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Essay Writing

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1 Essay Writing on Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:35 pm

yennhi

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Essay Writing

15.1 The word ‘essay’ is associated with the classroom and the examination hall. This chapter is intended to help those who have to compose a piece of writing as part of an English course in a school or college. As most or these courses end in a written examination, the chapter places special emphasis on writing against the clock. None the less, many of the following pages should be helpful to those who have to plan and execute pieces
of writing for other readers besides teachers or examiners.

The timed exam-essay is much criticized as a test of English. In the normal course of events few people – if any – have to write against such a strict deadline as an exam imposes. Even journalists, who habitually have to deliver their work by a given time, are usually allowed more than a few minutes to gather their material, think about it, organize it into shape and then put it down. Certainly no serious short-story writer or novelist would consider it reasonable or even feasible to be expected to produce, within an hour or so, a competent piece of creative writing with a title not of his choosing. However, these are the circumstances which face an examinee, and he has to prepare himself accordingly.

There are several Examination Boards, and they vary in the way they frame essay titles. Some give plenty of information to help the candidate get started; others provide photographs, drawings, strip-cartoons or maps as a basis for the composition. But most typically an exam paper provides six or eight short titles, and the candidate is given an hour in which to deal with one of them. The following, culled from past papers, are typical:


  • A strange and unusual object was bought at an auction sale and brought


  • home. Describe how your family was affected by the purchase.


  • Do you consider superstitions to be silly nonsense, or do you think that some
    should be taken seriously?


  • Breaking records.


  • Photography and its uses.


  • You have been given a book token.


  • Describe your difficulties in selecting a book, and the reasons for your final choice.


  • Write a story entitled ‘The Stowaway’.


  • Droughts and floods. Describe your experiences of one or both.


  • Some people claim that borrowing and lending goods and money are
    always unwise. Give your opinion,referring to some of your own
    experiences and others you have heard of.


  • A day on a farm, in a factory or in an office.


  • Lost things.


  • Films and television have been blamed for increases of crimes of violence. Do you think that they really influence people in this way?


  • Noise.


  • Describe a well known contemporary figure whom you admire or dislike.


  • An addition to the family.


  • The family breakfast table.


  • A surprise present.


  • Sympathy.


  • How far is soccer hooliganism an insoluble problem?


  • The amount of money available for major undertakings is limited. How do you think it should be spent?


  • Spare time.


  • Describe how your family wake up in the morning and prepare for work.


  • Odd habits. Describe any amusing,annoying or particularly strange ones which you yourself have or which you have seen in other people


  • In what ways would you like your children’s upbringing to differ from or be similar to your own?


  • Boys have an easier time than girls.


  • Write an original short story based on one of the following:
a)
a failure to obey someone’s instructions.


b) a generous gift put to bad use.
c) a small fire that got out of control.
d) the use of faulty building materials.




  • Many people have the urge to travel. Where would you most like to travel and why?


  • Memories,pleasant and unpleasant.


  • ‘Wild Life in Danger’. What do you think we should do to preserve endangered species from extinction?


  • All the fun of the fair.


  • The corner shop.


  • The bomb.


  • Granddad.
  • ‘Suddenly the brakes failed’. Write a story including this sentence.
  • Have you learnt from your mistakes? Give examples from your personal experience.
  • The Wedding.
  • The fascination of the sea.
  • Disaster area.
  • Write a short story, using the following sentence as a starting point:
    ‘Sometimes he wondered whether he was safe – danger just seemed to go on
    traveling with him’.
  • Foxhunters were once described as ‘The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’. What are your own vies on foxhunting?
  • The sweet smell of success.
  • The pleasures and pains of gardening or cooking or jogging or camping.
  • Give an account of the most important ways in which your outlook on life is different form your parents.
  • Explain why professional games-players are among the most highly-paid of people,and say whether they ought to be.
  • ‘The first time is the worst’. Describe an occasion or occasions when you have found this to be true.
  • The Intruder.
  • Describe a journey made in bad weather by land, sea or air.
  • Digging up the past.
  • Suddenly the discordant sound of a siren was heard approaching. With headlights blazing and indicators
    and roof-lights flashing an ambulance tore down the street past the crawling line of traffic. It skidded to a halt and its doors flew open as the attendants sprang out. Write a story in which this incident plays an important part.
  • From your own experience, would you say that television exerts a good or bad influence on people today?
  • Unwelcome visitors.
  • Describe a stop during the course of a long journey of any kind.
  • An unexplained mystery.
  • Sunday afternoon.
  • Clowns.
  • Describe the person who has influenced you most during the course of your life,making clear the affect he or she has had on you.
  • Refugees.
  • Uniforms and uniformity.
  • How has the ‘micro-chip’ revolution affected you, and what do you foresee as possible effects in the future?
  • Select an area, either town or countryside, that you know well and write a description of it, bringing out its special character.
  • ‘Never again!’ you said. Describe circumstances that caused you to make the comment.

