Tag Archives: article

Article vs Speech

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement, March 2014.

It can be difficult to wrap your head around the difference between writing an article for publication and writing a speech to be delivered to a live audience. In order to help you to grasp the difference, I’ve taken the same topic, used the same structure and made the same points, but one is an opinion piece for publication in a newspaper and the other is a speech. Read them both and then play a game of SPOT THE DIFFERENCE…


Mia Murphy

[*Mia Murphy is a lawyer, a journalist & a human rights activist. She blogs at www.freedomfightersireland.ie or you can find her on facebook/freedomfightersireland or twitter @miamurphy]

We live in an era of unprecedented individual freedom. Unhappy with your parents? Divorce them. With your gender? Change it. With your life? End it.

The question begs to be asked however: is unlimited personal freedom a good thing for society? The answer, resolutely, is no. We are too eager to glorify people’s right to choose, too willing to ignore the reality that many people’s choices are often limited or foolish or self-destructive. In the very worst cases they are sometimes all three. So despite my fond notion that I am free to do what I want, in reality I know that my freedom is in many ways a construct of a good education and a well paid job. Without these two pillars of security in my life, my ‘choices’ might look very different indeed.

Let’s consider, for example, the idea “it’s my body and I should be allowed to do what I want with it”. At the simpler end of the spectrum, I can decide to shave my hair off for charity. I won’t really be hurting anyone – or myself – because the hair will grow back. Slightly more complex might be my decision to donate a kidney to a family member or friend. I get the warm fuzzy glow of saving a life, and hey, it turns out most people can survive perfectly fine with just one kidney! So even though it won’t grow back the way my hair did, who cares? Perhaps I could use my body as an incubator, could carry a baby for my fertility-challenged sister, or for my gay brother and his partner? There is no greater gift on earth than to give someone who would otherwise be childless the opportunity to experience the joys of parenthood.

So the freedom to do what I want with my body is a good thing, right?

Well only if I remain resolutely blind to the selfless utopian bubble I’ve created above, where motives are always pure and bodies and minds remain unharmed by the choices we make. This is simply not true. Many people sacrifice parts of themselves they would much rather keep sacred, through economic necessity. To really understand a person’s level of individual freedom, what matters is not so much what we do but rather why we do it.

Hair these days is big business. If I’ve got long locks, I can sell my ponytail for about €100. If my hair is blond, the rarest shade, I’ll get closer to €1000 for it. The hair extensions industry in Ireland alone is estimated by Hallinan Beauty Group to be worth about €2.5 million and significantly the vast majority of it is imported from abroad. But where does this hair come from? In most cases, it’s shave or die of the worst kind, where women in India, China and Eastern Europe sell their hair to stave off hunger and poverty or to pay for a better education for their children. In a world where long hair is still the benchmark of female beauty, this isn’t about personal freedom, this is about lack of options, lack of money, lack of choice. Or to be more precise, so that women in the developed world can feel beautiful, can have the ‘free choice’ to wear someone else’s hair and pass it off as their own, women in the developing world are making the not-so-free decision to privilege food, shelter and education over their own ‘beauty’. They are every bit as selfless as the wealthy westerner who shaves their hair off for charity but they are entitled to feel bitter that extreme poverty makes this not a choice but a necessity.

The freedom to do what I want with my internal organs is even more fraught with difficulties. Of course I can – and should – carry an organ donation card with me. If I die before my time, I might as well give my body parts to someone who can use them. But what about auctioning off my organs to the highest bidder whilst I’m still alive? Again, the issue of poverty, necessity and sometimes just plain old stupidity and greed raises its head, as a recent case in China illustrates, where a 17 yr old teen secretly sold a kidney for €3,500 before admitting to what he had done when his mother questioned how he could suddenly afford to buy a laptop, iPad and iPhone. His actions were not just a case of consumerism gone mad but were also unwittingly self-destructive, as his remaining kidney was subsequently revealed to have limited function. Ironically, he now finds himself on the organ donor waiting list alongside 1.5 million others, the organ shortage in China fuelling the very black market trade this boy fell victim to. Yes he made a free choice, but one he will undoubtedly regret for the rest of his life. What all of this reveals is that sometimes limiting people’s freedom is necessary in order to protect them from their own profound stupidity.

Nonetheless, there remain many miraculous things we can do with our bodies. Using them to create life is perhaps the greatest ability we have as human beings. We view the right to procreate as so fundamental that we are overwhelmed with sympathy for couples who are unable to conceive. Hence, many of us have no problem with the concept of surrogacy if the aim is to offer a childless couple the miracle of parenthood. However, once money enters the frame we become decidedly more squeamish. Is my body a commodity to be bought and sold? When I list my assets on my tax return, should I include my fully functioning womb? I can rent it out for maybe €15,000 per pregnancy. Heck, that’s more money than I’d get on the dole! Yet the emotional, psychological and ethical fallout from surrogacy can be horrendous.

