How to write a fantastic article in English
In B2, C1 and C2 you may be given the option of writing an article, typically between 280-380 words depending on level. It can be aimed at a general audience, as well as young people or academic readers and often from your own experience. So how can you be sure your article merits a pass grade in the exam? By following some simple rules.
Before planning your article think about the following questions, and answers.
1. Who is the target reader and what is the appropriate register?
Young readers – relaxed semi-formal.
General public – semi formal.
Institutions – formal
2. What do you need to include in the article?
This will depend on the topic and task but should include specific vocabulary related to the topic.
Typical Topics include…
Environmental issues – volunteering as a conservationist, for example.
Lifestyle choices – living on the road, etc.
The economy – spending trends, etc.
Arts and entertainment – the cult of film noir, etc.
Society – working with homeless people, etc.
3. How will you make it interesting?
Be sure to use the following to a greater or lesser degree depending on the register –
– precise descriptive vocabulary, the sounds an animal might make for example.
– interesting verb phrases – cross my mind, get involved in, etc.
– neutral phrasal verbs – hand out, come across, etc.
– collocations – member of the public, on loan, dog tired etc.
– advanced adjectives and adverbs – sluggishly, haggard, misty etc.
As well as…
a. non defining relative clauses to add extra information
b. passive structures
c. simple and continuous tenses for relaxed semi formal/semi formal
d. perfect tenses, impersonal passives and inversions for formal
4. What style of language will you use?
This will depend on the task but is generally either,
– anecdotal – your own experience
– objective – a more factual account
Look at the two texts below which are part of an answer to the following task.
You recently spent two weeks working as a volunteer on an organic farm as part of a project to familiarise young people from the city with country life. You have been asked to write an article for an environmental newsletter describing your duties and experience.
As I staggered outside sleepily at 6 a.m the sun was already up and the grass was sparkling with early morning dew. The cows were munching the grass and the sheep were roaming peacefully over a distant hillside. Other than that there was just peace and quiet. No traffic, no horns blaring, no people rushing to work. Yes my job was about to start but for now I had 5 minutes to enjoy the sounds and smells of the natural surroundings.
The target reader is young people and this type of highly descriptive, narrative style captures the imagination and should encourage them to read further. It also contrasts the difference between the lives they know in the city with the countryside and so offers an immediate connection in the first lines of the article. It uses very simple structures, no complex grammar, but uses a rich array of specific and non specific vocabulary.
I had decided to take part in a volunteer scheme for young people from the city to live and work on a farm for two weeks in the summer. Farm life had always attracted me and I also belonged to an environmental organisation so I had an interest in the growing of organic vegetables and in keeping livestock. So it was with lots of enthusiasm that we set off for the farm one day early in July. Little did I know what delights awaited me!
This is much more formal with past perfect and complex structures which together with its use of higher level nouns (livestock, for example) immediately puts it into semi formal territory. The use of semi formal structures and vocabulary limits the flow of the text, and other than factual information the reader is left with no idea of what an early morning in the countryside might be like.
Text A is a fantastic example of a writer communicating well with their audience, young adults who have never experienced the countryside or life without the noise and din of the city. It’s narrative style suits the audience and the newsletter format perfectly.
Text B is dry, not as easy to read, factual and not as appealing or easy to read as Text A.
But of course this is only applicable to this specific task. A newsletter about carbon depletion for an academic journal would be totally different and text A would be completely unsuitable.
1. Understand your reader.
2. Check specific vocabulary.
3. Write a vocabulary list before your plan.
4. Write a short plan – 4/5 paragraphs.
5. Use your imagination.
6. Create a snappy or appropriate title
7. Enjoy it!