15.2 In this list, four main types of composition are dicernible:

a) narrative: writing a short story (e.g.
6, 25, 38);

b) descriptive: a word-picture of a person
(13, 32, 55), place (29, 30, 59), event (35, 46, 51) or experience (7, 27, 44);

c) discursive: facts, opinions and arguments
have to be marshaled, in an orderly way, to answer a question or reach
conclusions (2, 11. 18, 24, 41, 42). The
emphasis is more on feelings, less on logical argument. The Orwell passage quoted at 13.4 exemplifies the characteristic subjectivity of such writing.
Some titles contain more than one of these elements. In what ways would you like your children’s upbringing to be different from you own? is likely to be descriptive of your own upbringing and reflective or speculative about your children’s. From your own experience would you say that television exerts a good or bad influence on people’s lives? may be discursive in handling the pro’s and con’s, but descriptive of your own experience or a reflective about it.
Other titles so worded that they could be taken as the titles of stories (An addition to the family; A surprise present; The Wedding) or as starting-points for descriptive or reflective pieces. The four categories are helpful, however, in beginning to define different approaches to composition and the different sorts of writing-skill it entails.

Writing-material

15.3 (a) If you are preparing for an examination, it
is wise to do obtain past papers from the Examination Board and study the
normal style of its questions.

(b) If you practice
essay-writing (especially against the clock) you will soon learn that you may
be more successful in some types of writing than others. It would be foolish to go into an exam room
determined at all costs to write a discursive essay, say, and avoid writing a
story: the discursive titles may, of course turn out to be on subjects you have
few thoughts about. You must be prepared
in the full range of skills, but self-confidence is helped if you know in
advance what your strengths are.

(c) Inescapably, a test of ‘English’ is a test of what is inside your mind or feelings. If draws on imagination (especially in narrative writing), knowledge, experience, the quality of thought-processes (especially in discursive writing), - observation (in descriptions), opinions,emotions, recollections – everything that makes up a person’s inner life.


Preparing for an English exam may therefore mean cultivating the inner life: certainly a candidate who fears he may have nothing to say – in which case he cannot possibly pass an English exam – cannot avoid this cultivation. It requires learning by listening, thinking, talking and above all by reading short stories, novels,plays, poetry, fact, and fiction, autobiographies and essays, news-papers and magazines, and reflecting on both content and the techniques that writers use to make their effects. The previous two chapters provide guide-lines for this.

(d) The raw material of writing is the perceptions, feelings, thoughts, opinions, beliefs, ideas,aspirations, memories and impressions that we all have, however disorganised or incoherent they may normally be.The craft of writing is the organisation into a coherent form and shape, using the principles and techniques outlined in this chapter.

(e) What makes this raw material unique is that it bears the individual stamp of our own lives and personalities. It may not be the stuff with which great literature can be made, but being unique it can be turned into an original and satisfying piece of prose, certainly good enough to please us or an examiner even if it is not successful enough to deserve publication or be the first step on the way to fame as an artist.

(f) It follows that the golden rule is to write from personal experience or observation whenever possible. That will guarantee originality and probably freshness and interest in writing. Even a discursive essay on blood-sports,
censorship, vivisection or capital punishment, about which your knowledge,arguments and opinions may not be much different from those of hundreds of other people, will be distinctly personal and valuable if it reflects your
feelings or uses illustrations or incidents drawn from you personal store of experience and observation.

(g) Many writers amass raw material by keeping a diary or commonplace book in which they jot down miscellaneous observations as they go about their daily lives, just as painters often make quick sketches of scenes, people, buildings or happenings on the spot and later work them into more carefully finished pieces of work in
the studio, improving and refining, selecting and discarding as they do so. The writer’s sketch-book may include
a random thought; a snatch of recorded conversation; something striking,peculiar or memorable in an incident, event or news item; a quick description or impression of a person, real or imagined; a feeling aroused by something seen, heard or read; a dream or recollection; an idea for a story; a note about a distinctive mannerism or gesture, or a reflection provoked by an experience or conversation. Such material may never find its way into a finished piece of writing; whether it does or not, the collection of it is a useful discipline, a regular exercise in precise,immediate writing, and an invaluable training in sharp original observation.