What if, as happened recently in the U.S., the baby has foetal abnormalities? Can the surrogate be forced to abort the baby if the genetic parents decide they only want a ‘healthy’ child? If the surrogate falls ill, can she be forced to continue with the pregnancy against her will? Even if we put these relatively rare scenarios aside for a moment, the inconvenient truth is that most commercial surrogacy arrangements take place in poor countries where there is little regulation, countries like Thailand, Uganda and the Ukraine. Baby factories have sprung up all over India where the industry is worth $2bn and where estimates suggest 25,000 babies a year are born to surrogates. Many women are ashamed of their decision, hiding it from their existing children and in-laws but are lured in by the monetary reward which will give them a roof over their head or pay for an existing child’s education. It also carries less of a stigma than prostitution. However, despite the illusion that it is safer, many surrogates are risking their lives. Maternal mortality remains high in India, with 56,000 women dying during pregnancy or childbirth. Yet these women are being exploited, receiving only 10% of the amount being paid by commissioning couples and signing contracts waiving their right to health care in the case of miscarriage or complications after the birth.

We still live in a world where “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” so the next time you hear the defence “it’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it” spare a thought for those who use their bodies for profit because they are the only item of value they possess.

*NOTE: Thanks to a colleague for pointing out that it’s important to be aware of  and discuss with students the way that the opening series of rhetorical questions  “We live in an era of unprecedented individual freedom. Unhappy with your parents? Divorce them. With your gender? Change it. With your life? End it.” are deliberately facetious and are designed to provoke and shock. Of course none of us actually believe that anyone changes gender or takes their own life lightly but journalists often say something shocking or controversial to grab people’s attention.

*NOTE: some of the statistics I included I simply made up. Real journalists obviously can’t do this, but as a student in an exam without access to google, you’ve got no choice. You’ll have to make things up. You may also decide to exaggerate for dramatic effect. For example, the story about the 17yr old selling his kidney is true but I invented the subsequent kidney failure to add dramatic irony to the situation.I made up the name of the journalist so any resemblance to anyone real is entirely coincidental. 


To help you to appreciate the stylistic difference between writing an article and writing a speech, I used the same topic, same structure, same ideas but transformed it into a speech.

Your task is to SPOT THE DIFFERENCES between them (we’ve identified 8 in total but there may be more…)

Speech on Personal Freedom

Hi everyone, you’re very welcome to the Docklands Theatre for this lecture series and can I just say, I really appreciate the effort you’ve all made to be here. The bad weather probably had you jumping over muddy puddles outside like a possessed Peppa Pig, but you’re here now, so relax, kick your shoes off if they’re wet, switch off your phone and we’ll begin! For those of you I haven’t met before, my name’s Mia Murphy and if you’re tweeting this event I go by the not very cryptic twitter handle @miamurphy. I’m a journalist with the Irish Independent & a human rights campaigner and I’ve spent the last seven years of my life studying the way our freedom in the Western World limits the freedom of people in the Developing World.

We live in an era of unprecedented individual freedom. If you’re unhappy with your parents, you can divorce them. If you (point to someone in the front row) are unhappy with your gender (pause for laughter) – and I’m not suggesting you are, cause you look pretty good as a guy to me! – but if you were, you could just pop into a hospital and sort that out! Boom! You go from Phillip to Philomena in a heartbeat!

But what bugs me about all of this is the assumption that unlimited personal freedom is a good thing for society. That we’re all better off cause we can do what we want. I don’t buy that personally. I think we’re too eager to glorify people’s right to choose and we’re far far too willing to ignore the reality that people’s choices are often limited & foolish & self-destructive. While I might like the notion that I’m free to do whatever I want, the truth is that my freedom is guaranteed because I’ve got a good education and I live in a rich country.

One idea in particular that fascinates me is the statement you often hear people saying when they’re getting a body piercing or dying their hair purple: “it’s my body and I should be allowed to do what I want with it”. And I know that can sometimes be a good thing! I can shave my hair off for charity. I can donate a kidney to a family member. I can even be a surrogate for my sister if she’s having trouble getting knocked up and I’ll definitely help out my gay brother and his partner if they want kids because no matter how hard they try, they are definitely not gonna get pregnant!

The sad truth is, though, that lots of people shave their hair off and donate kidneys and act as surrogates for one very simple reason, and that reason is money!

