Evaluation language

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.

AQA Paper 1 – Question 4 requires you to evaluate an extract. This means at the top band/level your exam board wants you to:

Shows perceptive and detailed evaluation:

  • Evaluates critically and in detail the effect(s) on the reader
  • Shows perceptive understanding of writer’s methods
  • Selects a judicious range of textual detail
  • Develops a convincing and critical response to the focus of the statement

This means you will need to use the following language:

Evaluative words and phrases


  • Effective.
  • Successful.
  • Clear.
  • Skilful.
  • Convincing.
  • Engaging.
  • Thought-provoking.

e.g. “The poet’s skilful use of metaphor…”


  • Effectively.
  • Successfully.
  • Clearly.
  • Skilfully.
  • Convincingly.

e.g. “The author clearly illustrates that…”


  • Conveys.
  • Suggests.
  • Emphasises.
  • Demonstrates.
  • Illustrates.
  • Makes it clear.
  • Makes it apparent.
  • Allows the reader/audience to understand…

e.g. “The playwright’s effective use of dialogue successfully demonstrates how…

Further evaluative language:

  • Inspiring
  • Perceptive
  • Powerful
  • Striking
  • Reflective
  • Imaginative
  • Profound
  • Challenging
  • Perplexing
  • Comprehensive
  • Valuable
  • Relevant
  • Thorough

Eg “The author challenges ….”


Thank you for reading!

Evaluating Dickens

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.

This is a typical question for P1 Q4 Evaluate:


These are the skill descriptors you need to meet:


When answering this question look for:

  • narrative perspective
  • sensory language
  • powerful imagery
  • emotive language
  • techniques used for effect

I will look at each extract slightly differently, hopefully together you will see which details to annotate, then how to use them collectively to build a chohesive evaluative comment.  At the end I’ve listed other evaluative features to look for.

David Copperfield

It was a murky confusion—here and there blotted with a colour like the colour of the smoke from damp fuel—of flying clouds, tossed up into most remarkable heaps, suggesting greater heights in the clouds than there were depths below them to the bottom of the deepest hollows in the earth, through which the wild moon seemed to plunge headlong, as if, in a dread disturbance of the laws of nature, she had lost her way and were frightened. There had been a wind all day; and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. In another hour it had much increased, and the sky was more overcast, and blew hard.

Techniques used: imagery, emotive language, personification, simile, extended metaphor

Possible choices: 

  • noun-confusion-suggests uncertainty
  • verb-blotted-suggests stain
  • tossed-verb-suggests throw,
  • ‘greater heights’ v ‘depths below’ v ‘deepest hollows’,
  • adjective-wild-suggests untamed,
  • verb-plunge-suggests dive/thrust
  • alliterative ‘dread disturbance’
  • adjective lost and frightened
  • ‘there had been’ past tense clause and semi-colon
  • rising‘ and ‘extraordinary’ adj meaning remarkable/incredible
  • great, overcast, blew hard

Evaluative comment: I agree with the student, Dickens has used a powerful extended metaphor to describe the incredible and exciting turbulent weather. Dicken’s has successfully used words such as ‘flying’, ‘tossed’, ‘wild’ and ‘plunge’ to personify the movement of the clouds appearing uncontrollable. This vivid description ensures a reader can visualise the weather as not only beautiful but also terrifying. It makes you feel as if you are underneath the darkness, feeling its power.

A Christmas Carol

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office “In the dog-days”; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Techniques & Possible choices (this extract is full of imagery and techniques):

  • tight-fisted
  • grindstone
  • “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
  • Hard and sharp as flint
  • no steel struck out generous fire;
  • secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster.
  • froze his old features,
  • nipped his pointed nose,
  • shrivelled his cheek,
  • stiffened his gait;
  • made his eyes red, his thin lips blue – Red – evil, blue – cold makes him sound like a monster, unlikeable
  • shrewdly in his grating voice.
  • A frosty rime
  • wiry chin.
  • at Christmas.

