Everyday English 2
Everyday English 2

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Everyday English 2

5.4 Writing articles

Articles are commonly found in newspapers and magazines. They can be formal or informal and often include elements of the writer’s own opinion. Articles are structured as follows:

  • The headline or heading tells the reader what the article is about. It often includes emotive language, alliteration (words that start with the same letter) or rhetorical questions (questions that are asked to make a point rather than get an answer) to grab the reader’s attention and set the tone of the article.

  • The opening paragraph should identify the main points of the article and include who and what the article is about. The opening should be brief but should ensure that the topic of the article is explained.

  • The main body of the article should expand on the information already provided in the opening paragraph. It should provide the most important information first.

  • The closing paragraph should conclude the article and summarise the key points.

The headline

Article headlines often use techniques such as emotive language, alliteration, puns and rhymes to attract the reader’s attention.

The tone of the headline can also give you an idea of the tone or mood of the article. For example:

  • Four Die in Brighton House Fire’ is serious. It tells you what the article is about.

  • Electric Cars Spark Sales’ is humorous. The writer has used a pun (a play on words) to engage the audience. ‘Spark’ could mean a spark of electricity or something that starts off the sales.

Activity 35 What’s in a headline?

Match the technique used to the article headline.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Rhetorical question

  2. Emotive language

  3. Alliteration

  4. Pun

  5. Rhyme

  • a.How much more can we take?

  • b.Peter the plucky penguin

  • c.St Helen’s glass has the class

  • d.Pure terror in her eyes

  • e.Kentucky Freed Chicken

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = a
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = b
  • 4 = e
  • 5 = c

Opening paragraph

The opening paragraph should identify the main points of the article. It should include information on:

  • What has happened? What is the situation?
  • Who is or was involved?
  • When did it or will it take place?
  • Where did it or will it take place?

Activity 36 Who, what, where and when?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Read the news article below and write down who did what, where and when.

BENEFIT FRAUDSTER IS FINED

Walkland District Council issued a warning this week after a mail order clerk was fined for fraudulently obtaining benefits.

Thomas Wilkinson, aged 64 of south London, admitted three charges at the Magistrates Court of fraudulently obtaining benefits amounting to £7,500.

He admitted failing to disclose income from distributing mail order goods during part-time employment.

Wilkinson was sentenced to 200 hours Community Service and is currently repaying the money.

John Stevens of the Walkland District Council Finance Office said ‘genuine’ claimants have nothing to fear, but the Council takes a very serious view of housing benefit fraud. Any changes in circumstances should be referred to the District Council immediately.

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Discussion

Check your answers against these:

  • Who: Walkland District Council
  • What: issued a warning over fraudulent benefits claims
  • Where: Walkland
  • When: this week

You may also have answered the questions in relation to the man who was fined:

  • Who: Thomas Wilkinson
  • What: was fined for fraudulently obtaining benefits
  • Where: Walkland
  • When: this week

The main body

The main body of the text should expand on the information provided in the opening paragraph. It should explain in detail what the article is about.

When writing the main body of the article, you should provide the most important information first:

  1. Crucial information

  2. Supporting information

  3. Background information

You should use language that suits the audience and tone or mood of the piece. You may include quotes from people involved, such as experts and witnesses, to back up the story. When you include quotes, you should use quotation marks.

Using quotation marks

Quotation marks (also known as speech marks and inverted commas) look like this ‘   ’ or this: “   ”. They are used to separate one group of words from another. Here are two examples:

  • The book is called ‘Silver Poets of the Seventeenth Century’.

  • My exact words to him were, ‘If I were you, I would watch out.’

In sentence 1, the quotation marks show exactly what the book’s title is.

In sentence 2, the quotation marks show exactly what was said.

Activity 37 Where do the quotation marks go?

Timing: Allow about 10 minnutes

In the sentences below, insert quotation marks where needed.

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Discussion

Compare your answers with these. If your answers are different, look again at the explanation. Remember, when used to show direct speech, quotation marks enclose the words actually spoken. When used to show a title or quotation, they enclose just the title or quotation.

  • a.Steve turned with a look of annoyance. ‘Oh, honestly,’ he said. ‘Don’t be so ridiculous.’

  • b.To which Paula replied, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ Then a moment later she added, ‘And don’t take that tone with me.’

  • c.In the words of the Immortal Bard, ‘If music be the food of love, play on!’

  • d.The title of the group’s new release is ‘Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!’

  • e.‘You swine! You unspeakable swine!’ he said. Fletcher only laughed.

  • f.‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, from Keats’ ‘Ode to Autumn’, must be one of the most famous lines in English literature.

The closing paragraph

You should not end the article too suddenly. The best endings finish with a closing sentence or quote that provides a conclusion.

Checking and layout

Once the article is finished, it is crucial that you check that it is factually correct and does not contain spelling or grammatical errors.

You also need to decide on an appropriate layout for text and pictures.

This session has covered a number of different structured writing tasks: emails, formal letters and reports. There are, of course, many other writing tasks, such as lists, notices, messages, informal letters, faxes, CVs, and all sorts of official forms.

Part of planning is choosing the right format for a writing task. Format means the way in which something is arranged or set out.

Activity 38 Which format?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Which format would you choose for the following writing tasks?

Read the examples below and pick the correct format from the examples below.

1. Ask a colleague in another department for some information.

a. 

Email


b. 

Letter


c. 

Report


d. 

Newspaper article


The correct answer is a.

2. Send another company a copy of a missing invoice.

a. 

Email


b. 

Letter


c. 

Report


d. 

Newspaper article


The correct answer is b.

3. Tell colleagues about a Christmas party.

a. 

Email


b. 

Letter


c. 

Report


d. 

Newspaper article


The correct answer is a.

4. Ask your bank for an overdraft.

a. 

Email


b. 

Letter


c. 

Report


d. 

Newspaper article


The correct answer is b.

5. Provide feedback on how well a new staff rota is working.

a. 

Email


b. 

Letter


c. 

Report


d. 

Newspaper article


The correct answer is c.

6. Tell the general public in your local area about a new affordable housing scheme.

a. 

Email


b. 

Letter


c. 

Report


d. 

Newspaper article


The correct answer is d.

Discussion

When you choose a format in which to write something, make sure it represents a good use of time and effort and that your reader(s) will consider it appropriate. It is always important to take your readers’ expectations into account.

In this section you have looked at:

  • how to structure emails, letters and reports
  • when to use these three different formats.
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