The writer’s audience
15.4 A
fundamental question to be asked every time you sit down to write is, who are you writing for? Probably a teacher or an examiner in most cases, an imagined reader in others, but what does that mean? If you write a story or a
description, you have pictures in your mind, and thoughts and feelings you want to express. The reader is like a blank canvas waiting to be filled with shapes, colour and feeling. Your aim must be to transmit to him exactly
what is inside you, using only words. If you spare him a thought from time to time, as if he were a listener to your
story, you are more likely to remember the need to interest him; to imagine him as an uninterested listener may help you to adopt the sort of manner that will make him sit up and take notice. When writing discursively, picture him as tolerably intelligent listener; in that way you are unlikely to make the mistake of stating the obvious or treating him like an idiot. Better still, if you think of him as unconvinced or questioning or opposed to your views you will be stimulated to anticipate his objections and deal with them, so that your treatment of the subject will be more comprehensive, and your style sharper or more persuasive. You will be helped and your style will be more natural if you remember that you are writing for a person, not committing words into a void.If you are writing for an examiner you should remember thathis assessment will be based on four main criteria:

(a) The quality of the material: is it interesting, original, fresh, personal, sincere, relevant?
(b) the quality of the expression: is it lively or dull? Is there width of vocabulary? Is the
style fitting?
(c) the quality ofthe organisation: is there order or logic? is there a sense of controlled flow?Does the piece hang together with a bright beginning, a helpful development and a satisfying conclusion?
(d) accuracy:spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Exercise

Write three short articles proposing the enforced repatriation of immigrants for
a) a popular national newspaper
b) a newspaper for ethnic minorities
c) your local newspaper.
Write three more, for the same newspapers, opposing repatriation. Finally write one article,containing arguments both for and against, and arriving at a conclusion, for a serious newspaper.

Writing-practice

15.5 Exam practice, which means writing within a prescribed time-span, can be left until a few weeks before an exam. Before then,writing-practice should range from single paragraphs to more ambitious pieces which are as long as they need to be. During this training period, limbering-up exercises need to be worked through, with an emphasis on short but intensive ‘warm-ups’, in the way professional athletes, musicians and other performers keep themselves trim.
The following pages provide suggestions for practice in some of the more important writing-skills one is likely to need for essays:scene-setting, character portrayal, narrative technique, and ways of handing reflective or discursive topics. Some of these should be familiar from the previous chapter.
(a) Sense impressions are part and parcel of daily life. To make a word-picture, a writer needs the sharp observation of precise visual detail. Less obviously, perhaps, sounds,smells, taste and touch are also important to create a feeling of reality. Re-read the passage quoted in 14.6 (a) as examples. The writer needs to sharpen not only his eye but all five senses if his descriptions are to have actuality and make the reader see, feel, hear and believe as if he were physically present and involved. The importance of specific detail cannot be stressed too much.

Exercise
Write a paragraph describing the room you are in, the place where you work, the garden, the street, part of your route to work – any place that is very familiar. Pay attention to all five senses. Focus on significant detail. Recall an experience of happiness or pain as precisely as you can, and set it down with all the particularly and honesty you can muster. Think of a scene with a cacophony of sounds and a number of smells (e.g.a covered market, a fairground or a zoo).
Write a descriptive paragraph, making the sounds and smells stronger than the sights.

(b) The characteristic fault of the inexperienced writer when setting a scene or describing a place is either to be so unspecific that the readers’ mind’s eye is not sufficiently focused, or to cram in too much because of a mistaken feeling that a description had to included everything. If we think of a place we know – a friend’s house, the school we used to go to, a place where we spent some time on holiday – we remember salient features which are etched on our mind, probably because they are specially interesting or typical or associated with particular memories. Other features are forgotten or were never observed in the first place because the mind or memory rejected them as unimportant.

In descriptions of places, therefore, selected significant detail is all-important. There is no point in a clutter of distracting or irrelevant description, as if we were afraid of short-changing the reader. Re-read the first passage in 14.6(c).

Exercise
Write a paragraph beginning
The street where I live is . . . .
The school I used to go to was . . . .
The sort of house I like best is . . . .
My grandparents live(d) in . . . .
The best place for holidays is . . . .
A place I shall never forget is . . . .

