One of the most intimidating assignment for students, writing is also the one that put into practice all the elements done in class: vocabulary, grammar, etc. So the perfect way to assess how well student have learnt or assimilated the knowledge is this task. Before starting any explanation, they must keep in mind that there are two elements in the writing: the inner and the outer structure. The first is related to the sentence and how it works, the latter is about the connection between paragraphs. Then, last but not least, the connectors are a key factor for the composition both for the inner and the outer structure.
1.The inner structure:
When we write a composition, it is not enough to have good ideas or persuasive arguments. It is essential to express them correctly. Here are some tips:
First goes the SUBJECT, the VERB, then the OBJECT and finally COMPLEMENTS ( for instance, manner, place and time). An excellent example would be ‘She was searching for some information at the library yesterday’
There is a very funny board game called ‘Silly Sentences’ but I ‘ll develop in another post.
Times expressions can come at the beginning or at the end of each sentence.
Don’t separate the verb from its object
Frequency adverbs (often, always, never, sometimes, seldom, rarely) come before the verb except with the verb ‘to be’
If a sentence has a direct object and an indirect object, we often place the indirect object first ‘He wrote her a letter’. In the other way around , we must add ‘to’ before the indirect object ‘he wrote a letter to her’.
Adjective come before the noun and they NEVER have a plural form.
In case of having multiple adjectives, the order would be:
General opinion + specific opinion + size + shape + age + colour + nationality + material
Delicious Japanese food
Beautiful little red wooden table
Subject verb agreement:
The subject and the verb must agree in number. For example, when the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular: She writes very well.
Some nouns are always foellowed by a singular verb (everything, furniture, information is). Besides, some nouns are followed by a plural verb (people, children, police, trousers are)
2. The outer structure.
A good composition has three elements: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. It should also flow from sentence to sentence and connect the ideas in a clear and logical way. There are several ways to achieve this:
A.repeat key nouns throughout the composition.
B.use pronouns to refer back to key nouns.
C.arrange the sentences in a logical order and use linking words to indicate the order (first of all, then, later, next, since, then, finally)
D.add collocations, phrasal verbs and idioms to ‘spice up’ your writing.
An outstanding composition should have a strong opinion which attracts the readers’ attention and makes them want to read more. A few good ways of opening the composition include whether:
A surprising statistic or fact
A personal address to the reader
A provocative statement (but not TOO provocative)
Certain words or expressions are often used to indicate the conclusion of a piece of writing: in conclusion, lastly, finally, to sum up, in short.
Connectors are linking words which join ideas and show how those ideas are related to one another. They also help us to organise our writing and make it easy for the reader to follow.
Adding points: and /in addition/furthermore/moreover/what’s more/besides/also/too/as well as
Contrast: but/ however/nevertheless/yet/still/although/ even if/ even though/ in spite of/ despite
Cause: because (of)/since/ due to/ as / as a result of/one/another reason for…is…
Consequence: so/therefore/consequently/thus/as a result/as a consequence/ for this reason/ that is why
Purpose: in order to/so as to/so that/to
Similarity: similar/likewise/in the same way
Personal opinions: in my opinion/ I (strongly) believe (that)/ I think/feel(that)/ in my view/ it seems to me (that) personally/ as I see it
Introduce facts: in fact/ as a matter of fact/actually/ the truth is (that)
General statements: in general/generally/ as a rule/ on the whole
To list points: to begin/ start with / in the first place / first of all / for one thing/ firstly, secondly, thirdly/finally/ lastly
Opposing points: on the one hand/ on the other hand/in contrast/ contrary to/ it can also be argued that/ but there are people who say/think (that)
Sequence: first/at first/in the beginning/before/next/then/soon/meanwhile/later/after that/ afterwards/ at last/eventually/ finally/in the end/during/ when
Time: when/while/before/ after/ until/ as soon as/ by the time
Conclusion: in conclusion/to sum up/in short/all in all
4. Linking words
Linking words help you to connect ideas and sentences, so that people can follow what you say. Here is a list of linkers:
Giving examples : for example, for instance, namely
The most common way of giving examples is by using for example or for instance.
