Remarkable Sketches: Volume 4

Presenting the next in our series of brilliant student assignments. This one is an informal letter to a cousin with a project in hand about a child’s life in England.

The narrator/author opens desirably by enquiring about (yes, a whole paragraph dedicated to that!) the wellbeing of his cousin and his family. A tone of perfect cordiality between the kin is set right at the start. However, pleasantly, the excitement of the narrator is sustained throughout the write-up, showcasing him as an involved personality.

The second noticeable aspect is the impressive structure – the neat paragraph division of the letter as one shade about life in England is painted after the other.

The child has also been wise in his selection of unique aspects to discuss about his home city. Almost the entire geography of London is covered with the narrator talking about its north, south, east and west. Recreation, education, culture, lifestyle, politics, weather and more about the city are all touched upon, making the write-up a thoroughly engaging one.

 

Five Tips for Engaging Writing

Are we not all envious of those who can make us smile and wonder at every word of their writing? Adept writers adopt charming twists and turns to hook readers’ attention. It is that perfect combination of meaty content and interesting presentation that wins you the million dollar heed of audiences.

Here we discuss a few handy techniques with can make one want to read more and more of what you write.

1. Humour

What intense knowledge can’t, probably the comic can. People love to be tickled with the witty, wacky, silly, satirical, ironical, amusing, hilarious, exaggerated and the like.

You can jostle the funny bone of your readers by writing something similar to the below examples:

‘Finally, the slaughterer took all his arms and ammunitions out, all ready-get-set-go to do the ACT!’ (Going to the dentist)

‘When the world can ban child labour, why can’t I be spared this menial work? After all, Tom bought me just a year back.’ (Story from the point of view of a school book bag)

2. Novel Figurative Expressions

No one appreciates the mundane and commonplace. Clichéd sentences may peeve your readers, driving them to distraction. ‘As green as emerald’, ‘as fast as light’, ‘the sun smiled’, ‘the wind howled’ etc. now seem time-worn and trite.

 One may try a hand at innovative, outlandish figurative techniques – no matter the subject is animate or inanimate.

 ‘For all my power, I aimed being an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient pair of eyes, like God’s, you know.’ (Story with the given title – A pair of binoculars)

‘Mr. Incredible for all his flaws and foibles was a man of marvels and miracles.’ (Story from the point of view of another character – Mr. Incredible or Elastigirl)

3. References to current affairs or relevant social events

A well-researched, factual write-up is grounded in its immediate social reality. Every writer belongs to a certain cultural, economic, political and social milieu which reflects through his writing.

 Contemporary affairs make writing authentic and credible.

 ‘Education has always been all-important for children in our country. The Duchess of Cornwall’s recent article in the Sunday Express implores parents ahead of the World Book Day to ‘read to….children every day of the year.’  (A letter to your cousin about a child's life in England.)

 ‘We are aware of the University and College Union strikes making a great uproar out there. I hope the government intervenes to settle the agitation which is affecting student life in major ways.’ (Letter to elder sibling studying at a university, who can only visit home in school holidays.)

4. Punchy sentences

Never bombard the readers with hackneyed information. Even if you’ve thoroughly researched a topic, present the facts in a comprehensible manner. So is it with words. Fascinating vocabulary is desirable in writing; yet, remember never to overwhelm your sentences with unnecessary words. Sentences should be short, crisp and never draggy.

However, this is just the basic rule. The next step to cracking catchy sentences is to add the much wanted powerful punch. It could be your striking diction, sentence construction, literary technique, or a unique idea around which the whole sentence is framed.

‘This story is going to refute the time-honoured, established knowledge that camels got their humps due to laziness. The narration unfolds a giant camel, full of sloth, achieving the massive victory of being the most active creature on Earth.’ (Story that has in it: a giant, a sloth and a victory)

5. Expressive, candid narrator

To get the ball rolling in a write-up, you need a communicative, involved narrator. It could be a first or third person speaker, an animal, a bird or an object. The narrator must be so dynamic and animated that he enthuses your writing with a new found excitement for the readers.

 His creative energies must flow unstoppably:

‘This Sleeping Beauty was no damsel in distress; she took charge and broke the enchantment all by herself.’ (Story with a given title – The Sleeping Beauty)

“Phew! How the library staff cruelly thrusts me on jam-packed shelves,” thought the book which had just been forcibly shoved on the shelf. (Describe a library)

Incorporate these five tactics in your writing and leave a lasting impression on your audience. You can explore more such possibilities for creative play.

