Category Archives: Question B

Advice on functional writing tasks (Question B).

Leaflet / set of guidelines

[youtube_sc url=]

If you are asked to compse a leaflet or a set of guidelines your format should follow the rules for the language of information. However you can take a tongue-in-cheek approach as evident above! In general the examiner will be looking for

  • simple clear language (short snappy sentences),
  • easy to access information (numbering or bullet points, headings and sub-headings, variety of ‘font’ sizes)
  • variety of ideas

On one occasion students were asked to compose an informative election leaflet for a forthcoming student council election and to pretend they were running for the position of Student Council President.

In general election leaflets contain:

  • The candidate’s photo, name & party if applicable.
  • A catchy slogan.
  • Information laid out in bullet point style.
  • Short snappy sentences.
  • Relevant past experience / leadership qualities.
  • Election promises – what changes you’ll implement.
  • Criticism of / comparison with other candidates.


Vote for Hazel –Vote for Change!

Vote for me, Hazel Nolan, as Student Council President.

As class prefect, I have experience of representing student’s views.

I have proven my leadership skills as Senior Volleyball Team Captain.

I have shown my concern for younger students through my continuous involvement in the Big Sister – Little Sister programme.

I promise to initiate change in the following areas:

  • Ban on mobile phones during lunch break.
  • Necessity to wear school uniform on school trips.
  • Improve quality & variety of food in school canteen.
  • Improve access to photocopying & printing services for students.
  • Increase use of ICT in the classroom.
  • Allow students to be present at parent/teacher meetings.

I will also represent our views nationally by taking part in Dáil na nÓg.

Unlike other candidates (one of whom claims to have “extensive experience of dealing with school management during daily detention”) I will take my job seriously, represent your concerns sincerely and bring about practical changes to make YOUR time in school more enjoyable.




For more on instructions, click on this link:


[youtube_sc url=]

Advertisments use many of the techniques of persuasive writing to convince you (or emotionally manipulate you) into buying a particular product or service.

An advert must

  • Get our attention
  • Leave an impression
  • Create a link between us and a product or service

Adverts rely on a strong element of suggestion & may contain subliminal messages.


  • Colour
  • Music / voice-overs / jingles
  • Logos
  • Slogans
  • Humour
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Recognisable characters
  • Models
  • Attractive lifestyles
  • Promise of fun / value for money
  • Expert reports
  • Scientific jargon
  • Informal, friendly language
  • Positive buzz words / phrases

Look at the following text from a holiday brochure as an example of the language of advertising:

Come to Ireland.

The land of a thousand welcomes is waiting to welcome you.

Why not begin your trip with a visit to Dublin? Relax as you tour the famous Guinness Brewery. Soak up the atmosphere in Temple Bar. Prepare to be spooked in Kilmainham Jail.

And when it all gets too much?

Head for the hills.

There’s nothing quite like the Ring of Kerry to take you back to nature, or why not swim with the dolphins in Dingle? You’ll get a warm welcome wherever you go. Delicious food, open peat fires, plenty of banter and barrels of laughter. Whether you’re watching a spectacular sunset and tapping your foot to the sounds of a lively Ceili band, Ireland has it all.

But don’t just take our word for it! Read these testimonials & you’ll soon be packing your bags!

Our trip to Ireland was one I’ll never forget. It’s such a cliche that the Irish are the friendliest people on earth – but the proof was in the pudding. We met so many lovely people. We’re going back again this year but this time we’re staying with friends” – Susan Sylvester, Chicago.

Do the Travel Triumph trip. I promise you won’t regret it” – Dan Armitage, Southern Illinois.

I’ve been all over the world – Asia, Europe, Africa – but Ireland truly has something unique. For a laid-back atmosphere and spectacular scenery, there really is nowhere else on earth quite like it” – Toni Jones, Texas.

For more info. log onto

or call us on 00353-949630333.

Travel Triumph Tours


Report Layout

There are a few ways of doing this correctly. You can use the headings IMRAD -introduction, methods, results and discussion or

Use the following headings:


Explain what the report is about, why you decided to write it, how you will gather your information.


Using bullet points & statistics, make a list of your findings.


What can you conclude from what you’ve discovered above.


What changes / solutions do you suggest. One per conclusion. Be specific.