Namely refers to something by name.“There are two problems: namely, the expense and the time.”
Adding information: and, in addition, as well as, also, too, furthermore, moreover, apart from, in addition to, besides
Ideas are often linked by and. In a list, you put a comma between each item, but not before and. Try not to name more than three elements: “We talked about health, education and the budget.”
Also is used to add an extra idea or emphasis. “We also talked about scholarship.”
You can use also with not only to give emphasis. “We talked not only about the costs, but also about the benefits”
We don’t usually start a sentence with also. If you want to start a sentence with a phrase that means also, use in addition, or in addition to this…
As well as can be used at the beginning or the middle of a sentence.”As well as the costs, we talked about the benefits.” “We are interested in costs as well as the benefits.”
Too goes either at the end of the sentence, or after the subject and means as well. “They were concerned too.” “I, too, was concerned.”
Apart from and besides are often used to mean as well as, or in addition to.
“Apart from Subaru, we are the largest sports car manufacturer.””Besides Subaru, we are the largest sports car manufacturer.”
Moreover and furthermore add extra information to the point you are making.
“Marketing plans give us an idea of the potential market. Moreover, they tell us about the competition.”
Summarising: in short, in brief, in summary, to summarise, in a nutshell, to conclude, in conclusion
We normally use these words at the beginning of the sentence to give a summary of what we have said or written.
Sequencing : the former … the latter, firstly, secondly, finally, the first point is, lastly, the following
The former and the latter are useful when you want to refer to one of two points.
“English and France are both covered in the course. The former is studied in the first term and the latter is studied in the final term.”
Firstly, … secondly, … finally (or lastly) are useful ways to list ideas.
It’s rare to use “fourthly”, or “fifthly”. Instead, try the first point, the second point, the third point and so on.
Giving a reason: due to / due to the fact that, owing to / owing to the fact that, because, because of, since, as
Due to and owing to must be followed by a noun. “Due to the rise in university taxes, most student had to ask for a loan.” “Owing to the demand, we are unable to supply all items within 2 weeks.” If you want to follow these words with a clause (a subject, verb and object), you must follow the words with the fact that.”Due to the fact that oil prices have risen, the inflation rate has gone up by 1%.””Owing to the fact that the workers have gone on strike, the company has been unable to fulfil all its orders.”
Because of is followed by a noun. “Because of bad weather, the football match was postponed.”
Because can be used at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence. For example, “Because it was raining, the match was postponed.”
Since and as mean because.
“Since the company is expanding, we need to hire more staff.” “As the company is expanding, we need to hire more staff.”
Consequence: therefore, so, consequently, this means that, as a result.
Therefore, so, consequently and as a result are all used in a similar way
“The company are expanding. Therefore / So / Consequently / As a result, they are taking on extra staff.” But, so is more informal.
Contrasting ideas : but, however, although, even though, despite, despite the fact that, in spite of / in spite of the fact that, nevertheless, nonetheless, unlike.
But is more informal than however. And it is not normally used at the beginning of a sentence.
“He works hard, but he doesn’t earn much.”
“He works hard. However, he doesn’t earn much.”
Although, despite and in spite of introduce an idea of contrast. With these words, you must have two halves (2 x 1/2) of a sentence.
“Although it was cold, she went out in shorts.” “In spite of the cold, she went out in shorts.”
Despite and in spite of are used in the same way as due to and owing to. They must be followed by a noun. If you want to follow them with a noun and a verb, you must use the fact that.
“Despite the fact that the company was doing well, they fired half of their staff”
Nevertheless and nonetheless mean in spite of that or anyway.
Nevertheless the sea was cold, but he went swimming nevertheless.” (In spite of the fact that it was cold.)
“The company is doing well. Nonetheless, they aren’t going to expand this year.”
Unlike is used to show how two things are different from each other.
“Unlike in the UK, Russia has cheap gas.”