Possible evaluative comments: Powerful verbs and modifiers build somebody, unpleasant, he’s presented as mean both with money and in spirit. The simile is successful because it compares him to a cold unfeeling rock- he is presented as a cold, mean and a private person suggesting he is never warm or generous. By using the simile to compare Scrooge to a stone, “flint” we understand that he is hard-hearted yet also sharp and quick-witted. When I read, I would link the image of a flint as a stone the sharpen knives giving him a menacing image. Sibilance is used throughout, “sharp”, “steel”, “secret” giving an almost snake-like image for me by repeating the ‘s’ sound. The vivid description makes the character appear secretive, rule 3, Oyster is a hard shell but soft in inside, all words convey a lonely and distant man separated from others by choice. Furthermore, Dickens has cleverly used another simile to compare him to “oyster” supporting his hard image and also presenting him as secretive and isolated. The reader may also sympathise with Scrooge as it suggests loneliness. Also, like an oyster is effective because it is suggesting that he may also have a special quality, yet to be revealed. I can imagine the cold weather and relate to the character, Dickens’ use of the long, complex sentence structure adds to the feeling that Scrooge is difficult and complicated. The description of Scrooge is highly effective as it is detailed and layered. On the surface, he is unpleasant and friendless. However, Dickens also foreshadows a more positive character to come and creates sympathy for me.

Bleak House

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • Implacable
  • mud
  • as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth,
  • Megalosaurus
  • waddling like an elephantine lizard
  • Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots
  • soft black drizzle
  • flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes
  • gone into mourning,
  • for the death of the sun.
  • Dogs, Horses,
  • Foot passengers,
  • jostling one another’s umbrellas,
  • infection of ill temper,
  • losing their foot-hold
  • tens of thousands
  • slipping and sliding
  • broke
  • the crust upon crust of mud,
  • sticking
  • tenaciously

Evaluative language: reflects, observes, reveals, implies, exposes, evokes, illustrates, considers,

Great Expectations 

She was dressed in rich materials-satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on-the other was on the table near her hand-her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a Prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • rich, jewels, silk, splendid – suggest wealth
  • satin, lace, white – suggest layers ( a metaphor for how complicated Havisham is?)
  • repeated white – suggests innocence, purity
  • contradiction with her age, and choice of words ‘some bright’ ‘other jewels lay’ suggesting innocence has gone (left with), now bitterness?
  • scattered, half arranged, heaped could suggest her mental state or the suddenness of being jilted – again a metaphor for the fickleness of love/males?
  • listing of items, effective as it draws out her (original) happiness
  • the paragraph ends with ‘looking-glass’ – emphasises the importance of what she sees/what she was/has become.

Possible evaluative language:

  • Dickens endeavours to show….
  • Dickens expresses a view …. to the effect…
  • seeks to criticise
  • attempts to expose…..

Nicholas Nickleby – Dotheby’s Hall

Pale and haggard faces, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances of old men, deformities with irons upon their limbs, boys of stunted growth, and others whose long meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies, all crowded on the view together; there were the bleared eye, the hare-lip, the crooked foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural aversion conceived by parents for their offspring, or of young lives which, from the earliest dawn of infancy, had been one horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. There were little faces which should have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering; there was childhood with the light of its eye quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining; there were vicious-faced boys, brooding, with leaden eyes, like malefactors in a gaol; and there were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parents had descended, weeping even for the mercenary nurses they had known, and lonesome even in their loneliness.

Brief evaluative plan: look above at the patterns/contrasts in the language used by Dickens to describe the children. This extract is full of imagery, techniques and vivid language. The extract shows a very explicit description of just how miserable this school for unwanted children is. Their faces are “pale and haggard,” their bodies deformed, showing anger and misery and suffering.  Dickens uses detail to overwhelm the reader with the suffering of these children.

