Australian History, Politics and Social Issues
Having a basic understanding of Australian history, politics and social issues is highly beneficial for enhancing your analytical skills for English Language. This is essential in developing strong contentions for your essays. Some key issues that would be worth having some background information on include the following:
Australia’s colonial history and treatment of Indigenous communities, racism, and the language surrounding these matters.
Look into the following:
How does language reflect or perpetuate prejudice?
How does hate speech affect social harmony?
How can language be used to establish in-group solidarity?
Sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia.
How can bias and prejudice be conveyed through language?
What are some examples of implicit and explicit bias?
What role does political correctness play in this context?
Environmental issues, and the way this intersects with politics.
How can euphemisms, doublespeak, and bureaucratic language be used to obfuscate or mitigate blame?
Immigration and refugee policy related discourse.
What are the origins of pejoratives such as ‘boat people’ and ‘queue jumper’ that are frequently used against refugees?
How does this influence the values or beliefs of a society?
Business and economic issues, labour exploitation
How can bureaucratic language and jargon be used to mislead and manipulate?
Political affairs (historical and recent)
How can formal language be used to mitigate blame and responsibility, negotiate social taboos, or establish national identity?
Having an awareness of key events and social issues in Australia, an understanding of the groups that make up Australia, and exposing yourself to a diverse set of media is really important in developing your essay writing skills. It does take time, but what will ultimately happen is that your discussions in your essays will be much more insightful and demonstrate a well thought out argument.
Apply Your Critical Thinking Skills
When writing essays, try your best to apply your critical thinking skills. Identify the assumptions you’re making when you present a certain point, and try to develop arguments against your position so that you can better understand why you have chosen your side. Developing a holistic and detailed contention is far better than just picking one side out of simplicity, as it allows you to demonstrate consideration and analysis of a range of factors that affect a certain issue. Use your evidence (contemporary examples, linguist quotes and stimulus material) to develop your points, and position yourself to be mindful of any biases you may have by continuously asking yourself what has influenced your way of thinking. Above all, try to discuss your essay prompts with your peers, as this will provide you with different perspectives and help you strengthen your own point.
Consistently Revising Metalanguage
Consistently revising metalanguage is crucial for doing well in English Language. Throughout Year 12, consistently revising metalanguage will be your responsibility. It is likely that you’ll be spending a greater proportion of class time in learning content, and writing practice pieces. Therefore, it’s really important to figure out a way that works best for you in being able to frequently revise metalanguage. Flashcards are useful for revision on the go, as well as making mind maps so that you’re able to visualise how everything is set out in the study design.
One issue students run into when it comes to learning metalanguage is that they’re able to define and give examples for metalanguage terms, however, they are unable to understand how those terms fit into the categories under each subsystem. For example, a student is able to remember what a metaphor is, but unable to recall that it fits under semantic patterning. Similarly, a student may know what a pause is, but not know if it’s part of prosodic features or discourse features.
It’s important to know what all the categories are because the short answer questions usually ask you to identify features under a particular category (e.g. you’d be asked to talk about semantic patterning, not metaphor or pun). Therefore, spending time on just revising the definitions alone isn’t sufficient in learning metalanguage. You also need to be able to ensure that you can recall which category each term fits under. Refer to the study design (pages 17-18), for a list of categories you need to remember; these include:
Processes in connected speech
Word classes, word formation processes
Features of spoken discourse
Strategies of spoken discourse
Sense relations/other semantics
Using Meaningful Examples in Essays
When you talk about a certain variety of English, say for example ethnolects or teen speak, rather than just providing a lexical example or translation, try to find a contemporary example of the term being used in the media, online or by a prominent individual. For example, rather than saying:
‘The lexeme ‘bet’ is an example of teen speak which allows young people to establish solidarity’,
you could say:
‘Bakery owner Morgan Hipworth, who largely has a teenage following and is a young person himself, employs teenspeak in a video recipe, where he responds to the question “Can you make a 10 layer cheese toastie?” with “Bet, let’s go.”’
This will provide you with a better opportunity to talk about in-groups and identity, rather than just defining and identifying an example as part of a particular variety. In doing so, you’re better able to address the roles of different linguistic examples in a contextualised and detailed manner.