(c) Many places have an atmosphere as well as an appearance.
A piece of description will be more firmly based if it tells not merely
what somewhere looks like but how it feels.
This presupposes that the writer himself is sensitive to atmosphere and
has tried to develop a sense of relationship with places. He looks at them carefully, thinks about
them, considers how they affect him or how he feels towards them, so that his
response is personal and his vision unique.

Re-read the second passage in 14.6 (c),again noting how telling detail can suggest atmosphere better than comprehensive description that may remain undifferentiated.

Exercise

Thin of a place you know that has atmosphere (a church, a hospital, a piece of countryside, for example), and try to define it as accurately as you can. Imagine a place or event with a frightening atmosphere (e.g. a building, an underground passage, a crowd) and describe it precisely.

(d) When interviewing someone who has had a specially harrowing or joyful experience, television reporters have a favourite question: how did it feel? The inadequacy of most replies shows how difficult it is to describe emotions.
Re-read the section on imagery (14.1)and note how comparisons may help.
Look again at the description of the inn-keeper washing his child (14.6(b)). It is simply set down with no statement of the writer’s emotions. It the reader feels fear, anger, revulsion or bafflement, or a mixture of them, it is because the incident itself provokes them, carefully chosen and observed incident – a concentration of life in a brief moment – and to allow it to speak for itself is often more effective than to gloss it with vague emotive adjectives like shocking, frightening, exciting or sad. The reader should be shown, not told. The more he has to work, the more he will respond. He may well object if the writer jumps out and tells him how he ought to feel.


Exercise

Recall two strong but contrasting experiences from your life (e.g. one happy, one sad; one frightening, one pleasing) and describe them in the form of two successive paragraphs form your autobiography.

(e) The advice about describing places and scenes by selecting detail (15.5(b)) applies equally to persons, whether real ones in a piece of reflective or descriptive writing or imagined ones in a piece of fiction. People make an impression by their looks, dress, gesture, speech, movement, mannerisms and behaviour. Their outward appearance is seldom important unless it reveals something of the sort of people they are – which is far more
interesting – or unless it is strikingly memorable as a display of human beauty or ugliness, somehow interesting in itself.
If we think for a moment about people we know – someone we like, or know only in passing (a person we meet regularly but briefly when we buy something from him, for example) – we think of revealing detail, specific
memories and striking features. That is how it should be in writing. There is usually no need for the sort of blow-by-blow description that would be appropriate in a police photo-fit.
As was shown in 14.7,people may be described by aspects of their external appearance, or we may infer what sort of people they are from what they say and do, or we may learn about them from the way they react to events or each other. An author may set them down and allow us to make up our own minds bout them from our commenting on his own story (14.8(c)), or being a character in it himself, or making us identify with one of the characters as James Joyce does (13.5).
All these devices are available to the essay-writer composing a short
story or a descriptive passage.
The best approach is to ask the sort of questions we normally ask about someone. What kind of person is he? Why? Is our judgment based on something he said,or done, or alleged to have said or done? Is it based on physical attraction, or because he is kind and helpful,dominant or submissive, successful, self-important, thick-skinned, elusive . .. ?
By asking such questions, a writer shapes up a character in his mind.
Having created him, the writer then lets him loose inincidents, conversations, relations and reactions so that the reader comes toknow him from what he says and does, from how he responds to other characteristics or events, and from his manner and development.
To sustain consistency, however, the writer must always exercise his imagination to put himself in the position of the characters, envisaging how they would feel and act as the story unfolds, so that they remain alive, credible and convincing.
Exercise

Write paragraphs describing

  • A person you have seen but never met.


  • Do not be afraid to make him or her more unusual or interesting
    than he appears to be.
  • A fictitious character. Write a
    snapshot in the style of caricature 14.7(d)
    or using extended metaphor 14.1(d).
  • A fictitious character whose nature is revealed by his past 14.4(d) and the second quotation
    in 14.7(a) or by a ‘running commentary’ of private thoughts (third quotation in 14.7(a).
  • A meeting between two strangers traveling on a train at night.
  • A quarrel between two contrasting members of a family, (e.g. an adult and a
    teenager) which brings out not only their points of view but also their
    personalities.
  • You are in a room at a party, on your own, when a stranger enters. Describe the first impression he makes
    on you.
  • The stranger comes up to you so that you see him more clearly. Show whether events bear out or
    contradict your first impression.
  • Two people are walking along a cliff path, saying nothing to each other. Describe them, and say how they behave,to bring out their relationship: present them so that the reader will come to the same conclusion about them that you have already reached.
  • Read 14.7(b). Write a dialogue to bring out the personality and relationship of the speakers.
(f) When setting about a short story, some people make the mistake of assuming that they have to write a compressed novel and stuff in as many incidents and characters as a circumspect novelist would use in a full-length work. A short story which takes an hour or so to write will be read in about ten minutes: within that span there is no room for world-shattering events or large-scale human dramas.
Unless the writer achieves a suitable balance between lengthand content, the reader will be confronted with a succession of unformulated characters, unrealized scene-settings, and an artificial and improbable sequence of happenings.