 

Six Signs of Weak Writing

 

It's not fair! I used every literary technique under the sun. I puked half the thesaurus in my essay. I even wrote three full pages. But still I don't get an A.

- Every Disappointed Student's Rant

Sometimes even after doing every possible thing right, we just don't get what we feel we deserve. Life is definitely not fair. Fortunately, when it comes to writing, we are in less troubled waters. Students often forget that good writing is also about keeping out elements that make the words on the page lifeless and bore their readers to death. In an attempt to impress others, they are tempted to include all that they know. The result is obvious: the rant mentioned above.

So, let’s find out which is the first of these don’ts on our list.

1. Insipid Openings

"In this essay I will discuss" or "I'm now going to explain" is the bane of examiners. Keeping the introductory lines the same as the question statement is another disaster in the making. They show lack of originality or just plain laziness. Students often forget that the reader already knows the subject matter thanks to the title or question. So, dare to be more original when you start off. Alternatives at your disposal are abundant: anecdotes, shocking statistics, rhetorical questions, dialogue and many more. Click here and here for detailed posts on imaginative openings for your writing.

2. Clichés and Over-used Words

The next on our radar of yawn-inducing writing are timeworn expressions. Hackneyed words are shamelessly boring and as good as forgotten. There is nothing creative about using expressions that have become tired because of repeated use. Take a look at some of these clichéd words:

Over-used words: things, like, stuff, actually, really, basically, very, good, amazing, use, get, well, interesting, so, quite, big, beautiful.

Clichés: as cold as ice, once upon a time, happily ever after, easy as pie, better late than never, black as coal, busy as a bee, fit as a fiddle, forget and forgive, keep an eye on, quiet as a mouse, at the speed of light, think outside the box, tip of the iceberg, as cool as a cucumber.

Ask yourself whether you really need these expressions? If yes, then consult our faithful thesaurus for corresponding synonyms that convey your meaning in a more original way. Remember novelty is the hallmark of A+ writing.

3. Passive Voice 

Dynamic writing demands live action and less of "being told" or "already done." Passive voice makes writing clunky and wordy.

Keen observations about life that often go unnoticed by adults are made by kids. (Passive voice)

Kids make keen observations about life that often go unnoticed by adults. (Active voice)

Notice the difference? Passive voice slows down writing, whereas active voice keeps the momentum going, makes writing resemble spoken language and achieves the desired succinctness. Although not advisable to altogether chuck it in, one can use passive voice to ensure clarity of ideas or to avoid repetitive sentence structure.

4. Rambling

Do not express the same idea in N number of different ways. Repetition of similar ideas is not necessary. Avoid redundancy of words and ideas in your writing.

Now isn't that a waste of words? Why write a saga when you can communicate eloquently using a handful of well-chosen words? Sometimes less is more (sadly, another cliché). Don't test the reader's patience with ineffective repetition, sudden digressions and unnecessary elaboration. They deaden rather than clarify your writing (For constructive repetition, click here). Once you start rambling, the reader knows you are either out of ideas or simply inarticulate. Be precise, snappy and leave the rest to the reader's imagination. Without wasting anymore words, let's move on to the next faux pas.

5. Unvarying Sentence Structure

Same sentence starters are more successful than even the most powerful lullabies in putting the reader to sleep. If consecutive sentences begin with the same nouns or phrases like ‘this is, it is, there is, based on, that is,’ it is time to raise a red flag. Besides being mind-numbing, these generic sentence openings show acute deficiency of writing skills in one.

There have been repeated incidences of customer dissatisfaction. There is a need to recognise our shortcomings.

There have been repeated incidences of customer dissatisfaction. Recognising our shortcomings is the need of the hour. 

6. Weak Organisation

A writer who can't get his act (composition) together impresses no-one. Scattered ideas can turn your writing into a frustrating game of ‘connect the dots to see what you get’ for the reader.  Order your ideas into coherent paragraphs that flow smoothly until you have said ‘goodbye’ to your readers.  Invest constructive time during the planning phase in chalking out a definite body for your ideas. Trust us, it is worth the effort.

We come to the end of six taboos of good writing. Keep them in mind when you write next and see a marked difference in your grades.

Remarkable Sketches: Volume 3

Here's the next on our list of well-composed, creatively written articles by our young authors. 

The year 6 student has used a surfeit of brilliant expressions, which make the piece thoroughly enjoyable to read through. There's her thoughtful selection of diction along with a hand at creative sentence construction. 
 
Literary devices have been utilized with a finesse, and spread richly throughout the narrative. 
 
