This is the first in a series of blogs to help you to ‘write for a purpose’ in preparation for English Language Paper 2. In this post we talk about how to write an article which requires you to argue a point.
This is a sample question from an AQA English Language paper, June 2017:
‘Parents today are over-protective. They should let their children take part in adventurous, even risky, activities to prepare them for later life.’ Write an article for a broadsheet newspaper in which you argue for or against this statement.
Here’s how you could tackle it:
1. Gather your ideas
Decide whether you are for or against this statement. Think of at least five strong points to support your argument and jot them down, perhaps as bullet points. Each point will become a paragraph in your article.
2. Plan for skills
You need to demonstrate the following skills (which you can remember as ‘DAFOREST’):
- Direct address. Address the reader as ‘you’ to make them feel the article is personally relevant to them.
- Alliteration. Alliteration is a great technique for making statements memorable.
- Facts. In an exam you will make up facts. For a newspaper article invent some quotes that will support your argument.
- Opinions. Use your own opinions (this goes without saying here!).
- Rhetorical questions. These are questions which don’t need an answer but help to strengthen your argument eg. ‘Do you think today’s children are smothered and cosseted?’
- Repetition. Like alliteration, repeating words or sentences reinforces your message. Some stories and poems, for example, start and finish with the same sentence. Politicians use repetition in speeches to argue their points eg. Tony Blair’s famous quote, ‘Education, education, education…’
- Emotive language. Again, this strengthens your argument. Words like ‘smothered’, ‘stifled’ and ‘oppressed’ elicit a strong emotional reaction. Instead of the word ‘bad’ you might use ‘torturous’ or ‘barbaric’.
- Statistics. This is linked to facts. Use made up statistics to support your argument.
- Three (rule of). For example, ‘By overprotecting children parents are undermining their self-esteem and confidence and causing rebellious behaviour’.
Jot down how you are going to demonstrate each of these skills in your article (perhaps at the same time!), for example:
Direct address/rhetorical questions: ‘Do you tidy your child’s room or put away their clothes?’ ‘Do you interfere with their friendship choices?’
Alliteration/rule of three: ‘If you ease up on the reins your child will be more confident, contented and courageous enough to bounce back after failure’.
3. Plan the counterargument
You need to predict how your reader might argue against some of your points. Jot down these ideas as bullet points and consider how you will defend your arguments. For example, ‘You might think that tidying your child’s bedroom is kind, but it causes them misery in the long-term because when they leave home and live with another person they will become unpopular if they don’t help with household chores’.
4. Plan your headline and subheadings
Headlines are much easier to write when you know what your article is going to be about because the job of the headline is to tell the reader, in an instant, what to expect from the article.
Write a headline that pique’s your reader’s curiosity and draws them in. Use action verbs and remove any unnecessary articles. You can use persuasive devices such as alliteration, rhetorical questions and the rule of three in your headline.
Subheadings are important too because they ‘hook’ your reader as they are scanning through the article. Subheadings outline the key idea in each paragraph – the shorter they are the better! You don’t need to use a subheading for every paragraph; always consider where you think they’re most useful.
5. Plan connectives
What connectives will you use to join paragraphs and sentences? Try to include a variety.
Adding information: and, also, as well as, furthermore, moreover, too
Building upon an idea: as long as, if
Cause and effect: because, consequently, so, therefore, thus
Comparing: as with, equally, in the same way, like, likewise, similarly.
Contrasting: alternatively, although, apart from, but, except, however, in contrast, instead of, on the other hand, otherwise, unless, unlike, whereas, yet
Emphasising a point: above all, especially, indeed, in particular, notably, significantly.
Giving examples: as revealed by, for example, for instance, in the case of, such as.
Sequencing ideas: firstly, secondly, afterwards, eventually, finally, meanwhile, next, since, whilst.
6. Write your answer
Planning your answer as above should not take more than 10 minutes. The only way to speed up the process is to practise exam questions. Sample questions from the English Language GCSE Paper 2 can be found online. The more you do now the quicker you will be on the day.
After 10 minutes planning you will have 35 minutes to write the rest of your answer. Don’t forget to leave some time at the end to read through and check your writing.
When writing your answer:
- Write an engaging opening. Use emotive language or a rhetorical question to draw the reader in.
- Look at your plan and write your paragraphs in an orderly sequence.
- End with a clear and firm conclusion to your argument, perhaps using the ‘rule of three’.
7. Edit your answer
You’ve finished – hooray! Take a few minutes to check for SPaG – spelling, punctuation and grammar. Make any improvements you need to.
Would you like further support?
TutorMyKids offers one-to-one tuition for GCSE English Language and English Literature students. Our tutors can collaborate with you and your teacher to address the areas you’re struggling with, strengthening your skills and giving you an extra boost of confidence on exam day!