The novelist can follow his characters through a long period, range over continents and evoke more excitements, crises or shaping experiences than most of us can expect to meet in a lifetime. The short story writer has a restricted span:he can deal only with a limited idea or set of incidents – perhaps only a single surprise, decision or turn of events – with a small-scale cast to match. He must seize the reader’s attention immediately and make his effects decisively while ensuring that people,places and events are pictured with sufficient clarity for the reader’s mind’s eye. The subject matter may not be of any great moment compared with that of a novel, but that does not matter as long as the reader is left with the sense that he has been confronted with something special enough to have engaged his attention, stirred his feelings or provoked some thoughts.
Just as characters and scene-settings have to be made recognisably real, narrative must be firmly rooted in place and time: action must be set up and unfolded at a pace consonant with the reader’s need to be able to visualise, absorb and be convinced. The rhythm, that is, should be natural. Events may be unexpected or even startling, but they must be reasonably true to life, which means that they must be credible in their circumstantial detail and pay some attention to the normal rules of cause and effect. Above all, the reader must be taken along with them.
A narrative is more likely to command assent if it is drawn form a background the writer knows. Spies, mad scientists, cowboys and cops-and-robbers are best left to writers who know those milieus: to ape them is risk hackneyed plot, second-hand dialogue and merely sensational incident. A story placed in the distant past or the sci-fi future is on slightly safer ground, as long as the writer is confident to his powers of imagination. But most stories take shape from places, people or incidents in personal experience, even though the imagination may modify them, selecting, rejecting and changing, so that they develop into something different, just as the landscape painter changes the shape of a tree, the position of a house or the colour of a stream to make a
more harmonious picture.

Before a story is begun, the ending must be decided. The writer must know where he is heading,otherwise he is unlikely to achieve the sense of momentum and direction which makes for unity and coherence in his story.
The ending need not be a shattering climax: many a serviceable story has been ruined because the writer, mistakenly believing that he had to deliver a final knock-out, overloaded his story with a disproportionately weighty conclusion.
In fact, no climax is need at all: inconclusive or enigmatic ending may well be appropriate for a mystery story, for example.
But there must be a satisfying and fitting end which grows naturally form the story itself, brings it to a point, and makes the reader feel that he has experienced something planned, thought through and neatly finished. Two endings to avoid are the lame tailing-off like a joke that misfires, and the trite let-down like ‘Then he woke up. It had all been a bad dream’.
Within many stories there are minor climaxes, scaled-down equivalents of those that novelists often put at the end of chapters to put readers in suspense to make us want to read on.
These ensure that the story does not proceed at the same level throughout – though there may be cases when a story does because it has to. Peaks of interest reflect the fact that in most stories, whether told or written down, some moments are more important than others. They are often placed at the ends of paragraphs. But there ought not to be too many of them, perhaps no more than a couple, in case the weigh of emphasis, tension or surprise becomes too heavy for the story’s slender form.

The importance of coherence and unity has already been mentioned. Re-read 14.4 on narrative viewpoint.
A viewpoint had to be selected and maintained by the short-story writer,
otherwise what he writes will be imaginatively unfocused, puzzling the reader.

Finally, a common error is to concentrate on story to the detriment of setting, atmosphere and character. A bald succession of events will not grip or involve the reader, who needs the human scale provided by people, scenes and relationships. Without then a short story will be as unreal as a speeded-up film. A study of any collection of published short stories will prove the point.

Exercise

Select titles form the list in 15.1, or select titles of your won, and write short stories in accordance with the above guide-lines.
(g) In all the types of writing referred to in this chapter, it is important that the opening should
at once take hold of the reader and claim his attention. First impressions matter. If the initial paragraph is dull, predictable or low-key, the reader’s attention will immediately drain and his sympathy will be hard to recover. There is a temptation, particularly in discursive writing, to ease oneself into a topic by making a general statement, often telling the reader something he knows (‘Everyone has unwelcome visitors at some time or other’) or worse still telling him he already knows it (‘It is a well known fact that . . . ‘). The opening paragraph is not a warm-up for
the writer but a shop-window to tempt the reader inside.