The storyline is unique and surely, the piece invites you to keep your attention from start to finish.

Five Tricks to Frame Rhetorical Questions in Persuasive Writing

What is that mysterious quality that makes certain lines truly memorable? Why do we remember and cherish those opening words of Marc Antony’s speech so well?“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” (William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar). Antony’s character is legendary for his great oratorical skills. He is able to mesmerize the audience with words that make an immediate impact.

Let’s try to grapple today with the fine art of the rhetoric. It is essential in persuasive writing with students being continually asked to frame rhetorical questions.

Here lies the answer to their immense significance: rhetorical questions are forceful assertions in favour of your argument. They reinstate your cause loud and clear. You may quote statistics, reproduce a famous maxim, rely on universal truism or use some other technique to make your audience consent to your argument.

Rhetoric is a proclamation. Different from traditional sentences, it carries the add-on advantage of sounding more confident. It is the writer’s declaration that something is really the case. The audience is jolted off their comfort zone and urged to heed to what is being delivered.

Therefore, it is important to design your rhetorical questions with utmost creativity. Essentially, oratorical in nature, rhetorical questions must sound well prepared, yet natural. These should be crafted skillfully, sound inspirational, yet connect you with your audience in a tie of intimacy.

Let’s try a hand at some of the techniques of the rhetoric one by one.

1. Statistics: Appalling figures may convey what words cannot. Numbers are always remindful of an abject state of affairs. They ring a bell in the mind of the listeners/readers, as well as substantiate your write-up with well researched data. Here are some examples to assist you in quoting statistics as rhetorical questions.

Do you know that one million children around the world have been diagnosed as malnutritioned by WHO?

Does it surprise you that 25% of the cases registered for eye weakness in children owe to overuse of gadgets?

2Maxim: Established sayings win sure shot credibility. A maxim is a simple-to-repeat line, quote, rule or advice aiming an individual’s betterment. It is highly motivational and thought provoking in character. For the purpose of your writing, you need to pick a relevant maxim and tweak it to your end.

Isn’t ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ a well acknowledged truth?

Why aren’t children encouraged to participate without giving a thought to victory first?

3. Universal truism: Let’s now return to the folds of collective knowledge. Generally accepted truths give your answer an edge. Bank on truism and turn it craftily into rhetorical questions.

 Isn’t a decent lifestyle the birth right of every being born on the face of Earth?

4. Quotes: You can always chant the wise words of renowned men, adding a twist of rhetoric to them.

‘Do more than belong: Participate; Do more than believe: Practice; Do more than dream: Work.’ Why do parents forget this age old wisdom to instill in kids an acquisitive attitude?

5. Arresting questions: The last of our tactics seeks to directly relate to your audience. In a one-on-one encounter, you can probe them with regards to the matter at hand.

 Did you plant a tree this year? Are you caring enough for Mother Nature?

 What does it really take to be grateful for a favour, apologize for a mistake and request for an act of kindness? Probably, just ethics!

Hope you utilize the above strategies to formulate rhetorical questions in your persuasive write-ups. Depending on which suits a case the most, choose a trick which garners maximum notice from your audience.

Remarkable Sketches: Volume 2

We have another young writer's work to share with you today. The author of this piece of writing is not more than ten years old. How many of us can claim to write like this?
 
The child has very skilfully woven an anecdote and a joke into his description of a friend (Not an easy feat!)
 
The emphasis clearly is not on the physical characteristics of the subject (friend), typical of most descriptive essays, but on the personality of the friend and the friendship between the author and the said person. 
 
We find almost all types of advanced punctuation from semicolon to ellipsis in this creative work.
 

Five Often Forgotten Essentials of Persuasive Writing

Changing someone’s mind is easier said than done. You need to take out every tool in your persuasive kit to ensnare the reader in the net of your rhetoric. We are already familiar with the requisite ingredients of persuasive writing: rhetorical questions, facts, statistics, anecdotes, inclusive language, emotive language etc. But how many of these do we actually use? Time and again, we come across students picking some at the heavy expense of others. On the other hand, students who ace their creative writing exams give equal emphasis to all the persuasive tools. They know that variety flavours the art of persuasion. Where one technique might fail to impress the audience, the others will surely have them nodding along.

Today’s post is a discussion of such five persuasive techniques that often find themselves on the margins of student writing. Without further ado, let’s begin with the first one on our list.

1. Topic Statement

No, it is not the title of your essay. And no, it is not the summary of your essay. A topic statement is like (key word) a sub-heading for a paragraph, but unlike a heading or sub-heading, it is written in complete Standard English sentences. What is its purpose? To give the reader an idea of what to expect in the paragraph. Typically the first sentence in a paragraph, the topic statement is then elaborated and explained in the subsequent lines.