NOTE: on one occasion students were asked to write a ‘memo’. A memo is an informative document usually used in an office setting. It can come in many different formats so there is no one absolutely correct way of approaching this task. The language is usually formal, clear and direct. Click on this link for more discussion and sample memos: Report

Report on the eating habits of Junior Certificate students.


The purpose of this report is to find out more about the typical eating habits of junior certificate students. Interest in this topic began following a discussion on healthy eating during our home economics class. We compiled a questionnaire which was distributed to all junior certificate students.


  • 24% of students regularly skip breakfast
  • 76% eat unhealthy snacks during morning break (these include chocolate, crisps, sweets, fizzy drinks, sausage rolls, wedges).
  • 58% bring a packed lunch, 12% go home, 17% eat in the canteen.
  • 13% rarely eat lunch.
  • 94% have a healthy hot dinner every day.


Students have a healthy balanced diet for the most part. Some students eat excessive amounts of junk food during morning break. There are also some concerns about the practice of skipping meals.


Introduce a special offer in the canteen whereby students can buy a bottle of water, pot of yoghurt and piece of fruit for €1.50 during morning break.

Arrange for a nutritionist to speak to all SPHE classes, focusing on the health benefits of healthy eating and the dangers of skipping meals.

Provide in-service training for teachers on recognising the symptoms of eating disorders.

Report writing – common mistakes

(A) Using casual, conversational language and abbreviations.

Examples =

  1. It’s obvious that SHOULD BE It is obvious that

  2. We’ve discovered SHOULD BE We have discovered

  3. …we’d look at SHOULD BE …we would examine

  4. We realised how bad students were eating SHOULD BE We realised how unhealthily students were eating.

  5. rubbish food SHOULD BE unhealthy or junk food

  6. Parents must give their kids SHOULD BE give their children

A report is an official document so always choose the most formal phrase you can.

(B) Offering personal opinions.

Examples =

  • Few leaving certs eat a breakfast which is surprising, you’d expect them to try and get a good start to the day considering they are facing such a big exam year.


  • 77% OF leaving certificate students don’t eat breakfast.
  • Lots of students eat chocolate, crisps and sweets during the day. This is disgraceful.


  • 76% eat unhealthy snacks during morning break (these include chocolate, crisps, sweets, fizzy drinks, sausage rolls, wedges)

A report presents the facts in clear simple direct language.

It is a scientific fact that skipping meals is unhealthy but there is no scientific proof that it is ‘disgraceful’. Get to the point and avoid giving your opinion.

(C) Taking too narrow a focus.

  • Instead of talking about all meals you only referred to lunch
  • Instead of asking about packed lunches you only looked at what was sold in the canteen (in this case it should be re-named “Report on the school canteen”)
  • You went totally off the point and assessed levels of obesity.

(D) Your method of finding out information was flawed – you used observation instead of a survey or questionnaire.

Why is this a problem?

Think of the example above – if you simply stand in the canteen and watch people eating you won’t be including everyone – the people who go home for lunch, those who go to town and those who bring a packed lunch – so your conclusions will be flawed. Also, you cannot get any exact statistics simply by watching. The whole point of a report is to find out more than you know or suspect already so you need exact figures.

(E) You were unrealistic which made the report seem fake!

  • “I interviewed all the students in our school” – this would be difficult, time consuming and unnecessary. A survey just needs to be given to a representative sample so that all effected groups are included. In this case if you want info. from the entire school give the survey to one class from each year group.
  • Some of your recommendations were unrealistic or impossible to enforce, for example “A new system will be introduced in the school canteen whereby students must buy at least one piece of fruit in order to purchase any other food” or “Warn parents that they must make their children eat breakfast”
  • Some ‘recommendations’ were vague or obvious, for example “students should have at least one piece of fruit a day”. This is simply stating a fact – it is not a recommendation of how to make it happen.

Spot the mistake(s) – here are sentences from reports written by my students:

Offer rewards if students can stay within their weekly amount of bad eating habits.

We decided to do more about the problem of eating.

Most of the students in fat don’t eat there (!) lunch sitting down.

The purpose of this report is to outline young people’s awareness of bad eating.

We went around the 2nd, 3rd and 5th yr classes and asked them questions.

The eating habits of students in our school is outrageous.

Now realistically speaking, how long do you think he will live, eating this way everyday. Not very long the rate he is going.

A meeting by the student council has brought the attention to the students that…

Chocolate is the worst. Most students eats it, not many eats crisps.