Re-read 14.5 on two types of opening. Other quoted extracts that happen to be opening paragraphs include 14.4(a), 14.4(e) and 14.8(a), and the first quotations in 14.3(e) and 14.6(d).

Exercise
Choose half a dozen of the titles in 15.1 (including a mix of types) and compose attention-seeking opening paragraphs.

(h) Reflective writing usually has two components: a statement of an experience, memory,personal taste or interest, and some reflections or feelings about it. Personal writing of this kind can easily become too private, gossipy or self-indulgent, sot it is more than unusually important to remember that the reader, who has to be given a very precise definition of the subject so that he can understand its nature and recognise (and preferably share) the feelings that stem from it. It the reader is imagined as a stranger, he is more likely to be given a full picture, with nothing taken for granted. If he is imagined as an interested questioner, his questions can be anticipated and answered, so that the subject is treated thoroughly.
In this kind of writing much depends on liveliness of observation and the writer’s sense of involvement. The stronger the involvement the more compulsive will be the style, sweeping the reader along with it. There is no point in self-consciously holding back in writing that is personal: if one has to write about an enjoyment, on
should do so boldly, enthusiastically and confidently; if that enjoyment involves senses, one should indulge them without embarrassment. The aim is to engage the reader: with reflective writing one starts with advantages that few things are more contagious than enthusiasm and that most people enjoy hearing about other people’s interests.
The dangers of being too introspective, with over-use of the intrusive or button-holing I, may be avoided by – occasional deviation into impersonal (Many people say that . . . . .) or address to the reader (You may
think that . . . .) – the use of illustrative detail to particularise a general point – the deliberate us of contrast, clarifying something personal by contrasting it with the different or opposing experience of someone else.

As always, a strong ending has to be planned in advance. If the subject is a personal reminiscence, something emphatic should be saved for the end so that the pieces ends on a high noted. If the aim is to influence the reader (as Orwell tried to do in the reflective piece quoted in 13.4) a clinching argument should be
held back to provide a firm conclusion.

Exercise
Select one of the reflective titles from 15.1, or use one of the following for a
piece of your own:

A place of one’s own.
Joining the queue
Winning a prize
Being late
Alone at night
Embarrassment
(i) In discursive writing the precise example is often worth a paragraph of argument, just as parables are more memorable than preaching.
The visual usually makes a stronger statement than the abstract. A passage or reasoning can often be brought
to an effect conclusion with a brief clinching illustration drawn form personal experience.
There is little value in arguments beginning I think that .
. . or I believe that . . . (and such expressions are usually spurious) unless
evidence and reasons are brought forward to support them and give them more
validity and authority than unaided thoughts or beliefs (or prejudices) can
have.
It is a mistake, then, to assume that an invitation to write a piece of discursive prose (on say, Is television responsible for some of the violence in our society?) is an invitation to pour out one’s own opinions. There are usually at least two sides to every argument, certainly those chosen for examination purposes. Alternative or contradictory views should be raised. One’s own stand out more clearly against a background of dissent, demonstrating the conclusions are not being drawn from unthinking bias but form an evaluation of other standpoints. A sense of debate or conflict – a sense, that is of a mind at work – will provide more variety and interest than an unrelieved expression of personal opinions.
Honest persuasion works both by supporting one set of propositions and by discrediting others.
Discursive writing needs a particularly clear structure or argument. The planning arrangements recommended
in 15.6 are crucial. So is paragraphing.

Exercise
In the light of these principles, write about one of the
discursive topics in 15.1.

Examination technique

15.6 (a)
In a sixty minute exam, with one essay to write, allow about ten minutes
for preliminary planning.
Select one title you think you can perform best with. Scrutinise it closely: it has been carefully
worded. A surprisingly large number of
candidates give it a cursory glance, miss an important point or even
misinterpret it altogether, incurring heavy penalties for irrelevance. An examiner cannot easily be generous to
someone who ignores the topic he has been specifically asked to write
about. The Leak, for instance, is not an
invitation to write about a prize vegetable.

If the title asks you to ‘discuss’ a topic, that means
dealing with several aspects of it, not just one. ‘Compare the contrast’ means ‘point out the
similarities and differences’, not one or the other.


If the title is worded that it can be approached in various
ways (e.g. The Interview could be handled narratively, descriptively, or
reflectively), decide which one you prefer.