Evaluative sentence stems: 

  • creates a [….] scene
  • creates the impression….
  • helps the reader feel…..
  • the writer’s choice is effective because……
  • the author builds dramatic tension….

A Tale of Two Cities – The Shoemaker

A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the workman with an unfinished shoe upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools and scraps of leather were at his feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his face would have caused them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat and showed his body to be withered and worn.  He, and his old canvas frock, and his loose stockings, and all his poor tatters of clothes, in a long seclusion from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which.

Important details:  the character is described as more dead than alive, with his hollow face, withered body, and a hand so thin that it looks transparent.  He’s got a raggedly cut white beard, a hollow face, and very bright eyes. His tattered yellow shirt shows a withered and worn body. He has faded down to a dull parchment colour due to lack of direct sunlight and air (a metaphor for freedom?); he blends into his yellow shirt, making it difficult to distinguish one from another.

Possible Evaluation sentences:

  • the author slowly reveals…..
  • the author is suggesting
  • I particularly liked the description…..
  • it made me feel/see/hear….
  • I believed…..

Here are other evaluative comments that you can look for in a text:

  1. look for patterns in words that create strong images
  2. look for emotive language that makes the reader feel something
  3. look for punctuation to enhance meaning
  4. look for verbs or modifiers that have strong connotations (positive or negative)
  5. look for adjectives/adverbs that add to the meaning and help you see an image vividly
  6. look for descriptions that reveal a different focus
  7. look for the senses, used to help reader’s understanding
  8. look for any technique used eg personification/onomatopoeia to reinforce an idea
  9. look for descriptions that build up an image for the reader (eg weather)
  10. look for patterns that build tension across an extract


Try using some of these verbs:


Thank you for reading.

Minimum to well, maximum! (P1 & P2)

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 you scroll down this list, please don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s long, I know, but most of these you would have learnt in primary and will have used right up to year11 in both your literature and language units of English GCSE. In other words, it’s not as bad as it looks!

When approaching Question 2 (language analysis) as a minimum you need to be secure in the following terms:

  • Adjective
  • Adverb
  • Alliteration
  • First person narrative
  • Hyperbole
  • Images
  • Metaphor
  • Noun
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Personification
  • Point of view
  • Repetition
  • Simile
  • Tension
  • Tone
  • Verb
  • Vocabulary

However, try to get to grips with the following for in-depth analysis:

  • Atmosphere
  • Description
  • Emotive
  • Extended image
  • Extended metaphor
  • Flashback
  • Foregrounding or emphasis
  • Foreshadowing
  • Motif
  • Narrative perspective
  • Parallel structure
  • Rhetoric
  • Short but dramatic narrative
  • Sibilant sound
  • Symbolise

For Q3 Structure you will also need to know the following terminology:

  • Bias (what is present or omitted)
  • Chronologically
  • Colloquial
  • Complex sentence
  • Complex sentences with multiple clauses
  • Compound sentence
  • Conjunction
  • Connectives
  • Dialogue
  • Direct address
  • Direct quote
  • Direct testimony
  • Distant and formal mode of address
  • Emotive assertions
  • Extended list
  • Facts
  • Factual language
  • First-person
  • Foregrounding or emphasis
  • Humour
  • Imperative
  • Impressions
  • Inform
  • Intensifier
  • Interrogatives
  • Interview
  • Journal
  • Long complex sentence
  • Newspaper report
  • One-sided view
  • Persuasive and rhetorical tone
  • Point of view
  • Present participles
  • Present tense verbs
  • Pronoun
  • Questions
  • Reporting
  • Second person
  • Short sentence
  • Structure
  • Superlative
  • Testimonies
  • Third person perspective
  • Time shift
  • Tone and focus
  • Triples


There’s a subject terminology mat here if you want it (Subject terminology mat)


(I didn’t make this – it was a twitter share – I will credit once I find author!)

Thanks for reading.

Non-fiction Practice (a real one)!

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.

