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DJA

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DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« on: December 08, 2014, 02:41:23 pm »
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Tips and tricks to improve expression in writing
A lot of people say that English expression cannot be taught and that it’s an innate facet of writing that is different for different people. I would disagree. I believe expression can not only be taught but that it can also be improved if you put in the time and the effort. If you’re wondering what expression is, to put it simply, it is essentially the manner in which you write, the manner in which you construct your sentences whether it is simplistic or complex.
You might know every single text type and the best way to construct a cohesive essay but if your expression is poor, it becomes very hard to score highly. (Additionally random sidenote for you literature students; expression is in my opinion even more important. If your writing SOUNDS nice, it’s going to impress the examiner. Combine that with good analysis and you’re on track for high marks.)
Although the flair required in literature is perhaps not as critical in English, good expression still important and I encourage you to recognise its intrinsic importance as you go into year 12.


This guide will be aimed towards analysis, so text response will be my main focus. 

Reading (It’s enjoyable don’t judge)
Probably the most vital way to improve your expression is simply to read. Read widely. Read all kinds of texts whether it’s newspapers, online articles, novels, classics or encyclopaedias (I am a nerd don’t judge). The reason why reading is powerful is that you don’t need to consciously ‘learn’ expression. As you read good writing, your brain internalises certain sentence constructions and hence when you write, these structures will unconsciously improve your writing. Also read high scoring essays. Personally before my year 12 – so these summer holidays – I spent a lot of time simply looking through the forums and downloading and reading the model essays that so many past forum members have contributed in both English and Literature. Doing this helped my writing immensely.
Some good places to start:
English Resources and Sample High Scoring Responses
Literature Essay Compilation Thread
http://www.atarnotes.com/?p=notes&search=&subject=English&units=MyY0

Vocabulary lists (How to become a wanker)
Vocabulary is definitely important to good expression. If you’re using words such as ‘like’, ‘good’, ‘bad’ and ‘shows’ all the time it’s not going to make a good impression on an examiner. You should definitely have synonyms in your mind. Again reading helps a ton as when you read, you unconsciously expand your vocabulary. However, what also helps is actually writing down useful vocabulary. For English, I compiled interesting vocabulary at the back of my writing/note book whenever I read study guides, model essays or critical readings. If I didn’t know what a word meant, I would google it. Then when I wrote essays, I would open to my vocab and challenge myself to use some of the words I had learnt in my writing. Give it a shot!

Remember however that there IS a difference between sophisticated language and excessive and pretentious language. Use words that are appropriate, that you could even use in conversation but that aren’t so hard to understand that you sound like a wanker.
Everyday language: Good
Sophisticated: Magnificent
Pretentious: Splendiferous

The Active Voice (Engage!)
No one likes passive voice! It’s boring and it sounds dull. Change your sentences to active and suddenly your writing will start to shine and immediately sound more engaging. By avoiding passive voice, you can achieve a more powerful, straightforward and economical writing style.

This is passive voice:
The metaphor of a “very straightest plant” is used by Shakespeare to convey Hotspur’s unshakeable Medieval warrior code centred around honour and duty.

Now consider this active version which places the playwright at the forefront and streamlines the analysis without the clumsy ‘used by’:
Shakespeare metaphorically equates Hotspur with the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity.

Again this is passive:
The hellish descriptors of the “fire” of war “creeping”, “grazing” and “roof[ing]” the young soldier in a “slow” agonizing death is used by Owen to convey the relentless and inescapable nature of the torment of the mind in wartime, whether this be the pressures from home to maintain notions of “honor”, or the “torture” of combat itself.

And then active:
The hellish descriptors of the “fire” of war “creeping”, “grazing” and “roof[ing]” the young soldier in a “slow” agonizing death, foreground the relentless and inescapable nature of the torment of the mind in wartime, whether this be the pressures from home to maintain notions of “honor”, or the “torture” of combat itself.

The magic word (You’re a wizard Harry)
In my language analysis guide I explained how important the employment of variations of the verb phrase ‘this shows’ is in order to avoid sounding repetitive. Your whole analysis hinges around words such as ‘conveys’, ‘depicts’, ‘connotes’ and the like. Such words enable you to actually analyse the quote and demonstrate its meaning.

Some examples include (note these are not all exact synonyms, use appropriately):
Reveals, demonstrates, foregrounds, conveys, establishes, represents, suggests, highlights, implies, denotes, connotes, reveals, illustrates

Example:
Hamlet’s vitriolic declaration, “Now could I drink hot blood” foregrounds the enlightened Dane’s desperate desire to conform to a simplistic medieval paradigm of avenger, rather than struggle within the introspection of his rational mind.