(b) Jot down in note form the ideas that come to mind about the title. At this stage, remember the importance of
relevance. For instance, take the title Wild Life in Danger: what do you think we should do to preserve endangered species from extinction? This title does not ask which species are endangered, or why, how or by whom they are threatened, or what the consequences of extinction might be. One could legitimately devote just the introductory paragraph to such questions to establish the breadth and seriousness of the topic. Similarly the concluding paragraph could be given power by dealing with, say, the consequences of extinction. But the main body of the essay must be confined to the main thrust of the title – what we should do – by presenting a set or practical steps (‘practical’ because of do) to deal with the problem
Remember too at this stage some of the cardinal rules: jottings
should be fresh, lively and personal; illustrations and examples clarify
abstract argument; descriptions and narrative should be rooted in personal
experience; sharply perceived detail is essential; the reader is to be
remembered.

This planning stage is essential. It does not matter if other candidates are already writing away: quality matters more than sheer quantity. There is no point in starting until you know where you are going and what your route is going to be. If you are not satisfied that you have enough material to keep you going, make jottings on one or two other titles: that will usually settle the matter.

(c) Organise the material into shape. In a fifty-minute essay, aim at five paragraphs, certainly nor more than six or seven. Two of these will be the introductory and concluding paragraphs: the other three will be the main body of the essay. In a reflective or discursive essay, justice probably cannot be done to more than three or four major aspects of the subject in the time available.


A survey of the jotted notes will show that some are more
important than others, and some naturally belong as aspects of the same
topic. Regroup the notes under the main
headings that are now emerging, rejecting those that do not fit into the
pattern: two-sentence paragraphs may be weak and diversionary. Fit these headings into an essay plan:
further elimination of subordinate material may be necessary at this stage:


1. Introduction 2. Topic 3 Topic 4 Topic 5 Conclusion


(The paragraphing of a story will probably need to be more
flexible than this, but planning of shape will be essential.)


Bear in mind the need for an arresting opening and strong
conclusion, the requirement that a paragraph should have a clearly defined
topic, and need for paragraphs should have a clearly defined topic, and the
need for paragraphs to be related. In a
narrative essay, this relationship will be determined by the chronology of
events, and the paragraphing by the events themselves. In other kinds of essays, the relationships
may be governed by the logic of an argument or the order of description.
(d) Once a plan is
established. It should be adhered
to. Resist the temptation to admit ideas
that arise in the course of writing. One
great advantage of making a plan is that it is drawn up with the title fresh in
mind. Half an hour later, a new
inspiration could well lead you away into serious irrelevance. Failure to stick to the point is penalized.
(e) Some people are afraid of drying up in an exam. This is unlikely to happen to a well prepared
candidate who has practiced writing against the clock. Nor is it likely to happen because of
examiners’ choice of titles: their purpose is to provide opportunities for
expression, not to prevent it. A glance
at the titles in 15.1will show how
much emphasis there is on titles about candidates’ personal experience and
about prominent questions of the day that most people will have already have
thought about.
Nevertheless there may be temporary paralysis under pressure
of an exam. It can only be overcome by
looking methodically at the subject of the essay and trying to achieve a new
perspective. In a narrative or
description, this may involve putting oneself into a scene or a character and
imagining how it feels from the inside instead of from the viewpoint of the
puppeteer. In a discursive or reflective
essay it is always helpful to think of other people’s points of view – real
people, that is, who can normally be relied on to disagree with you. The imagined reader comes in helpful too.
Reminding oneself of the need for detail, sharp definition
or helpful illustration may help to restart the flow.

(f) Finally, a few minutes should be left at the end for correction. Some inaccuracies, especially of spelling and
punctuation, occur because the mind had run ahead to the next few words. Such slips of the pen can quickly be put right while reading over one’s work. So can ambiguities, errors in grammar, and clumsy repetition of the same word or idea. Overlong sentences can be clarified by inserting full stops and capital letters.

Revision of this kind is not always easy. It requires the writer to suddenly stand outside his own work and become a reader seeing it for the first time. The writer who cultivates the habit of scrutinizing his own work critically will find the process easier.



Last edited by yennhi on Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:53 pm; edited 1 time in total

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2 Re: Essay Writing on Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:42 pm

Ừ, hay đó Yến Nhi, có lẽ chúng ta nên mở 1 cuộc viết bài theo chủ đề từng kì một theo List cái topic của IELTS. ai cũng post bài viết của mình lên , How does it sound? ,Yến Nhi

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3 Re: Essay Writing on Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:57 pm

yennhi

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Tập Nói
Tập Nói
Hay nhỉ bạn Osamahiep.Đồng ý Nhưng mà hok bít có thời gian tham gia hok nữa.