This wasn’t written by me but by a year 11 student at my school (A.Butler). He gave me permission to add to my blog as a Paper 2, Question 5 practice.

Paper 2 question 5 practice

‘Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and landslides – we see more and more reports of environmental disasters affecting the world and its people every day’.

Write the text of a speech for a debate at your school/college in which you persuade young people to take more responsibility for protecting the environment.

Children torn away from the caring arms of their families; entire communities wiped from the face of the planet; villages and towns that have been centres of culture and trade for generations obliterated by our carelessness, our lack of respect, our failure to do our duty to other members of the human race, and the planet on which we all cling to those few  things that matter to us.

Natural disasters are of course phenomenon’s that can often be attributed to the workings of our planet. But in this day and age they are becoming more and more frequent, and causing more and more catastrophes and chaos. We must face up to the truth: disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes are approximately 40 % more common in our time due to the actions of not just global corporations and national industries, but of the heartless, ignorant manner in which so many of us choose to live our lives today.

It is all too easy to point the finger of blame to developing countries with large populations such as China and India, or to the economic powerhouse that is the United States of America. However whilst these do of course have an undoubtedly huge effect on our environment (it would be foolish to suggest otherwise), it is the common people and citizens of countries around our fragile world that make the greatest impact.

Today I am beseeching that you all take into consideration the obvious fact that the choices you make today will have ever-lasting actions on those less-fortunate that have to suffer on a daily basis.  If you are all part of the new generation of people who are coming to this basic realisation, you will be improving the lives of millions, no, billions. Taking responsibility for your actions doesn’t require a life-time commitment, where you sacrifice your basic human rights in order to protect others, instead, something as simple as dealing with your litter correctly, using public transport, or avoiding cooking excess food can completely alter the lives of other that would otherwise have suffered by our common ignorance. If you take care of your litter, it would negate the need to landfill sites, which still plague our country to this day. Furthermore reducing the use of fast depleting natural resources, and limiting the use of electricity which is still on the whole produced by fossil fuels, all helps the limit the effects of climate change which causes the frequent natural disasters that cause so much suffering today.

My aim here today was not to dictate to you how you should live your own life, but to offer an insight into some of the consequences of failing to make minor, insignificant changes, that you could make to help our environment, and in turn helping others in their lives. I hope you can appreciate this speech and take away the knowledge that if you are just one of the thousands of others who are making new changes in their previously harmful lifestyles, you can make a real difference in our world. This is what I hope you can take from this, and I would ask that you makes small changes in your life, to make a huge difference in somebody else’s own less fortunate life.

Thank you for reading.


If I was marking this I’d put it in the top band.

AO5: 23 and AO6: 14.

Spelling is not quite perfect – and there is an errant apostrophe and a sentence or two! So lacking perfect control.

Also, AO5 says thanks for reading not quite top – you must remember context!



What (exactly) are you trying to say?

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! I’m going to use this image:


AQA Section B: Writing You are advised to spend about 45 minutes on this section.

I will do other posts on how to plan/a whole narrative piece. 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

If I begin with a verb (-ing) I start my piece in the middle of some type of action

  • Looking (gazing, staring, leering, glancing) at me (this is a ‘clause’ it doesn’t make sense on its own so needs more information).
  • anyone would think I was another excited (delighted, thrilled) visitor at the carnival (this would make sense, if I add a conjunction ‘but’ I can carry my sentence on giving more details)  
  • but as I shook my head and sat down (having the choice of ‘down’ suggests my character is sad, by showing not telling! The verb ‘shook’ will create intrigue for the reader – )
  • I knew that was the furthest emotion I was feeling. (if the character wasn’t excited – why not?)

I’ll add some punctuation and put all the above together…

Gazing at me, anyone would think I was another excited visitor at the carnival, but as I shook my head and sat down, I knew that was the furthest emotion I was feeling. 

