Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing an Article 4

Look at this task.

You have a friend who works for an organisation that arranges study exchanges for school and college students. The organisation produces a regular magazine, which features articles about exchange countries, experiences people have had abroad, etc. Here is part of a letter from your friend.

there’s been a big increase in the number of people applying for study exchanges to your country – nearly double last year’s figures, in fact. Almost all will be staying with local families and, as it’ll be the first time most of them have been to your country, we thought we ought to put an introduction to the basic customs in the next edition of our magazine. So I was wondering – you’ve guessed it! – if you could possibly write a short article on the topic. You could explain any special habits to do with greeting, eating, being a good guest, etc, and also include any points about family or social life which you think they should be aware of. I know you’d do a brilliant job and I’d be really grateful.
Hope to hear from you soon

Write your article in approximately 250 words.

An article is a piece of writing on a particular subject which is written for publication in a newspaper, magazine or newsletter.

A wide range of approaches is possible, depending on the subject matter. A light-hearted or humorous topic might be given a fairly personal treatment, for example, while a more serious topic would be treated in a more neutral, analytic way.

Articles should have a heading which makes the subject matter clear but which also catches the reader’s eye and makes him or her want to read. Newspapers and magazines often use dramatic statements or word play in headings for this reason, and sometimes add a sub-heading which gives more information.

Layout and organisation
As with any other kind of composition, it’s important to have an interesting introduction and a suitable conclusion to “round off” the piece, and to organise the information into paragraphs which help the reader to follow the argument or understand the different aspects of the subject. In addition, articles often include an outline of the story or the topic near the beginning so that the reader begins with a general picture and then reads on to find out more information.

Your CAE coursebook will certainly contain many examples of different types of articles, taken from English-language newspapers and magazines. Look at each one carefully to see how the writer uses organisation and style to create interest.

Now look at the example below:

Screaming Tyres
By Tracy Cole

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit behind the wheel of a racing car? Are you looking for a really imaginative birthday present for a car-mad friend or relation? If the answer to either of these questions is “yes”, then you may be interested to hear about a course I took at Stoke Lodge Racing School recently.
            My day as a racing driver was the first prize in a newspaper competition I had entered, and I must say that it was the most exciting prize I’ve ever won. The day began with theoretical instruction covering all aspects of safety. This was followed by practical tuition in a high-performance saloon car. With no traffic to worry about, I was able to practise controlling the car on bends and prepare myself for the ultimate experience – the chance to drive a single-seater racing car.
            And finally, with crash helmet on and full harness seat belts secured, I was able to rev up the engine and edge my way out onto the circuit. Six breathtaking laps later, my dream had become reality.
            For those not lucky enough to win a day at the racing school, the cost of the introductory course is £120, which includes all equipment and also an impressive certificate to hang on the wall. Anyone who can drive a car can enjoy the experience, regardless of age. The oldest participant so far has been 85, and I understand that he has booked a second course!

Note in particular the following points:
  • heading – short, dramatic
  • Opening – catches the reader’s attention by asking a question
  • Separate paragraphs for different aspects of the subject
  • Ending – rounds the article off suitably with a joke.

Now, plan your answer the task above, like this:

-       Think of a title, perhaps one with a touch of humour.
-       Make a list of the topics suggested in the question and jot down any ideas you have for each one. Imagine yourself as a visitor to your country and your family. What would seem strange? What mistakes might you make?
-       Decide on the best order for the topics.
-       Make your article readable. Remember your readers’ ages. How can you get their attention to begin with? How can you keep them reading? What would be a good ending?

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