Say what you mean (exactly)!

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

When writing how do you make the best choices? Hopefully, this blog may help you! This blog matches the one I did for P1 and tackles P2 Q5 (non fiction writing).

Your question will look/be worded similar to this:

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AQA Section B: Writing You are advised to spend about 45 minutes on this section and you are are trying to hit these skill descriptors:

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This blog will show you how to pick the best words/sentences etc. I apologise again for the differences in colour but hopefully, they will help you:

  • Blue – a possible choice
  • Red – synonyms and alternatives
  • Grey/black – my thoughts/explanation for choices

Write a letter to your local MP arguing against the closure of the library in your town.

If you are writing a letter, then note the min/detailed requirements:

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The first thing you need to do is add the name of the sender, I realise you may not know it, but you could do this:

  • Name of MP
    Address

Then add the mode of address:

  • Dear Sir or Madam (or add the name of person if you know it – eg Mary, Uncle, Miss)

Now we’re ready for the main part of our letter, remember you are writing to a ‘person’ and you are appealing to them, so your letter needs to be polite, persuasive, emotive and personal.

  • I am writing this letter (do you need to state the obvious)?
  • I am writing to you (makes it personal)
  • I am writing because (gets to the point)

I like (2), this can then lead on to the reason for your letter.

  • because (after) depends on what you want to say next.
  • reading a (an) many choices depend on your next point – this is why planning is important!
  • story (article) in the (local) newspaper about the (ourI prefer ‘our’ is a determiner and is used in formal contexts by a writer to refer to something belonging to or associated with himself or herself.
  • local the adjective means relating to a particular area or one’s neighbourhood and will emphasise the importance of the library.
  • library closing due to cuts (cutbacks, lack of fundingcutbacks is the better word as it suggests a person has a choice.
  • I want to ask you (by including the pronoun you are directly talking to your audience)
  • why is this happening? (the question works, not just as a rhetoric, but you are also directly speaking to the MP and requires an answer. It also conveys your outrage).

Your opening needs to be brief and get to the point quickly. You can go into detail in the rest of your letter/article/speech etc.  Let’s put that together to see how it looks:

Name of MP
Address

Dear Councillor 

I am writing to you after reading an article in Town Life about the closure of our local library due to cutbacks. I want to ask you – why is this happening?

You need to begin a new paragraph. Although a list of your main reasons shows the examiner you are able to prioritise information.

  • Public library (or plural -ies) is/are essential because (I prefer plural, is sends out the message that there are libraries all over the UK/World and are essential). Once I decide on that I can move onto the next part
  • they play (the verb suggests engaging in an activity for enjoyment rather than a serious or practical purpose an active role in society)
  • I want to point out they are needed effective, operating, active I like active
  • part in society (humanity, community, nation, public)
  • they level (match, align) the playing field for everyone (all)
  • they provide an important (necessary, vital, crucial, key) service to a community

Put that together, to see how it looks:

Public libraries are essential because:

  • they play an active role in our community
  • they level the playing field for all
  • they provide a vital service for our town

Listing your key points ensures your intended audience can clearly see the important information. It also shows the examiner you can select key points and summarise effectively. Now we can continue with the main body of our letter. It would be nice to have an anecdote here (make it personal):

  • I remember walking with my mother to the library in town. Re-ordering this sentence makes more sense. Walking with my mother to visit the library was a highlight for me as a child. 
  • walking through the doors and the first thing that hit me was the smell. Then 
  • I remember the colours, and rows; rows and rows of books, every colour, every shape, every size.  I would sit on a comfy chair, or the floor and look at the pictures of wild animals, snakes and tigers. And over the years I grew until I could reach all the shelves myself. It’s a place I associate fond memories of learning about the world we live inthis is too long for a letter, whilst anecdotes are effective, if they go on, they turn into waffle!
  • you also must comment on the community benefit (it’s in your bullet!) this is also the case for the many other families and local schools that use the services provided by the library.
  • (remember your techniques, why not use a list of three here?) The library also hosts; poetry reading, quiz nights and summer school activities for under 11s.
  • (try changing clause order around, begin with a negative word) Removing these services from the community (by repeating services and community I am emphasising the importance to my audience) would affect many townsfolk.