Nominalisation (Analysis on steroids)
This is probably the most nifty trick of expression that I know. It makes you sound more sophisticated and most crucially moves you beyond the dreaded realm of storytelling. Nominalisation involves shifting the idea or topic to the front of the sentence through making a verb (e.g. declares) a noun (e.g. declaration). Such a construction forces you to analyse what you have brought up in the second half of the sentence hence avoiding simply re-telling the story.

Take a look at this sentence which does little more than summarise and offers no pertinent analysis:
Across the play, Hal abstains from blunt intimidation on the political stage…

Now we nominalise and change ‘abstains’ to ‘abstinence’. Suddenly we must analyse:
Hal’s abstinence from a political style that favours pure intimidation in favour of more balanced approach – seeing the merit in both ‘might’ and ‘cunning’ – allows him to engender the favour of both the public and the royal court, paving the way for his ascendance to the throne.

Complex Sentences (Wanky writers round two)
Use this sparingly but if you are one for short sharp sentences which don’t have much flow, this could change that. As you become more prolific in your writing, the problem become shortening sentences! Many analytical sentences can be combined using conjunctions such as ‘yet’, ‘however’, ‘simultaneously’ and ‘nevertheless’. It works especially well when you are analysing a tension or a contradiction.

This example is from Henry IV – a text which is absolutely rife with contradictions and uncertainties:
In Hal’s self-aware understanding, we see the inner workings of a skilled Machiavel hidden beneath the façade of “unyoked humour”. Hal’s political understanding is also tempered by a loyalty to the commoners he calls friends

Combined:
In Hal’s self-aware understanding, we see the inner workings of a skilled Machiavel hidden beneath the façade of “unyoked humour” while simultaneously recognising the prince’s loyalty to those that he would call friends in the tavern world…

The power of ‘seem’ (Pretentiousness but covertly)
'Seem' is a very underrated word. Use this word sparingly though. Use it especially when you need to refer to the author/playwright in order to avoid sounding too definitive. After all, it is impossible to know exactly what an author’s intent was. This word is very useful in conclusions when you are dealing with the big concerns/themes of the text.

Good example:
What Shakespeare seems to suggest then, is the danger of becoming fixed in any one way of approaching the political realm.

Example conclusion:

In the multitude of political approaches evident in the play, the ramifications they incite illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of each style. For the King and the rebel camp, their eventual prioritisation of might and overbearing power bodes poorly on their political dealings, forming enemies and for the rebels, assisting in their downfall. What Shakespeare seems to suggest then, is the danger of becoming fixed in any one way of approaching the political realm. What we see in Hal is a balance that prioritises neither might nor manipulation. Rather his ability to adapt to different situations allows him to better handle the challenges of politics. Hal’s noble release of the captured Douglas at the end of the play in respect for his “colours” and high deeds” paints an apotheosized picture of a worthy Prince capable of the political rigours of the Plantagenet court, able to see the merit in kindness and mercy where Henry and Hotspur can only see the personal gain in the prisoners they garnered earlier in the play.

Bad words (Never use these or Shakespeare will strike you down)
See that word? ‘Bad’! Never use such language unless it is for specific effect.
Other words to AVOID at all costs:
This technique allows Miller to convey…”
This quote shows…”
The theme of…”
This is an example of” and worse still is “prime example of
Don’t use ANY sycophantic language expecially about the author.
e.g. “Shakespeare amazing use of…”

I hope this helps you all as you strive to improve your writing. Feel free to pm me about anything and post here with any questions! Best of luck again! DJA
« Last Edit: December 09, 2014, 06:01:29 am by DJALogical »
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DJA's Guide to Language Analysis (Section C)
DJA's guide on the topic of English Expression (Text response)

brenden

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2014, 03:46:59 pm »
+2
Wow, this is a REALLY good guide!
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sjayne

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2014, 12:30:13 am »
0
Awesome guide! I would  just recommend that you don't use  the word seem at all, only because you want to appear confident and not uncertain. As soon as an assessor sees it they're going to question whether you really know what you are talking about.

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DJA

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2014, 05:59:09 am »
+3
Awesome guide! I would  just recommend that you don't use  the word seem at all, only because you want to appear confident and not uncertain. As soon as an assessor sees it they're going to question whether you really know what you are talking about.

I see what you are getting at, but I still believe that if used correctly, such words allow you to avoid sounding hubristic - as if you know EXACTLY what the author/playwright is getting at. Especially for someone like Shakespeare who lived such a long time ago.