We know the golden rule for writing: one paragraph for one idea. Often in the mad rush of meeting deadlines, we forget this commandment. The result is a potpourri of ideas: scattered and scrambled. A topic statement gives shape and unity to the paragraph. As a constant reminder, it prevents the writer from going off the track.

Here are some examples:

There are several ways in which plastic bags contribute to the degradation of our      environment. (Topic statement)

First and foremost, plastics release harmful chemicals into the soil and water. (Elaboration)

Taking calculated risks is the secret of a successful venture. (Topic statement)

But a natural fear of the unknown makes people averse to taking risks. (Elaboration)

2. Hyperbole

Exaggeration for effect in persuasive writing shows the urgency of an issue: it refuses to be ignored anymore. Hyperbole infuses humour or a breather in what can otherwise turn out to be a sombre-like-a-funeral writing. It is almost always a highlight of A+ writing and has the audience saying, ‘I know what you mean!’

Check out the following examples:

Bullies can sniff out a vulnerable person from a mile away.

Politicians live on another planet; they are clueless about what ails the people.

Ban homework: Let no child be stooped by stacks of books.

When the shape of your body begins to imitate that of a hamburger, it signals the right time to make a move.

3. Counter-argument

How annoying is it to listen to Mr/Ms "I know it all"? A persuasive essay which does not take its opposition into consideration is a lost case. After all you are writing not to flaunt your skills, but to bring the other side to yours. It is reasonable then to anticipate the queries of a sceptical reader. Counter-arguments make your writing powerful and trustworthy. They show that you have done a thorough groundwork and know what you are talking about.

For an effective rebuttal, first acknowledge the counter argument briefly and fairly. Then offer evidence and reasons to the contrary. Remember to change tracks again using a contracting conjunction or phrase (such as but, however, on the other hand etc.)

Below are some phrases to introduce counter-arguments:

 Indeed it can be argued ... But ....

It can be easily proven ... However ...

Of course it cannot be denied ...On the other hand...

But what about ... Surely ...

You may wonder ... It is understandable ...

Our detractors are quick to point out ... Let’s pause and think ...

4. Repetition

Say it not once, not twice, but thrice if needed. Not all repetition is unnecessary. Drilling and droning are good medicines for wandering minds. However, this must be accomplished in subtle and sophisticated ways. Repetition makes your readers convinced about your sincerity as a writer as well as makes them pause for a moment to ponder upon the topic at hand. The significance of the matter under discussion goes several notches high. You can foreground your cause right away and keep accenting it with a resounding echo.

There can be a number of nifty approaches for repetition. Take a look at these examples for better comprehension:

Triples: A call to action may be repeated thrice in different terms.

Act, contribute, save lives. (Topic: A charity event)

Topic: Good Manners are More Important than Good Grades

Grades, grades, grades! Parents seem to want only that and neglect everything else to achieve those golden figures.

Topic: The Fast Food Industry is Responsible for Obesity

Foods made faster. Foods which make you fatter. Foods that satisfy. But, foods which load you with pounds.

5. Emotive Appeal

An appeal to the sentiments always works wonders. The audience understands the earnestness of a drive and in most cases comes to concede with your arguments. It keeps their motivation high to listen about your cause with a patient ear.

Now, your emotional plea can be made using a number of tactics: clichés, statistics, quotes, personal observations, reasoning and many more.

The examples below will help shed more clarity:

Topic: Importance of donation

Charity is a noble calling. (Truism)

“Charity does not like arithmetic; selfishness worships it.” -- Mason Cooley (Quote)

Topic: Should graffiti be legalized?

Art knoweth no bounds. (Personal observation)

Topic: Homework ruining childhood

Do not nip childhood in the bud. Let it blossom, flourish and show its true colours. (Appeal)

Hope this post helps. Surprise your reader or examiner next time with these five, often overlooked, persuasive techniques.

Remarkable Sketches: Volume 1

We present to you a new weekly feature dedicated to showcasing budding literary talent. These commendable pieces have been handpicked on the basis of ideas and tips discussed on our blog. 

The following is a descriptive piece on an animal (Tiger). In this the young writer piques reader curiosity by delaying the introduction of his subject (the tiger) till the end of the paragraph.

The first two paragraphs contain plenty of instances of alliteration.

Note the colourful vocabulary (especially verbs) used for describing the actions of a tiger.