How many of you know that hair these days is big business? I’ve got long brown hair (grab ponytail & wave it at audience) so I can sell my ponytail for about €100. But if my hair was blond, like this lovely lady in the front row (point) – would you mind standing up? – would you believe she could sell her hair today for €1000? So if you see her on the street next week and she’s doing an Emma Watson, you know what she’s been up to! And you should ask her to buy you coffee, cause she’s got €1,000 in her back pocket!

Seriously though, let’s talk about the real price of hair. The hair extensions industry in Ireland alone is worth about €2.5 million and the vast majority of this hair is imported from abroad. Women in India, China and Eastern Europe sell their hair to escape hunger and poverty and to pay for a better education for their children. This isn’t about personal freedom, this is about lack of options, lack of money and lack of choice. The sad truth is, so that you and I can feel beautiful with our flowing extensions like Kim Kardashian, women in the developing world are making the decision to privilege food, shelter and education over their own hair. And bear in mind that cutting their hair off means feeling ‘ugly’ for many of these women, because we’re not the only culture that associates long silky hair with sexiness you know!

You see this with organ donation as well! There was a case in China recently where a 17 yr old teenage boy secretly sold one of his kidneys for €3,500. But of course the mammy twigged that something was up when he could suddenly afford to buy a new laptop, iPad and iPhone and she forced him to admit what he’d done! Now this poor eejit didn’t need the money – he wasn’t starving – but I guess he wanted these signifiers of success pretty badly to go to this extreme. What he did was profoundly stupid, no question. But as yet there’s sadly no cure for stupidity in this world! Maybe that’s what my next research project should be! (pause for laughter)

Anyway, this kid then discovers that his remaining kidney has limited function! You won’t actually believe this but he’s now on the organ donor waiting list – I kid you not! – alongside 1.5 million others. And if this doesn’t prove that limiting people’s freedom is sometimes necessary to protect them from their own stupidity, I don’t know what does!!!

The last thing I want to mention, briefly, is surrogacy. Now I don’t have any moral qualms with a person deciding to be an oven for cooking up someone else’s baby, but it’s not as simple as setting the timer and waiting for the ping! I read about a case recently in America where at the twenty week scan, they discovered the baby had foetal abnormalities. The parents wanted the surrogate to have an abortion. But she didn’t agree with abortion, and she could already feel the baby kicking, so she refused. The baby was in her body but genetically the egg and sperm had come from the couple she was carrying it for. So they went to court looking for a court order to force her to have an abortion. And what did she do? She went on the run!

The point I’m making here is that it is never, never as simple as “It’s my body and I can do what I want with it”. Even leaving aside this extreme case, the truth is that most commercial surrogacy arrangements take place in poor countries where there is little regulation, countries like Thailand and Uganda and the Ukraine and India.

In fact, in recent years baby factories have sprung up all over India. The industry is worth $2bn and somewhere in the region of 25,000 babies a year are born to surrogates. But this is a country with poor hospital infrastructure. 56,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth every year. Not only are they putting their lives at rick, they’re also being exploited. They only get about 10% of the amount being paid and they’re signing these awful contracts which mean that as soon as the baby is delivered, they have no right to any further medical care. So if they get sick or die, the couple who now have their beautiful new baby have no further responsibility towards this woman who has given them the gift of becoming parents. And for me, that it sick and that is wrong. (Pause)

I want to leave you with a quote from George Orwell’s Animal farm where he said that “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. So the next time you hear someone say “it’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it” I want you to just spare a thought, please, for those who use their bodies for profit because they are the only item of value they possess.

(Step back and bow. Pause for applause)

Thank you so much for listening (bow, wave, exit stage).



Attention all LC’s – read this!

Everything on this site is pretty po-faced but if you really want to impress go for the tongue-in-cheek, ‘it’s all a big pile of stinky-poo Ted’ approach.

(I was going to say ‘big pile of shite’ but like all writers I must be aware of my target audence and I don’t want to injure your delicate sensibilities with my coarse language).

Anyway, check out this article, not just because it’s bloody funny but also because the style of writing is what you should aspire to.

Enjoy: http://www.eoinbutler.com/home/those-last-minute-leaving-cert-revision-tips-in-brief/

Sample newspaper article



Victory seemed unlikely. Mount Saint Michael were two sets down and St. Leo’s certainly had the upper hand in the third set, dominating 9 points to 2. Each time St. Leo’s scored, they pounded the ground in unison, further intimidating an already shaky Claremorris team. So how, in these circumstances, did they snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat?