In Building Essay Evidence Banks for English Language you’ll see that a short analysis for each of your examples (the ones you are collecting throughout the year) is encouraged, but, you could take things one step further - add on an extra column and combine your analysis and example in a practice sentence. Head to the blog to learn more about building evidence banks.
Sometimes when using language we may want to, or need to discuss a topic that is uncomfortable to deal with directly. For these cases we often employ the technique of euphemism to make the bad things sound better. As Quentin Crisp put it, "Euphemisms are unpleasant truths wearing diplomatic cologne".
Semantic Fields and Situational Contexts
Euphemism is found in a wide range of semantic fields and situational contexts, but a few where they appear often include:
In public-facing language, such as press conferences and interviews
In discussions around uncomfortable topics such as death, termination of employment, and sex
In the corporate world
So this begs the question of why people sometimes choose to employ euphemism, and what social effects it has on relationships and also society as a whole?
The Purpose of Euphemism
There are two sides to the euphemism coin, which are important to keep in mind when discussing and observing the use of euphemism. On the one hand, it can allow us to talk about uncomfortable topics more easily and without losing face, but on the other it can mask the truth or even be used to actively confuse others.
Many would argue that the primary purpose of euphemism is to maintain positive face, and it can often be very effective in doing so. Let’s consider the example of an employer navigating the social taboo topic of dismissing one of their employees. No matter how they go about broaching this topic, some of the face needs of the employee will not be met. According to a variety of online human resources sites, some of the euphemisms that employers or hiring managers are encouraged to use, include:
“Career change opportunity”
“Freeing for availability to the industry”
“Making a team move”
These terms are widely favoured over the bluntness of something like “you’re fired”. By using such euphemisms, employers seek to put the focus onto the minor upsides of being laid off, rather than directly dealing with what will often feel like a personal attack for the employee. In this way, they try to, although not necessarily effectively, meet the face needs of both their employee and themselves in navigating this socially taboo topic.
The euphemisms that we use can also reflect and reveal our shifting social mores as the euphemisms that we use change over time. For example, if we consider the words we use surrounding the semantic domain of animal slaughter, we are seeing more and more euphemisms being employed today, as the topic becomes taboo and unpalatable. Instead of “killing” animals, today people are describing animals as being “depopulated” or “harvested”. We can even see this shift in how we describe the deaths of household pets, who are “put down”, rather than “euthanised”. Such euphemisms reflect our society’s shifting values and attitudes, namely that we now value animal life far more than we have in the past. We now wish to avoid the negative connotation surrounding the traditional lexemes of this semantic field, in order to maintain social harmony and positive face.
However, euphemism is also often used to hide or conceal the truth, and can mislead both those who hear it, and even those who use it. Clear communication is sometimes sacrificed for the sake of maintaining one’s positive face. When euphemism is used to obfuscate the truth, it is often classed as “doublespeak”, a term stemming from the neologisms “doublethink” and “newspeak” in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. For example, local councils may describe a “pot-hole” as a “pavement deficiency” to save face in being unwilling or unable to repair roads. This term is deliberately ambiguous as to the nature of the specific damage, and has been chosen over the far clearer and more familiar term “pot-hole” in an effort to obscure the truth. According to linguist Kate Burridge, euphemisms such as these “tell us how it isn’t”.
Even something as commonplace as life-insurance policies are in reality euphemistic terms for something that really insures one’s death. But insurance agencies and carriers don’t want their product being associated with the social taboo of death, and instead they choose to use the more positively-connoted term “life” to create positive brand recognition. All sorts of euphemisms surround us constantly, and we are often so used to them being used, that we don’t even notice.
Linguist Stephen Pinker describes a “euphemism treadmill”, which is a good metaphor for the way that the connotations of euphemisms can often change over time, as they are used and over-used. The classic example of this process is in the terms used by Nazi officials in the late 1930s and '40s to describe the Holocaust. Initially, the term “Sonderbehandlung” or “special treatment” was used to refer to the summary execution of so-called “unfavourable people”. However, this term quickly became as negatively connoted as the term it was designed to replace among the German people, and so the phrase “die Endlösung der Judenfrage”, “the final solution to the Jewish Question” was formulated - a phrase which again became infamously associated with the atrocities of the Holocaust during the Nuremburg trials. In fact, we’ve observed the overwhelmingly negative connotation of this former euphemism recently in Australia, with Fraser Anning being met with widespread criticism after using this term in the senate. In this example, we can see how over time euphemisms can lose their ameliorating effect as they become more associated with that which they are trying to mask.