First years are the most who go to the chipper for lunch.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT – try writing the following report

“As a member of your student council you have been asked to prepare a report on the changes students would like to see made in your school. The report will be presented to the Principal and the Board of Management”.

Speech/Debate/Radio talk

[youtube_sc url=]

You have been asked to deliver a speech/talk because you are well-spoken and intelligent.

How formal your language is depends on your audience – if you are delivering a speech to the UN or world leaders your tone will be very formal. If you are addressing your classmates you can be more informal – but if the Principal and parents are there don’t overdo the informality. Never curse.

Techniques =

  • Address the audience – welcome them, address them directly frequently during your speech and again at the end.
  • Present your topic and opinion immediately.
  • Use the pronounswe’ ‘us’ ‘our’ to make the listener feel that you’re all in this together.
  • Rhetorical Q ‘s keep the listener’s attention.
  • Repetition of key persuasive phrases hammer the idea home

e.g. “We must never accept….we must never allow” e.g.“It is foolish to think…it is foolish to presume”

  • Connecting phrases create a flow & help build a series of related ideas for the reader

e.g. ‘however’ ‘therefore’ ‘thus’ ‘nonetheless’ ‘of course’ ‘furthermore’ ‘similarly’ ‘indeed’ ‘if’ ‘on the one hand’ ‘on the other hand’ ‘besides’ ‘by contrast’ ‘this reminds me of…’

  • Concrete examples/evidence are absolutely essential – they prove you know your topic.
  • Facts/Statistics make your opinions seem watertight & beyond discussion. Name the source report, the researcher, their qualifications and the institution they are affiliated to.
  • Refute counter arguments – point out why those who disagree with you are wrong. Prove that their arguments are weak, flawed and incorrect.
  • Clear, logical structure is vital – one main idea per paragraph, develop each idea fully.
  • Contrast is an excellent technique because it allows the audience to see things more clearly. You could contrast past and present; males and females; powerful and powerless individuals; rich and poor; knowledgable and ignorant etc…
  • Identify problems but also offer solutions – nobody likes a whinger, we much prefer visionaries who can offer us a better way forward.
  • End with a call to action – what is it that you want your audience to do? Don’t give out to them, inspire them. Suggest practical steps towards change that they can take.

Some techniques work well in a persuasive speech but less suitable in an argumentative debate. Use the following in moderation in a debate, but extensively in a persuasive speech:

  • Vivid imagery will arouse an emotional response in the reader (the real aim of persuasion)
  • Hyperbole makes the speech more dramatic for the reader (your passion will inspire them).
  • Evoke God, the bible, Einstein or Shakespeare so you come across as morally powerful and intellectual. Evoke big ideas like justice, truth, right, wrong.

Speeches v’s Debates: What’s the difference?

A speech can look at an issue from all sides (balanced view) or can take a one-sided viewpoint (revealing a bias)– it’s up to the writer. Appeal to the audience’s emotions.

A debate differs from a speech in that you are specifically asked to speak for or against the motion/topic. You MUST pick a side. Appeal to the audience’s reason & intelligence

Here the purpose is not to discuss an issue in a balanced way, but to convince the audience through LOGICAL arguments that your point of view is the correct one.

Speeches v’s Radio Talks: What’s the difference?

  • A radio talk tends to be more informal.
  • You address the listeners rather than the audience/fellow students/world leaders.
  • You may be interrupted by the DJ from time to time. You can write these ‘interruptions’ into your answer, but remember, this isn’t an interview so you’ll do almost all of the talking. It should not be written in Q and Ans. format – that’s what you do for an interview.
  • To make your answer more realistic you may wish to name a specific radio show/presenter e.g. “Well Ray” “Talk to Joe” “Hello Marian”.
  • If you imagine that a particular word or phrase should be said loudly or with strong emphasis, write it in block capitals OR underline it OR make a comment in brackets. e.g. Can they be serious? (in disbelief) e.g. I’ll never forget her face (shaking head sadly) e.g. We CANNOT allow this injustice to continue. e.g. This is the only way forward.

Only use 1 of these stylistic choices & don’t overdo it. Use occasionally not every sentence.


[youtube_sc url=]

Question & Answer Format.

Obviously when deciding what questions to ask a huge amount depends on the person you are interviewing and on where the interview will be published. The interviewer wants to discover something new or interesting about the celebrity/writer/sportsperson/personality they are interviewing. The reader does not want to be left feeling that they’ve heard it all before!