As I said, use it sparingly. As sjayne pointed out, you don't want to be using 'seem' for every bit of analysis as it WILL make you sound uncertain.  :)

However, say for conclusions when you are zooming out and consolidating your ideas, it can be very useful when you are referring to the author. Let me contextualise the example with the full conclusion:

In the multitude of political approaches evident in the play, the ramifications they incite illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of each style. For the King and the rebel camp, their eventual prioritisation of might and overbearing power bodes poorly on their political dealings, forming enemies and for the rebels, assisting in their downfall. What Shakespeare seems to suggest then, is the danger of becoming fixed in any one way of approaching the political realm. What we see in Hal is a balance that prioritises neither might nor manipulation. Rather his ability to adapt to different situations allows him to better handle the challenges of politics. Hal’s noble release of the captured Douglas at the end of the play in respect for his “colours” and high deeds” paints an apotheosized picture of a worthy Prince capable of the political rigours of the Plantagenet court, able to see the merit in kindness and mercy where Henry and Hotspur can only see the personal gain in the prisoners they garnered earlier in the play. 


You can see here if we said, "What Shakespeare suggests then...", I find it a bit too definitive. But again it comes down to personal preference!
2014 - English (50, Premier's Award)| Music Performance (50, Premier's Award) | Literature (46~47) | Biology (47) | Chemistry (41) |  MUEP Chemistry (+4.5)  ATAR: 99.70

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DJA's Guide to Language Analysis (Section C)
DJA's guide on the topic of English Expression (Text response)

walkec

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2014, 08:33:09 am »
+1
I see what you are getting at, but I still believe that if used correctly, such words allow you to avoid sounding hubristic - as if you know EXACTLY what the author/playwright is getting at. Especially for someone like Shakespeare who lived such a long time ago.

As I said, use it sparingly. As sjayne pointed out, you don't want to be using 'seem' for every bit of analysis as it WILL make you sound uncertain.  :)

However, say for conclusions when you are zooming out and consolidating your ideas, it can be very useful when you are referring to the author. Let me contextualise the example with the full conclusion:

In the multitude of political approaches evident in the play, the ramifications they incite illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of each style. For the King and the rebel camp, their eventual prioritisation of might and overbearing power bodes poorly on their political dealings, forming enemies and for the rebels, assisting in their downfall. What Shakespeare seems to suggest then, is the danger of becoming fixed in any one way of approaching the political realm. What we see in Hal is a balance that prioritises neither might nor manipulation. Rather his ability to adapt to different situations allows him to better handle the challenges of politics. Hal’s noble release of the captured Douglas at the end of the play in respect for his “colours” and high deeds” paints an apotheosized picture of a worthy Prince capable of the political rigours of the Plantagenet court, able to see the merit in kindness and mercy where Henry and Hotspur can only see the personal gain in the prisoners they garnered earlier in the play. 


You can see here if we said, "What Shakespeare suggests then...", I find it a bit too definitive. But again it comes down to personal preference!

I agree with the use of "seem". I think it gives assurance to your writing, and especially in the case of Literature, it shows confidence in your own personal interpretation. It could also be used as a way to show how interpretations change over multiple readings (e.g. "initially it seems that Hamid.... whereas it is later apparent that it stands as (blah)"

Also I think reading your work aloud under your breath is totally under rated! I started doing this more around July, and my expression in my writing in both English and Literature dramatically improved.

I know this also sounds vague, but it's really important that you have your own personal style or "voice" in your work. This can take time to develop, (I only got mine happening before the last SACs), but it can help improve your expression because it just natually flows.

EvangelionZeta

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2014, 05:55:55 pm »
+4
Love this - only beef is with the passive/active voice chunk.  As a lover of the passive voice, I would definitely agree you shouldn't overuse it.  With that said, sometimes it can be used for a certain rhetorical effect, or just because it sounds "nice", or sometimes because it draws attention to certain parts of the sentence.  For instance (using your examples):

"Shakespeare metaphorically equates Hotspur with the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity. "

vs

"Hotspur is metaphorically equated to the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity."

Not the neatest example, but there's a certain value in the second one in that it emphasises the language/metaphor iftself, over the fact that *Shakespeare* is the one using it.

The only other thing - nominalisation can sometimes detract from analysis as well if overused.  For the same reason the active voice is often preferable to the passive, nominalisation can "slow down" writing or simply make it too dense; better, in some cases, to stick with simple, active verbs.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 05:59:33 pm by EvangelionZeta »
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DJA

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2014, 07:08:53 pm »
+3
Love this - only beef is with the passive/active voice chunk.  As a lover of the passive voice, I would definitely agree you shouldn't overuse it.  With that said, sometimes it can be used for a certain rhetorical effect, or just because it sounds "nice", or sometimes because it draws attention to certain parts of the sentence.  For instance (using your examples):

"Shakespeare metaphorically equates Hotspur with the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity. "

vs

"Hotspur is metaphorically equated to the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity."

