Junior Cert English “Functional Writing” Introduction and Overview The Functional Writing section of Paper I asks the student, in as close as possible, to write in the style of somebody who either uses language for a living, or is conducting business or important matters through writing or speech. This part of Paper I strays away from fiction, but is not entirely devoid of opportunities to use language in a creative or dramatic fashion. In some cases the student may have to use their imagination to provide detail to make their work seem realistic and give it the authentic feel. The marks in Functional Writing are given for the knowledge of the style and tone required for the task, and for the understanding of the format required.
Awareness of Audience and Task In all cases in this section, your choice of language, and your use of tone and register will be dictated to you by Â· The intended recipient and/or audience.
Â· Your means of delivery.
In short, you can either use a formal or informal style of address. You should take into account the age, status, and size of the audience you are dealing with. Your language should always be trying to create the appropriate impression of both who you are and what you’re trying to do.
For example, you would use a formal style of address if you were writing a letter to your bank manager asking for a loan to start your own business. Your language would be confident, but not aggressive: informative, but not laboriously so: enthusiastic but not overzealous. The impression created on the bank manager is that you are reliable, competent and trustworthy, and your business will be a huge success.
For your own entertainment you might want to write the worst possible letter of application for the same loan- you would be over-familiar, disrespectful, vague, repetitive, and riddled with inaccuracies about yourself and what you want to do. You can then guess what response this would get from the same bank manager going through their morning mail. This then is the key to Functional writing; awareness of the tone you are to take, and the choice of language to use to reinforce that tone.
An example of a task that you would be asked to complete with an informal style is to imagine that you have been asked by a club that you are involved with to make a presentation to a class of twelve year old primary school children to encourage them to join. You would be presenting this verbally, so when you would prepare your material beforehand, you would stress key information on several occasions, to avoid having the same basic question repeated infinitely. As your audience would be unlikely to have firsthand experience of what you are taking about, you would use the simplest language possible, and use short, sequential, informative language. You would also use an informal tone, as you would want your audience to think your group would be welcoming and fun, not preoccupied with taking everything too seriously.
Here is an example of a completely made-up extract from my very busy diary. Consider the language and tone I would use for each of the following tasks in just one day: 10:00 – Book holiday tickets over phone from travel agency.
11:00 – Complete and edit report for Boss on efficiency of new sys.
12:00 – Address fundraising lunch for Kidney Dialysis unit for Children’s Hospital.
2:00 – Write congratulations card for birth of secretary’s daughter’s first child.
3:00 – Deliver presentation to investors on Company performance.
4:00 – Talk to business journalist about new product range.
6:00 – Attend parent-teacher meeting at son’s new school.
8:00 – Coach under 12 team – introduce new training drills.
10:00 Convince very unsympathetic wife that I’ve had a long day.
At both 12:00 and 3:00 I will be addressing a group of businesspeople. However, there are differences. People will not want to be overly serious at lunch, so I will be able to use a respectful but informal tone. I may even be able to use language that will influence my audience emotionally. However, at 3:00 I will have to be very formal and very structured in my use of language and terminology for the business meeting. Look at the way my 11:00 task is written.
Will I get away with that use of shorthand and slang in the report itself? Of course not; what is acceptable as a note for your own use is not acceptable for a report for someone else’s reading. Will it be easier to present information to my 3:00 or 8:00 appointment? In the afternoon everybody will be fresh. Will they be as sharp in the evening? Should my card for my secretary’s daughter be written with the same tone and language as my report for my employer? All of these questions are central to the idea of functional writing. Make sure what you are doing is appropriate to your task and your audience.
A report can be written for a newspaper, radio programme, or television broadcast. No matter whether it’s to be read or spoken, start with the most important details first. You should deal with the following sequence of facts; 1) what has happened; 2) how it happened; 3) why it happened. The first section, what, will also include where, who and when.
A report doesn’t only have to include the facts, it can also include opinions, in the form of quotations from the relevant experts and authorities, and also some degree of speculation as to what will happen next, and what consequences there will be. Unlike a review, the writer is there to convey the truth and facts of the matter. They are to be unbiased, non-judgemental, and let the facts speak for themselves. A good reporter will trust their audience to make up its mind in the right way once it has all the facts.
The Tabloid Unlike the Broadsheet, the Tabloid newspaper makes no bones about choosing sides in a story, and actively tries to persuade its readers to share its opinion. They very much like to take a light hearted approach to news material if at all possible, and frequently use puns in headlines. They also avoid putting in too many views or opinions on any given subject. They like first-hand accounts from people involved in making the news, and will avoid analysis, as they prefer to be very direct in their focus on the story.