However, most interviewers will think about 3 broad categories when coming up with questions.


  • their childhood and how they became the person they are today.
  • past successes and failures in their career.
  • past scandals in their personal life.
  • other jobs they’ve done (or previous tours/tournaments/shows/books).


  • what are they working on currently.
  • what they like/dislike about their current job.
  • how their career impacts on their personal life.
  • recent successes and failures.
  • recent scandals and how they coped with the fall-out.


  • what is their next project.
  • will they ever change career/focus or do this until they die?
  • do they have any fears for the future? things they’re looking forward to?

The tone tends to be very informal, you write as you would speak – this is after all a conversation that then gets written down.

Keep the questions short and the answers fairly long.

Avoid cursing or blank it out e.g. “For f*** sake, I can’t believe she said that

Writer’s often introduce the interview with a paragraph describing where they met, what the interviewee was wearing, the interviewee’s general mood, friendliness and demeanour and a comment on how long the writer had to wait, how long the interview lasted, who else was there, if the interviewee’s phone rang during the interview – and if they answered it!

Sample Interview:

The first thing I notice on entering his house is the smell – a mixture of pipe tobacco, smouldering turf and men’s cologne. The second is that this is a man who knows what he likes – one glance reveals a room crammed full of books, expensive liquor, paintings of beautiful women and the carcasses of stuffed animals. He’s made no secret in the past of hating journalists so my heart is doing a conga beat as I arrive for our interview. I needn’t have worried however. Yes, he hates journos but he loves women, which is undoubtedly why my bosses sent me. He bows low, kisses my hand theatrically, helps me out of my coat, and offers me a drink. As he prepares a whiskey sour I look around. Despite being a married man and father of three, this is a bachelor’s dream pad. I’m about to lower myself into an armchair but he catches my elbow, steers me over to the couch and once we’re sitting in close proximity I’m suddenly very conscious of the plunging neckline of my blood-red dress. I decide the best thing is to start the interview before I get any more flustered.

ME: So what drew you to the theatre?

BILL: …hmm (teasing) I haven’t been asked that one before!…well, I like telling stories, and there was a small theatre in my town growing up so I guess I just embraced what I knew instead of turning to something completely alien. And I must be doing something right because the audiences keep coming.

ME: That’s true, your plays have been enormously successful. Do you read what the critics say too or is it just important to keep joe public happy?

BILL: (smiling, pausing thoughtfully)…the thing is, critics are a bit like teachers. If they were doing what they love instead of just talking about it then maybe they wouldn’t be so bitter, maybe they wouldn’t be so eager to criticise everyone else for their own failings. If they’re so bloody good at figuring out what works on stage, then why don’t they write their own bloody plays instead of trying to fix everyone elses.

(At this point he drains his glass and strides over to the sideboard for another. I sense it’s time to change the subject).

ME: so if you weren’t a writer, what kind of career appeals to you?

Again he pauses, and this time positively smirks while answering.

BILL: I’d like to see more women on stage.. I have an eye for beautiful women you know.

ME: But don’t you worry you might land yourself in trouble with the long arm of the law?

BILL: Well you and I both know I’ve already been in trouble with them on more than one occasion. But no, I think times are changing and we need to keep up.

ME: How interesting! If you were running the country what changes would you make?

BILL: I’d certainly never get in the way of the monarchy. The arts in this country would be dead without their patronage. I’d probably extend access to education so that scholarships were available for kids from poorer backgrounds. I’d improve the roads – it takes too long to get anywhere from London if your horse keeps losing his shoes on rough cobble and loose rocks. And I’d take a firmer stance on highway robbery too, those thugs deserve nothing less than the death penalty if you ask me!

ME: Strong sentiments. Can you tell my readers a little bit about your newest play? I believe it’s opening next week in the Globe?

BILL: Yes, we’re hoping for big crowds. Of course only a select crowd can attend the opening night on Monday with his majesty in attendence. But then it’s every evening at six o clock – thankfully the evenings are still bright so we don’t have to start at four like in winter! The basic storyline has all my favourite elements – love, lust, violence, murder, betrayal. The central character is really just an everyman, wanting to satisfy his own desires but also desperate to do the right thing. I think it’ll be a smash hit. Now let me get you another drink? We’ve surely talked enough about me…

William Shakespeare’s new play opens next week in The Globe. Royal Gala performance Monday, 13th September, 1599 @ 6pm.