Not the neatest example, but there's a certain value in the second one in that it emphasises the language/metaphor iftself, over the fact that *Shakespeare* is the one using it.

The only other thing - nominalisation can sometimes detract from analysis as well if overused.  For the same reason the active voice is often preferable to the passive, nominalisation can "slow down" writing or simply make it too dense; better, in some cases, to stick with simple, active verbs.

I would agree with you.

The way I see it is that when you mark essays that storytell all the way through, it's often useful to explain to the student the value of nominalisation to teach them the value of analysing when bringing in evidence. Similarly with active passive voice, if a student uses passive voice all the way through it can sound tedious - hence explaining how active voice works helps a lot.

The point is I find often students are unaware of what they are doing and its useful to flag something as simple as nominalisation to show them the value of it - I've found it can dramatically improve writing.

Once they have improved beyond this and their fluency reaches a good level, there is more scope to play around with writing conventions and bend the rules and essentially do whatever. When you get to a high standard of writing, such tips are no longer that useful as it will come naturally - and people can find their writing voice as walkec pointed out. But that obviously takes time and effort and hopefully these small advice pointers can assist in some way!
2014 - English (50, Premier's Award)| Music Performance (50, Premier's Award) | Literature (46~47) | Biology (47) | Chemistry (41) |  MUEP Chemistry (+4.5)  ATAR: 99.70

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DJA's Guide to Language Analysis (Section C)
DJA's guide on the topic of English Expression (Text response)

brenden

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2014, 07:11:05 pm »
0
Love this - only beef is with the passive/active voice chunk.  As a lover of the passive voice, I would definitely agree you shouldn't overuse it.  With that said, sometimes it can be used for a certain rhetorical effect, or just because it sounds "nice", or sometimes because it draws attention to certain parts of the sentence.  For instance (using your examples):

"Shakespeare metaphorically equates Hotspur with the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity. "

vs

"Hotspur is metaphorically equated to the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity."

Not the neatest example, but there's a certain value in the second one in that it emphasises the language/metaphor iftself, over the fact that *Shakespeare* is the one using it.

The only other thing - nominalisation can sometimes detract from analysis as well if overused.  For the same reason the active voice is often preferable to the passive, nominalisation can "slow down" writing or simply make it too dense; better, in some cases, to stick with simple, active verbs.
Yeah, I must say, despite being taught about the superiority of active voice in VCE, I transitioned quite rapidly to using passive voice in philosophical writings/university and it really does become quite lovely in many situations. (That said, I still recommend my students write in the active voice in VCE).
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literally lauren

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2014, 07:43:38 pm »
+3
I'd say both can be used in moderation, but generally the active voice spells things out clearer to the assessor, even if the passive sounds neater or more literarily impressive. I was told point blank by my teacher that there are incredibly dumb assessors out there, and whilst you don't want to be catering to their level for your entire essay, you want to give them enough obvious opportunities to give you marks.

It can depend on the text and prompt too; for Henry, Medea, This Boy's Life etc. there's more of an emphasis placed on the author, as reflected in a lot of the VCE prompts. Contrarily for Mabo or Stasiland the author is kind of incidental, and they're just conflated with the overall views and values.

Though Lit skills are pretty much completely transferrable to English, analysing like this:
Hotspur is metaphorically equated to the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity.
is probably more valid in the middle of body paragraphs, where as this:
Shakespeare metaphorically equates Hotspur with the naturalistic image of the “straightest plant”, conveying the unswerving honour and duty that forms an intrinsic part of this character’s warrior identity.
could almost be a T.S. or paragraph closer.

Biggest determining factor would be writing confidence though. Changing up the voice is probably more effective than ruling out one altogether, unless someone (student or teacher :P) finds it particularly troublesome.


linked this guide to the resource sticky btw, awesome job DJA!

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2017, 06:43:16 pm »
0
How do i nominalise
I didnt get thoose example as they were hard
For example how do i nominalise this,
Isobel does not receive birthday presents from your mother.

literally lauren

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Re: DJA's guide for English Expression (Text response)
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2017, 10:27:49 am »
0
How do i nominalise
I didnt get thoose example as they were hard
For example how do i nominalise this,
Isobel does not receive birthday presents from your mother.

An easy way to do that is to use a sentence starter like 'The fact that...'

E.g. 'The fact that Isobel does not receive birthday presents from her mother suggests...'
...and then continue on your analysis from there.

Basically, it forces your sentence to contain some analysis :)