The tabloid journalist likes to gain an emotional response from their reader, and will not shy away from showing where their sympathies lie in any given story. They will sometimes choose to present deliberately one-sided reports on what may sometimes be very complicated issues. They like stories that involve celebrities or famous people, and avoid serious treatment of political or economic issues as much as possible. They thrive on scandal, and what they believe is the public’s insatiable appetite to see what goes on behind closed doors. Tabloids pride themselves on their extremely in-depth sports coverage.
The average reading age (age at which a reader would be expected to understand all contents without difficulty) for a Tabloid newspaper is just nine years. Tabloids like simple and short sentences. They use puns and wordplay to highlight and make memorable the key thrust of their story. They avoid using complicated terminology, and long sentences. They also highlight key-points by having several sub-captions to stories, and by using several illustrations to put across the message visually as well. Tabloids have always been traditionally strong on visual information and colour pictures. In recent years tabloids have abandoned over-reliance on the “page-three girl” feature as they are trying to encourage more women readers.
The Broadsheet A broadsheet newspaper is characterised, not only by its large size, but by the attitude it takes towards journalism, and the presentation of news stories. Primarily, a broadsheet will focus on political, economic and lifestyle features. It will present its main stories in a very in-depth and detailed format. They will take a very serious tone with the reader, and will avoid anything that might seem to be trivialising an issue, for example, a pun in a headline. They prefer a serious, sombre, and often complex approach to news-stories.
Broadsheet newspapers examine not only what happened, but how it happened, why it happened, if it happens frequently, what can be done about it, and they will also mention when similar events occurred. They like to find many individuals related to the event, and experts to give quotations and opinions on what has happened. The broadsheet journalist likes to appear impartial and unbiased, and avoids any sense that their emotions might be affecting what they write in any way. They like to convey the impression that they give you the whole truth.
Some broadsheet newspapers are physically huge. The average reading age (level of difficulty) for reading a broadsheet and understanding everything in it would be fourteen years, which means you would be able to follow everything. Broadsheets are only now beginning to embrace the possibilities for the use of colour in their papers. Traditionally they have been very black and white affairs, but are increasing the amount of photographs they publish.
The art of the reviewer is to give the reader just enough a suggestion of what it is you’re talking about, just enough to whet their appetite. If you check a Sunday newspaper, you can find reviews of motorcars, concerts, films, restaurants, even hotels! Nothing is too small, or too large to avoid being reviewed. You could be required to write a review of a favourite film of yours, or to write a blurb for the back of a novel.
Unlike a report, which is essentially factual, a review gives you far more scope to let your opinions and feelings known. You can say what you liked or disliked about what you’re reviewing, and that is almost important as a factual description of what you’re reviewing. You can create either a very positive or negative impression on your reader by the tone and language you use. You should assume that your reader has a general interest in the area, but may not be familiar with exactly what you’re going to tell them about.
It is easy to criticise something, and often after saying how bad something is, you will find yourself repeating your verdict without informing the reader of why, how or what was bad about it. If you are still looking to fill space, try constructive criticism. Any reviewer can pronounce whether something is good or bad; only the inspired reviewer can point out what was done well, and conversely, what opportunities were lost.
For example, if you are reviewing the sitcom Friends, then you should fill in the background first for the reader. It is advisable to go into some detail about the characters, and then finally to attempt some analysis of why it is you like or dislike it.
Q: What’s the difference between an interview and writing dialogue? A: Interviews are essentially pieces of dialogue, but without the qualifying “he saids / she saids” at the end of each piece of speech. The different parts of the conversation can be put as question and answer exchanges (“Q:” and “A:”), or if it is a more informal interview which is very similar to a conversation, then you can call yourself “Interviewer”, but refer to your subject by their Surname. Keep your questions short, and let your interviewee expand on them.
Q: What are the things I should try to do, and what are the most common problems? A: A bad question to ask is anything that would encourage your interviewee to give a monosyllabic answer, of the “yes/no” variety. A good question is one which gives the interviewee a chance to illustrate with examples from their life, work, or to ponder on events important to their work, lives, and past or future. A good interviewer gets to the point quickly, and their questions will never be longer than the answers they receive.
I once interviewed Seamus Heaney while in college, and committed all of the above mistakes. The Sample Answer below I have had to invent to cover my embarrassment! As well as bearing in mind your interviewee, bear in mind the audience who will be reading this interview. You want something that is informative, but not technical, and which allows the person or subject to come across well to the reader. There was a fashion recently in newspapers for interviews in which you discovered more about the interviewer than the interviewee, but thankfully, this has now passed.