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4 Re: Essay Writing on Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:57 pm

aqua

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Very Happy Great!!! Mấy hôm nữa viết xong Task 1 tớ cũng chuyển sang task 2 của quyển Academic writing practice for IELTS. Tớ sẽ post questions và answer của tớ. Bà con tham gia cho vui nhá ^^ Thế là sắp có "đồng bọn"mới rùi kekekekke

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5 Re: Essay Writing on Fri Feb 25, 2011 6:59 pm

hehe, aqua post nhiều bài task 1 quá , tình hình này os phải tuyển thêm nhân sự cho forum !!, chưa được correct thì cứ kiên nhẫn nhé, hiện tại tutor chính là birdy, phải tìm thêm một người nữa, os muốn correct lắm nhưng mà aqua viết hay quá, chả biết correct gì , hè hè

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6 Re: Essay Writing on Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:04 pm

aqua

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osamahiep wrote:hehe, aqua post nhiều bài task 1 quá , tình hình này os phải tuyển thêm nhân sự cho forum !!, chưa được correct thì cứ kiên nhẫn nhé, hiện tại tutor chính là birdy, phải tìm thêm một người nữa, os muốn correct lắm nhưng mà aqua viết hay quá, chả biết correct gì , hè hè

423623 Thank you Hiep!!! May có forum này, nếu không chắc tớ chả kiên nhẫn mà viết được đâu.

Tớ định viết đến khi ra trường vào tháng 7 cơ, nên kiên nhẫn đầy mình Very Happy

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7 Re: Essay Writing on Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:24 am

nguyetngan

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Ý hay đó Hiệp,Hay Hiệp mở cuộc viết bài theo chủ đề đi,cho Ngân tham gia học hỏi với.

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8 Re: Essay Writing on Sun Feb 27, 2011 3:16 pm

nguyetngan

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Ngân tập viết bài ở đây nhé ,Hiệp với mấy bạn correct bài cho Ngân với nhé.Hihi

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9 Essay writing(cont) on Sun Feb 27, 2011 3:19 pm

nguyetngan

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_Next week ,I will start to do a part-time job. I was wavering between two options that which job would be suitable for me .Should I work as private tutor or checker in a super-market?. I’m a second year student in the university now and I live far from my family .The reasons for me to find a part- time job are to earn payment and gain experiment as well .I’m very independent and I want to earn money to support myself instead of receiving money from my parent every month .But what made me still hesitate is managing my time .In the second year in university ,I have to work hard on my study and participate many activities in my class .So if I do a part-time job ,It will take up me another time. So time is an important consideration in this case .I have to consider advantages and disadvantages of both jobs which I gonna take before I make up my mind.
_At first glance, they both take me the same amount of time for each and also the time for transportation is not too much. And another thing is payment for both of them is also the same. It seems that they have common advantages at first.
_It was when I look the differences between the two jobs that made me come to the final decision. Working as private tutor and working as checker are different in everyway .They’re two completely different types of
job that I should pay a lot attention to. One is brainy work and another is mindless work. Compare with being a private tutor ,being checker in a super-market is very much easier .As a checker ,my work simply is checking the bills on customer’s goods with technical assistance whereas work as tutor requires me a lot of things such as spending time to search material and do some preparations for lessons .In addition , I have to assume responsibility giving my students a good preparation for their exam because these students are in the last year in junior high school and their parents have great of expectation for their graduation’s results. I started to realize the disadvantages of tutor job are beside the time I spend in class with my students ,I have to spend another time for preparation and with high requirements from parents’ students ,it seems pressure plus pressure ;I would be under pressure of my study and teaching.Maybe I can’t manage both at the same time .On the other hand, there is hardly any disadvantages on being checker in supermarket .If I work in supermarket , I will have time to relax ;leave out pressure from my study and have chance to interact with people around ;improve communication skill and building relationship as well .This is easily the most suitable part-time job for me.

_In conclusion ,after taking advantages and disadvantages of both into consideration I think I made the right choice .Since time and relaxation are all very important to me .I will probably be free from care and
happier when I work as checker.

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10 Re: Essay Writing on Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:42 pm

Oh, Ngan. you started writing essay already! without a topic. hehe ^^, so the above is ....?

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11 Re: Essay Writing on Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:08 pm

nguyetngan

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Above is my terrible essay,Hiệp.Hihihi.Waiting for your correction,Hiệp.Quickly nhá Hiệp.Hihi

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