I need to change the focus to introduce a flashback… (if I don’t it will confuse my reader)

  • As I wait for Mark I thought back and wonder how it all went wrong.

Now I need to go back and change some choices above from present to past tense – so would becomes will,  was becomes am ….. shook-shake, sat-sit etc. I will begin a new paragraph to show a topic shift, maybe look back at an event previously that night, this will show the examiner you can handle ‘tenses’ accurately.  This time I will begin with an adverb (-ly) that takes you back to the start of the night…

  • Eagerly (impatiently) I walked towards the carnival. I prefer impatiently.
  • I also want to add a line about noticing the sights… so added The first thing I saw was the

To ensure I hit the higher bands I need to vary my writing and to do this I will comment on the senses.  If this was real the first things I’d notice would be the lights and sounds. I want to comment on the lights, then the noise. Which of these choices would you pick…?

  1. A golden (bright, brilliant, rich, glorious, joyous) hue encased the rides like a jewel (trinket sparkle gem) in the darkness. (creates a beautiful image of the contrast)
  2. Lights shone out in every direction (a little boring)
  3. yellows, reds and greens shot out (effective because rides often have coloured lights beaming out.

Personally, I like (1).  Now I want to focus on the sounds:

  1. I heard the screams of laughter (a little boring)
  2. Next came the laughter (chuckle, giggle, glee, roar, cackle, howling) and squeals (shriek, squawk, shrill, screams, screech) of delight (the adverb ‘next’ joins the lights/sounds)
  3. I strained to separate the screams from laughter and those fearful of clowns. (doesn’t sound like he’s happy!)

I like  (2). I continue with the sounds…

  1. (who is laughing) enthusiastic boys and girls
  2. teenagers (adolescents, youths) looking for love and
  3. parents cold (frozen, chilly) and tired (annoyed, bored, irritated) tiny (puny, miniature, little, wee) smiles fixed on their faces

Then, to see how it’s shaping up, here’s the section together:

Impatiently I walked towards the carnival. A rich, golden hue encased the rides like a jewel in the darkness. Next came the giggles, the cackling and squeals of delight; enthusiastic boys and girls, youths looking for love and parents frozen, bored and irritated, little smiles fixed on their faces.

I know this can seem forced but so far I’ve used colours, adjectives, adverbs, the senses and a mixture of sentence structures. What I haven’t used is techniques such as similes or metaphors. If you want to score the top band you must! At this point I’d start a new paragraph so that I can change the focus again. Remember paragraphs have a purpose!

  • Suddenly (quickly) (the adverb works as it means something happened quickly)
  • I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand (the simile helps visualise the comparison of distraction and ‘wand waving’ like a reaction you can’t resist)
  • and I was hit (punched, shot, knocked, slapped, swatted) by a wave. (we know our character wasn’t hit by a ‘real’ wave so it’s a metaphor. Again it continues the sudden change – also I liked punched, so will extend my sentence now)
  • I lifted my head as the smell (aroma, scent, stench, whiff spice) of sausages and burgers hit (punched, shot, knocked, slapped, swatted) me. (again appealing to the senses).
  • The crowd parted. (separated, split) (the simple sentence is effective because it gives little information)

Suddenly, I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand and I was punched by a wave; slapping my thoughts back into focusI lifted my head as the aroma of sausages and burgers hit me. The crowd parted.    

I’m almost at the end. Here I’ve gone back and proofread my narrative. There are some minor errors, so below I’ve added or changed anything that didn’t quite work. I also need to add one final paragraph bringing it all together. I’ll leave that one a bit of a mystery!

Now let’s put that ALL together:

Gazing at me, anyone will think I am another excited visitor at the carnival, but as I shake my head and sit down, I know this is the furthest emotion I am feeling. As I wait for Mark I think back and wonder how it all went wrong…

Impatiently, I had walked towards the carnival. The first thing I saw was the rich, golden hue encasing the rides like a jewel in the darkness. Next came the giggles, the cackling and squeals of delight; enthusiastic boys and girls, youths looking for love and parents frozen, bored and irritated, little smiles fixed on their faces.

