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Steps To Writing A Language Analysis Essay

Often beginning a Language Analysis essay can be tough. How do you start? Do you even need to write an introduction? There are many answers to these questions- some say that because an introduction is not explicitly worth any marks, you don’t need to bother. However, an introduction can be a great way to organize your thoughts and make sure you set up your analysis properly … as long as you don’t waste a lot of time writing unnecessary sentences. 

To do this, you can use a simple, easy to remember formula that will help you to identify the key aspects of the piece very early on, and will show your examiner that you know exactly what you’re talking about- all you have to do is to remember the acronym “CDFASTCAT”.

  • Context
  • Date
  • Form
  • Author
  • Source
  • Title
  • Contention
  • Audience
  • Tone

Here is a breakdown of each aspect and its importance:

Context: This gives the audience some background information on the issue, and “sets the scene” for the article or text. In ANY language analysis article/piece you come across (whether it be in the exam or in practice), there is always a box with the context of the article explained. ALWAYS read it and let it influence your analysis. If you exemplify consideration of the information provided to you in your analysis, you will show a deeper understanding of the issue, and your analysis will be more accurate and detailed. Aim to demonstrate that you understand why the article was written, and its surrounding circumstances.

Date: This gives the article a wider context, and helps the audience to understand why the author may have a certain viewpoint. It is also good practice to properly reference the article in your analysis, which includes the date, author, source, and title.

Form: The form of a Language Analysis text can vary, from newspaper articles, blogs, comics, or even speeches. Each form has its own set of conventions which can help you identify language techniques, and can change the way the message is communicated to the audience. For example, in a speech, the speaker is more likely to directly address their audience than the editor of a newspaper may in an editorial.

Author: When writing a Language Analysis essay (or any essay for that matter), always refer to the author by either their full name, their surname only, or a title and a surname- NEVER by their first name alone. For example: “Lyle Shelton”; “Mr. Lyle Shelton”; “Mr. Shelton”; “Shelton”, and “Lyle Shelton” are all ok to use in your essay. However, you would never use “Lyle” on its own.

Source: The source of a text can influence your understanding of the audience. For example: an article written on a blog about gardening is likely to have a different audience than a financial journal. Including the source is also an important so that the article is properly referenced.

Title: Including the title in the introduction is critical to properly introducing the article. Remember to analyse major techniques in the title if there are any during the body of your essay!

Contention: Identifying the author’s contention can be the most difficult aspect of Language Analysis for many students. The trick is to ask yourself the question “What is the author’s argument?” If you want to break it down even further, try asking: “What does the author want to change/why/what is it like now/what do they want it to be?”

Audience: Depending on the audience, different techniques and appeals may work in different ways. For example, an appeal to the hip-pocket nerve is more likely to have an effect on single parents who are struggling financially than it is on young children or very wealthy people.

Tone: You should not include a tone word in your introduction as the author’s tone will shift throughout the text. However, identifying the tone early is important, and so you can later acknowledge any tonal shifts.

Picture: Often articles will include some sort of graphic; it is important that you acknowledge this in your introduction and give a brief description of the image- enough so your analysis can be read and understood on its own. The description of the image is the equivalent of an embedded quote from an article; both are used to provide evidence to support your analysis.

If you follow this, hopefully your Language Analysis introductions become easy to write, straight to the point, and full of all the most important information- good luck! ☺

This post is an extension to my previous guide: Journalism 101: Language Analysis. The ability to analyse how language is used to persuade an audience is critical to any journalist; it is also handy knowledge for daily readers of the news so they can avoid being manipulated by crafty journalists. Once you have learnt all of the different persuasive techniques from the previous guide, you would be wise to find an article in the paper, get a highlighter and a pen and try to pinpoint all of the persuasion tactics being employed. This is analysing how language is used to create a certain response from the reader. Once you’ve made your notes, the next step for a student of journalism is to be able to construct an essay outlining and explaining each of the persuasive techniques that have been used. Every article uses at least one or two! Below is a bulletproof skeleton for constructing such an essay.

Introduction

  • Text details – author, source, type of text, date, in response to another article? Audience? Tone shifts (eg shifts from sarcastic to empathetic) how does this change the overall mood of the article? Does the shift in tone keep the reader on their toes? Does it make them more likely to acknowledge the writer’s words? Does the tone attempt to make the reader hate a certain person or situation?
  • What is the issue?
  • How/Why has the issue been brought to light?
  • Contention – point of view/key argument, what does the writer want the reader to think?
  • Intention  – what does the writer want to achieve with his/her article? Eg to create awareness, to stop people from littering, to stop people beating up little kids on the street etc
  • DON’T list any techniques in the introduction, make it brief. Also, you don’t have to mention tone in the introduction but it’s a good idea to get it out of the way quickly.

Body Paragraphs

  • Argument/Mini-intention  – what does the writer employ to position the reader towards his/her contention?
  • Feature – persuasive language, structure, punctuation (eg abrupt sentences quickly and effectively assert a point of view, as though no elaboration is needed and therefore the point is considered to be stronger eg “Alcohol and study simply don’t mix.”), visuals, change in tone etc.
  • When picking out a persuasive feature, make sure you quote it.
  • Discuss the effect the persuasive feature has on the reader eg the writer makes heavy use of hyperbole to create feelings of distress and uneasiness in the readers mind. By using exaggerated phrases such as ‘spun dangerously out of control’ and ‘youth crime explosion’ strong emotional responses such as panic and anxiety are aroused in the reader and they are more likely to accept the writer’s contention
  • The articles used in the exam are usually written specifically for language analysis so they are therefore loaded with language techniques, some sentences may even contain 3 or 4 different features: eg: ‘a wage in the hand of a kid, is like sand through a sieve’ – this sentence is a strong generalisation, makes use of a simile, uses imagery which paints a picture and sticks in the readers mind (picture paints a thousand words) and is also a huge exaggeration (hyperbole.)
  • The whole point of language analysis is to analyse how the writer positions the reader to believe his/her contention, so that’s all you have to do, keep it short and sweet.

Conclusion

  • Reinstate intention
  • Don’t ever express your own opinion, even if the article is written by a feminist pansy whose opinions you don’t agree with, it is never o.k to judge a writer’s opinion when writing language analysis essays.

If you can analyse an article and write a language analysis essay using the above guidelines in less than an hour, then you’re doing very well and your journalistic pencil is almost completely sharpened!

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This entry was posted in writing, writing guide and tagged essay, guide, journalism, language analysis, persuasive language, persuasive techniques by Michael Cunningham. Bookmark the permalink.

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