Now start a new paragraph and add another argument.  Begin with a connection to join/link your ideas.

  • Furthermore (moreover, additionally, what’s more) Libraries provide (list community benefits – a triple) those unemployed, on low incomes or those on disability benefits with the ability (capacity, potential. capacity) to search and apply for work easily (effortlessly, comfortably, conveniently) developing their digital and literacy skills Here I’m focusing on the technology libraries also provide.
  • Additionally, again another conjunction joins my ideas cohesively they (third-person plural pronoun reminds the audience that a library has more than ONE purpose) ensure that all children, including those from the poorest backgrounds, are not left behind. They help children escape (beat, liberate) the poverty trap (net, pitfall) Simple exclamatory sentence emphasises the importance of libraries.

I now need a new paragraph to introduce my last bullet point.

  • Many of the services (again repeats the idea that the library offers more than just books) offered by libraries are crucial (essential, imperative, vital) to rural areas and small (by repeating the words rural and small I’m reminding my audience that it’s a needed facility) town such as ours. Free internet access (again repeats the idea that not everyone can afford it) has a key (principal, fundamental, main) role in ensuring that those seeking work have the best possible chance of being successful (prosperous, blossoming).

So far which of the DAFOREST techniques (most year 11s will know those!) have I covered: direct address, opinion, rhetoric question, emotive language, triple. So, I need to include a few others like some facts/statistics and some imagery if possible.

  • After your article appeared in the paper (joins the beginning of the letter and end back) social media (makes it relevant in today’s world) reported overwhelming (amazing, astounding, staggering, crushing, devastating) statistics of 70% (stats!!) wanting the library to stay open. If you (by placing pronoun in italics I am emphasising the importance of the direct address/recipient) are here for the people, then you must listen to the people! The end complex sentence begins with a clause making the recipient the subordinate clause, and ends with another exclamation.

Add an ending to the letter

  • Finally, public libraries provide a vital service for many and any cuts to the service only puts increasing pressure on other services.

Now I need to put it all together and proofread it for errors! Do not forget to do that. It’s at this point I make some last changes, including an appropriate ending to the letter.

Here’s the finished letter – what do you think?

Name of MP
Address

Dear Councillor 

I am writing to you after reading an article in Town Life about the closure of our local library, due to cutbacks. I want to ask you – why is this happening?

Public libraries are essential because:

  • they play an active role in our community
  • they level the playing field for all
  • they provide a vital service for our town

Firstly, I remember visiting the library with my mother: was the highlight of my week. These types of trips are also the case for many other families and local schools that use the services provided by the library. The library also hosts; poetry reading, quiz nights and summer school activities for under 11s. Removing these from the community would affect many townsfolk. What will you replace the services with?

Furthermore, Libraries provide those unemployed, or on low incomes with the ability to search and apply for work easily, developing their digital and literacy skills. Additionally, they ensure that all children, including those from the poorest backgrounds, are not left behind. They help children escape the poverty trap! How are you going to ensure every child matters?

Also, many of the services offered by libraries are crucial to rural areas and small town such as ours. Free internet access has a key role in ensuring that those seeking work have the best possible chance of being successful. What support are you putting in place, once these services are removed? How will you ensure every member of your constituent will be treated equally and have access to the same facilities?

After your article appeared in the paper social media reported overwhelming statistics of over 70% of people wanting the library to stay open. If you are here for the people, then you must listen to the people!

Finally, public libraries provide a vital service for many and any cuts to the service only puts increasing pressure on other services. I implore you to reconsider the implications of a possible closure.

Yours sincerely

(335 words)

Thanks for reading.

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