Suddenly, I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand and my senses were washed over by a wave. The sensation was so strong it was like punching my thoughts sharply back into focus; I lifted my head as the smell of sausages and burgers hit me. The crowd parted.  

That’s where it went wrong. It all happened so quickly. It wasn’t really my fault, it was all just so exciting; the sights, the smells, the people. I knew Mark was distracted and he wasn’t paying attention.  I pulled away from him, he wasn’t prepared and stumbled as he lost his grip. He yelled at me, but I didn’t look back. I just ran! I hadn’t thought to stop. I crashed into some people, knocking a girl over. I didn’t care. I went straight for the discarded bun on the floor. A large hand grabbed me and I was abruptly yanked to the side. I looked up as the mud squelched beneath my paws. Mark was angry. He pulled me by my lead as he apologised to the girl. My ears went back and I lowered my head. I had upset my master.

Total 301 words

@PieCorbett (storyteller) suggested the following tips when I discussed writing this blog:

  1. Use adjectives – but don’t overuse them – the adjective has to earn its place adding something new and necessary that the reader did not know
  2. Writing works well when the feeling comes through the description so that I experience the writing as if I was a character
  3. Try to ‘surprise’ the reader – with word combination or sentence variation, mood change or new event.
  4. Shifting clauses – ‘Reaching up, I grabbed the first branch’
  5. Be concise with your choices eg ‘The wind blew’.

I’ve probably made this look a lot more complicated than it is, but I wanted to show you how to write a piece, to consider each choice carefully!

The key is to experiment in your lessons. Work closely with a dictionary and thesaurus – draft out pieces of work until you are happy.

Read lots of different genres; non-fiction as well as fiction, modern and classic!

Then on the day you sit your English exam you are more confident with language and how it works.

This little list of reminders may help you:


Thank you for reading.

Woman in Black

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.

I want to look at AQA P1 Q2 (language analysis).  Here’s an extract from The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

During the night the wind rose. As I had lain reading I had become aware of the stronger gusts that blew every so often against the casements. But when I awoke abruptly in the early hours it had increased greatly in force. The house felt like a ship at sea, battered by the gale that came roaring across the open marsh. Windows were rattling everywhere and there was the sound of moaning down all the chimneys of the house and whistling through every nook and cranny.



Analysis of a paragraph in detail – which words/techniques to look at, and why?  Let’s look at each of the author’s choices in close up:

During the night the wind rose. The preposition ‘During’ shows the reader the relationship between the nouns ‘night’ and ‘wind’. By making it vague, at some time in the night – it disorientates a reader’s senses adding to the overall effect of suspense Hill was trying to create. The verb ‘rose’ personifies the wind making it appear supernatural as if it suddenly came alive. The use of a simple sentence adds to the atmosphere the author was trying to create through the omission of a long, unnecessary complex sentence.  Finally, having the scene take place at night makes it more frightening because you can’t see clearly and have to rely on all your senses.

As I had lain reading I had become aware of the stronger gusts that blew every so often against the casements. The verb choice ‘had’ works because it means to experience or possess, so by choosing the past tense suggests they no longer do! The adjective ‘strong’ suggests physically demanding, however, by changing it to a comparative with -er could allude to a conflict between external forces and the narrator.  Finally, the verb ‘blew’ again a past tense of blow could mean just a creation of air, to me it hints at the wind pursing its lips – in other words it needs to be close!

But when I awoke abruptly in the early hours it had increased greatly in force. The conjunction ‘but’ introduces a clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned. The verb ‘awoke’ (again past tense of wake) literally means to stop sleeping; a person (real or not) is always slightly disorientated when just woken up! The adverb ‘abruptly’ doesn’t ‘hint’ at anything! It clearly means suddenly and unexpectedly. My next choice is going to be the pronoun ‘it’ – Hill is referring to the wind, but it could also mean something identifiable. She then ends this sentence with three similar vocabulary choices ‘increased’, ‘greatly’ and ‘force’. All three suggest increasing violently in size! 

