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Watch your language! Sounding SMRT

Having just marked 60 or so mock literature papers it is clear that many of the skills required for the exam are secure but a real gain can be made in the fluency of the essays and the language used to express the ideas.

It is a bit like  having this as an idea but only producing it like this . Both are fine in their merits but we always want to produce something that is a bit more sophisticated as we progress through the years.

One thing that makes my blood boil as a marker is the word 'vibe'. The dictionary will offer you 'vibe - short for vibration' or 'vibe - slang for feeling. Now as you know that you don't use slang in an essay or exam, I can only assume you mean vibration when you say 'this gives a negative vibe'.

In all seriousness, this is an area where you can not only be smart in trusting your well-honed skills of analysis and evaluation but you can also sound SMRT.

The diagram below indicates how we use language. It is a bit complicated but shows how we can modify language along a continuum.

http://whatslanguagedoinghere.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/register-continuum.png Thanks to this blog for introducing the diagram.

It shows that depending on the field (What we are talking about)  our language should be modified to fit the same area of the continuum below.

So in an exam we are talking about a specialised field (English Language or Literature) but we are often talking in very technical specific terms. By this diagram our language should be more to the right than left.

Therefore our language should be more formal than informal, we should be using more unfamiliar and academic vocabulary and we should use specialised vocabulary to make our essay seem more informed.

Our work is wholly written in an exam or an assessment and the examiner is someone 'distant' who does not share the knowledge that I as a teacher or one of your friends may have about the way you talk. Therefore your language must reflect this in being very clear and unambiguous.

So we have to be specific and clear. The examiner knows what a metaphor is so you don't need to define it but they aren't clear on what you think the effect is so you must be very clear in your analysis.

Formal Academic Vocabulary is often sophisticated (see here for some advanced vocabulary) and at GCSE level can be developed through linking phrases below. It also is using the appropriate vocabulary for the devices you are analysing and spelling the technical terms correctly (next person who puts an 'e' at the end of metaphor loses a finger!).

Talking about writer's craft:

The writer's use of language / words / tone of voice is significant.
Imagery is significant in this section.
The imagery of ....  is especially significant in this section.
The poet uses setting to convey ...
The characterisation of ... is developed in this section.
Structurally, this section is significant.


The poet seems to be exploring the them / idea of ...
From one perspective we could say ...  From another we might consider...
Developing the interpretation further, we could argue that...
This links with.....
This idea is repeated when......

 Introducing Quotations

We can see this in the quotation ...
We hear the character described as ...
The word ... demonstrates this.
Arguably, the most significant words are ...  and ...
The image of the ... is crucial to our understanding.

Writer's Intentions

The author seems to be suggesting ...
The poet is, perhaps, exploring  the idea of ...
The playwright is explaining, illustrating, uncovering, hiding, illuminating, developing,


The words suggest / imply / convey ...
This word / phrase / image / character makes me think of ... because...
This conveys feelings of ... because....
The word / image contains several ideas.  For example...

So part of your revision should not just be learning quotations, honing your analytical and evaluative skills, it should be modifying the language you use to express yourself.

Monet's ideas are useless without the appropriate use of paints and oils. Your ideas aren't fully developed until you develop them in the appropriate language.

Language matters and it is your job to modify it. The examiner is distant and won't think you're quirky and accept your ideas because of you; they might just miss your ideas and assume you're not very SMRT!
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