Q: So, I basically just make the entire thing up then? But how do I structure it? A: If you are stuck as to where to start, pick an example of an interviewee who would be appropriate, and write out the list of questions you would like to ask them. Then all you need to do is invent their answers, going by what you know of them. If you’re still stuck, then ask what they’re doing now, what they were doing previously, and what they hope to be doing in six months time. You can also ask if they have achieved all they want to do, or if they think other people’s impressions of them are important. Bear in mind though that your questions will ultimately depend on who the intended audience for the interview is. If they are your age, then ask questions you think your friends would like to know the answers to. Within reason, of course.
Speech Writing The skill of speech writing could be relevant to Personal Writing or Functional Writing.
How to write, deliver and appreciate a good speech.
The key to writing and delivering a good speech is to remember at all times that the speaker is dealing with an audience. The writer/speaker must also bear in mind at what occasion the speech is to be delivered. A speech to be given at an EGM of a company faced with bankruptcy will be drastically different in its structure, tone, and technique than a speech to be given by the same speaker at a wedding later that week! How to write a speech.
(For this section, we will consider a speech as that which a speaker would be called upon to prepare for a debate, or public speaking competition.) First, read your motion carefully. In the Junior Certificate, you will be invited to speak either for or against the topic. In deciding whether to speak for or against the motion, don’t necessarily choose the side of the motion which you support; choose instead the side of the argument that will give you the most arguments to use in your speech. A good idea is to brainstorm all the possible arguments both for and against, and when you see which side gives you more avenues of thought to pursue, choose it.
Second, having chosen your side of the debate, decide that the motion is a good or bad idea because”¦This then will become the argument of your speech. The argument is the central theme which you will introduce, build upon and then summarise. Often it is best to have to have three reasons; Example For Capital Punishment is a good idea because”¦ 1. It deters other criminals from committing serious crimes 2. It is cheap, efficient, and labour saving 3. It eliminates the possibility of repeat offences Against Capital Punishment is a bad idea because”¦
1. Miscarriages of justice cannot be rectified 2. It makes killing right for some yet wrong for others, thus introducing a double standard when there should be a simple statement that “murder is a crime” 3. Prisons should be for rehabilitating offenders, not for revenge All of the above statements should then be supported by example, but remember, in a debate, your argument is more important than your examples. A good speaker is always restating their argument; a bad speaker is always lost in a fog of example. This is how your argument becomes informative and clear.
Third, decide on the structure and tone you want to use in your speech. Some speakers may like to start their speech with a story, anecdote or quotation that will then illustrate their arguments to follow. This gives the speaker a chance to make the speech unique, and make it more relevant than a theoretical discussion of some issue that has never had, or will never have any affect on the speaker.
What tone are you going to use? Avoid making sweeping statements, such as “we all know what this is going to lead to.” Instead, pitch such ideas to the audience in the form of rhetorical questions: “Do we want our society to be like this?” Avoid the use of too much jargon, and if you are forced to, make sure to define the term immediately after you first mention it, so the audience will be informed for when they will next hear the term. Do not believe that your audience are already experts on this issue – you may need to fill them in on the basics first. Do not do this in a patronising way, but instead say that you want to focus their attention on the key issues. In this way you will be more persuasive, and less arrogant. Too much arrogance and you will end up alienating your audience from your point of view.
Depending on the occasion that the speech is to be delivered, start with the most important dignitaries present, and proceed through your list to the end, which is usually your fellow speakers. A standard opening for a school debate would be Chairperson, Principal, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Students, Fellow Speakers, I have come before you today to speak on the motion that”¦(insert motion here)”¦ Continue to refer directly to the audience at intervals throughout your speech, and conclude with a summary of all your arguments, and by thanking the audience for their time and attention.
Ladies and Gentlemen, having put forward the facts, I beg you to support/oppose this motion, that”¦(insert motion here)”¦ How do you know if you have written a good speech? Imagine you are listening to that speech from the audience. To a member of an audience, no matter where, a good speech will always have the following qualities.
1. It will be suited to the tone of the occasion, whether solemn, or celebratory.
2. It will be informative, but not so technical that it either confuses or loses you.
3. You will be clear at the end of the speech as to why the speaker feels in the way they do about the topic they have spoken on.
4. The speech will emphasise why the issue is important to everyday life, rather that some abstract worry that may never affect you.
5. You will have been given a definition of the issue, and more importantly, a series of suggestions or steps as to how this issue should be dealt with.
6. You will have developed a sympathy for both the speaker and the issue that they spoke upon.
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