The house felt like a ship at sea, battered by the gale that came roaring across the open marsh. Here I want to look at Hill’s use of a simile – by comparing the house to a ship helps the reader see how forceful the wind and storm were. You begin to imagine the powerful sea smashing at a small insignificant ship/boat, and in turn can see how the bricks and walls of the house are no match for nature. The adjective ‘battered’ suggests being hurt by repeated attacks. Finally, the adjective ‘roaring’ continues the personification of the wind to something enormous or tremendous.

Windows were rattling everywhere and there was the sound of moaning down all the chimneys of the house and whistling through every nook and cranny. Hill finishes the paragraph with the choices ‘rattling’ (adj) ‘moaning’ (v) and ‘whistling’ (v) when describing the wind. She is clearly comparing the wind to a ghost, something the character cannot really see or understand. And the adverb ‘everywhere’ means he cannot escape!

However, you need to put it all together into a single paragraph. Even when you are analysing language you need to be accurate and concise, in other words, select a ‘judicious’ range of quotes. You are specifically looking at words that make this a tense scene (Definition: unable to relax because of nervousness or anxiety). So which words (language) specifically makes this scene ‘tense’. Let’s look at the question again:


Hill uses a series of verbs such as ‘rose’ and ‘blew’ to personify nature, making it seem real, powerful and unrelenting, it also suggests the wind has risen from the dead and is coming for the narrator.  Hill continually compares the wind to the supernatural as a powerful and frightening element, showing the reader how small and alone the narrator is. The author also uses techniques such as a simile to compare the house to a moving ship so the reader can visualise the strength of the wind against the old house being repeatedly ‘battered’ as if it’s moving and swaying. Hill finishes the paragraph with a series of verbs ‘moaning’ and ‘whistling’ again personifying the wind as if it’s chasing the narrator wherever he goes. The verbs also suggest the wind (or ghost) is like, or worse ‘is’, a tortured or vengeful spirit.  Hill’s choices are not only effective in creating a suspenseful and terrifying atmosphere but are successful as they create a sense of foreboding for the character. It feels as if you are in the house, wondering if it is the wind or a ghost! Hills’s choices make this a very tense and anxious scene for the reader who will be terrified not knowing what hides in the darkness.


  • point (turn the question into your opening statement)
  • evidence (embed your quotes) also use a range to support your point
  • develop your idea – explain why [name technique] is effective
  • analyse language for meaning and connotations – give literal and figurative meaning (remember to pick out key choices from your quote)
  • comment on reader reaction/response – remember to comment on the effect on the reader (you!)
  • evaluate the author’s intention – was/were the author’s choices effective in a given context


Tone – AQA Paper2 Q5

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.

The new language spec, AQA Q5, (AO5) Paper 1 and paper 2 is worth 24 marks for your content and organisation. Here’s how the top marks are awarded:


One thing to get right is ‘tone’ – it falls into all the bullet points of ‘content’.

‘Tone’ is a linguistic term describing the way YOU, the author, express your attitude towards a topic in your writing.  Your tone can remain constant throughout a piece of writing or can change.  Tone is expressed by your use of syntax, your point of view, and the level of formality in your writing.  Tone can range from sarcastic, to humorous, to serious, to questioning, to angry, to persuasive, or to informative.

For example:

  • That’s great!- suggests an excited, surprised or happy tone
  • You did what? – suggests an irritated tone
  • What the hell did you do? – suggests an angry tone.

The tone you use decides how the readers (in your case, the examiners) read your piece of writing; it tells them how they should feel while they are reading it.

1) Register is convincing and compelling for audience

  • Will they understand the language that you are using?
  • What beliefs, values, and logical ideas does your audience have?