Whether you believe that euphemisms are a valuable and useful part of our language, or that they are ambiguous and misleading, their prevalence in our contemporary Australian society make them an important part of a discussion of the evolving semantics of Australian English and of language as a whole.
The English Language exam is split into three sections - Short Answer Questions, Analytical Commentary and an Essay (see here for an explanation of what’s involved in the Essay component). The Short Answer Questions (SAQs) are at the very start of the exam and include 15 marks in total, usually consisting of 3-5 questions that are in response to a text. SAQs are designed to test your knowledge of metalanguage and your ability to elaborate on the situational and social context of the text in a concise manner.
As SAQs only have 15 marks, you should aim to spend 20-25 mins on this section in the exam. Because there are only about 25 minutes available to allocate to this section, they are also a test of your ability to quickly identify key features in a text.
The good thing about SAQs is that because there are specific mark allocations for each question, there’s a formula that you can apply to every question to help you obtain all the marks possible - and that’s what we’ll go through in this blog post, so you can ace every SAQ you come across :)
Common Command Words and What They Mean
The first thing you should do when approaching an SAQ is to recognise (and even better, highlight) the command words in each question in order to help you understand exactly what is required.
Here is a list of commonly seen command words and what they entail:
Identify In response to this command word, you should state the example using metalanguage and line numbers.
Describe If you are asked to ‘describe’, you should state the example with metalanguage and also give some details about it, such as how it links to the context of the text and/or its functions and social purposes.
Analyse, comment on, explain, discuss Now we get to the heavier words that require a lot more elaboration and analysis. For these types of words, you should state the example with metalanguage, describe the immediate impact it creates and then link it to the broader context of the text (whether that be situational or social). So, you can think of these questions as a combination of ‘identify’ and ‘describe’ questions, with a bit of further elaboration attached to them.
SAQs usually range from 1-6 marks each and the way you should answer the question depends on how many marks are available.
As a general rule of thumb, do as the question says.
For example, if we look at this question:
‘Give one function of this text. Using appropriate metalanguage, identify two different language features that support this function.’ (3 marks)
The key phrase here that would distinguish a 2/3 from a 3/3 response is ‘that support this function’. Rather than simply stating two different language features, you should explain how they support the function of the text. It doesn’t have to be long, but at least 1 sentence of elaboration would be required to get full marks.
So, the overall mark allocation for this question is:
1/3: Stating the function 2/3: Identifying two language features 3/3: Linking the language features to the function
A question with a higher mark allocation might be:
‘Using appropriate metalanguage, analyse at least three stylistic and discourse features that contribute to the cohesion of this text. Refer to line numbers in your response.’ (5 marks)
This question has 5 marks, but only one command term (analyse). As such, in response to this question you would have to elaborate on each example - in this case, stylistic and discourse features - and link to how they contribute to the cohesion of the text.
Each example should be followed by at least 1 sentence that explains how it contributes to the text’s cohesion. You could also link the examples to their social purpose/function if this is relevant.
As a general rule, any sort of ‘analyse’ or ‘discuss’ question can follow this template:
1) Identify the example using appropriate metalanguage 2) Describe the immediate effect of that example (e.g. if it creates a humorous effect, if it makes the text hard to understand) 3) Provide further elaboration such as linking to social purpose/function/identity
If you think back to what we covered in the earlier section of this blog, you’ll see that this template follows the rule that higher-order command words (like ‘analyse’ and ‘discuss’) are a combination of ‘identify’ and ‘describe’ questions, with a bit of further elaboration also required.
Finally, here are some general tips to keep in mind when answering SAQs:
Use precise, specific metalanguage (e.g. ‘first-person subject pronoun’ instead of just ‘pronoun’)
Always link to the broader context for questions with more than 1 mark (whether that be situational or cultural)
Highlight keywords and/or line numbers to help you avoid silly mistakes
Always include line numbers when quoting examples
If you’re unsure as to how much you are expected to write, the amount of space given to you in the answer section is usually a good indicator.
For more about how you can boost your marks in English Language, see this blog post about how to extend your skills further.
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