2) Assuredly matched to purpose

  • Should your writing contain slang or colloquial language?
  • Should the tone be formal or informal?
  • Are you evoking a specific reaction or emotion from your audience

3) Extensive and ambitious vocabulary with sustained crafting of linguistic devices

  • Choose language that will help you to express yourself clearly and effectively.
  • Select the appropriate language that is specific to your writing goal or situation.
  • Develop a rich and extensive vocabulary to create variety in your language choices.

Take the following question (paper 2 Q5):

‘Animals have feelings! It’s wrong to breed animals for the sole purpose of killing them for humans. Should we eat meat?’

Write an article for a local newspaper in which you explain your point of view on this statement.

What do you think of following sections/examples (taken from debate.org)? I’ve added brief comments on the right-hand side.


Now consider this article for the same question…

I don’t eat meat, should you?

I’m a 16-year-old vegetarian and have been for the last 5 years of my life. I want you to consider the reasons you eat meat, and hopefully, I may convince you to give meat up! For-ever!

I like the taste of meat! Actually, I miss it!

I bet you didn’t expect that, did you? However, it’s true, my reasons for not eating meat are simple; I think it’s cruel to kill innocent animals. Would you be surprised if I told you 80% of people questioned in a recent poll also think the killing of animals for humans to eat, is cruel? To raise an animal with the sole purpose of killing it is selfish, morally wrong and often inhumane.

Maybe next time you order a steak or chicken nuggets you should think about the animals that went through extreme pain for you to eat your McDonalds. Not only is it inhumane to put animals through such pain, not eating meat and having a vegetarian lifestyle can have huge benefits to animals, the environment, and your health.

Why do you think the phrase ‘like a lamb to the slaughter’ is so effective (and no it’s not just because it contains a simile)? The lamb is innocently and helplessly, led away without realising the danger.

This would score you approx band 3 (15/24 marks). Mainly because whilst register and purpose are ‘generally’ matched, I can’t say it’s consistent. The student hasn’t considered the audience of a ‘local newspaper’ and the article (whilst good) is more likely to appear in their class book.

Now consider this one:

Stop telling me not to eat meat!

I love meat: the smell of bacon on a Sunday morning, a chicken breast, even – liver or kidney. And nothing can beat a near-raw slab of steak – no matter how well your mother cooked that broccoli. There’s little point claiming to me that a vegetarian, let alone a vegan diet, can be as tasty as the bloodthirsty variety. Yet there are good reasons why a survey has found that 40% are cutting down on their meat consumption – becoming, like me, “flexitarian”.

You’ll likely have read many of these arguments before on these very pages. Apparently if we just became vegan (or vegetarian) then world hunger would be solved; Britain could feed itself – without resorting to that nasty, foreign muck so despised these days; the fear of antibiotic resistance would be a thing of the past; the NHS would be saved; and of course, global warming would be consigned to the history books.

Seems like quite a compelling moral argument for ditching the meat – and that’s without even mention the suffering of the animals who are killed and packaged before being cooked in some delicious butter and served up on a plate in front of your gaping maw.

And yet. Meat. It’s yummy. Tofu is never going to match a fish finger sandwich to salve that wicked hangover. So the flexitarian craze should be embraced – although I suspect it’s going to need a better name.

This would hit an upper band 4 (22/24 marks) because it’s convincing and compelling. It’s interesting and lively. It matches its audience and purpose.

Under pressure, it’s a lot to remember, but you MUST match your audience, purpose and language. Your content (AO5) is worth 24 marks! Tone is very important.


  1. Tone– A collection of words and possible meaning in context
  2. Quick-Guide-to-Tones – an ‘at a glance’ guide to tone from Scripted.com

Resources (A-Level)

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 Page – Index to Blogs / A-Level Help!

An at a glance (revision) list of new word formations

An at a glance (revision) list of theorists and ‘brief’ line of research area

AQA A-Level Exam breakdown crib sheet

An A-Level work book (revision)