The first set seemed to suggest two teams who were equally matched. Michael’s fought point for point against a Leo’s team whose defence was almost impenetrable, yet Edel Nolan managed to hit home some impressive spikes. However, as the set drew to a close, they found themselves unable to finish the job and St Leo’s stormed into the second set with a 25-22 win in the first set under their belt.

This is where it all went wrong for Claremorris. Having lost the first set, their nerves took over and their difficulty settling into the match was evident in a plethora of unforced errors, despite excellent positioning by Nikki Hanley and impact substitutions by Lisa McGreal and Jackie Prendergast. They lost the second set 25-19 and hope began to fade for their 200+ supporters.

The third set began in similar fashion but sensing that they now had nothing to lose – except of course the All-Ireland Title – the team lifted their game tremendously, aided by the now deafening cries of their desperate supporters, led by Lisa Brett and Chloe Hughes. Strategic use of time outs by coach Fionnghuala King saw the girls finally settle into the match. She no doubt reminded them of their team mantra – no matter how badly things seem to be going ‘don’t lose your marbles’. Stephanie Mellet had a great run of serves and made a stunning save at this crucial point in the set. Aisling Croghan made some unbelievable hits from the wings and Edel Nolan shone as the driving force behind Mount St Michael’s incredible comeback. They won the third set 25-16 and St Leo’s game began to fall apart.

A fear of losing now defined their play, and they frequently only used two of their three hits, eager to simply get the ball across the net. Meanwhile, Claremorris grew in confidence, scoring a resounding victory in the fourth set 25-13.

As it finally dawned that Claremorris could actually win this match, the excitement and tension in the arena reached fever pitch, and the daddies on the sideline (Gerry Croghan & Con Nolan) riled up the crowd, ably assisted by vice-principal Margaret Burke. However, St Leo’s finally realised that it was still all to play for and once again their defence, led by Sinead Ruth, became near-impossible to break down. Edel Nolan made three excellent spikes in a row only to find each and every one returned. Long rallies defined the 5th and final set (first to 15 points but the team must win by 2 points) and every time Claremorris inched ahead St Leo’s reeled them in again. Finally, however, they reached 14 – 13 and faced their first match point. Sinead Croghan, whose strength was such a defining feature of her play up to this point, unfortunately hit the serve long and it was back to stalemate. Two more match points followed, but Mount St Michael couldn’t seem to finish Leo’s off. At last, with 2 sets all and 17-16 on the scoreboard, Nikki Hanley served, raced forward to set the ball and Edel Nolan spiked the girls to the sweetest victory of their lives. No wonder, then, she was named Most Valuable Player of the match.

Final score = St Leo’s v’s Mount Saint Michael

25-22, 25-19, 16-25, 13-25, 16-18

Coach: Ms Fionnghuala King

Team: Aisling Croghan (captain)

Sinead Croghan

Edel Nolan (MVP)

Nikki Hanley

April Higgins

Stephanie Mellet

Stephanie Delaney

Jackie Prendergast

Lisa McGreal

Rebecca Kearns

Grainne McNieve

Katie McCormack


[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_5nLxZVoPo]

Newspapers, magazines & websites are filled with articles on every topic imaginable.

If you write an article, you are writing a public discussion of an issue. Even though your response is personal (giving your opinions/describing your experiences) you must also show that you have done your research and know more about this issue than most people!

Techniques =

  • Details – remember the journalists checklist: Who? What? Where? When? How? Why?
  • Quotes – interview experts / eye-witnesses / relatives & friends / local gardai and include quotes (yes, you make them up!) which tell the reader something new about this story.
  • Vivid imagery – describe the event in as much detail as possible (5 senses) so that the reader is drawn into the experience in their imagination (this can be a good way to begin).
  • Background scandal / information – try to include some gossip or little-known facts so that the reader feels you have your finger on the pulse & know more than everyone else.
  • Facts/statistics – link the story to a broader context using statistics. Show how this issue is evident in the rest of society. Is it common or rare? More prevalent nowadays than in the past? More evident in one group in society – male/female/young/old/rich/poor?
  • Personal experience – are you discussing something that you have been through? Then describe your experiences of this topic using anecdotes (remember to use vivid imagery).
  • Humour – discuss the lighter side of the topic. Make the reader laugh (with you or at you).
  • Lists – these are an effective way to sum up the topic and seem knowledgeable.
  • Problem & Solution – don’t simply whine on about the difficulties, try to suggest some constructive and practical ways of tacking this issue, as a society and as individuals.
  • Connecting phrases – these 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…’

Broadsheet v’s Tabloid: What’s the difference?

Broadsheets are interested in facts. Language is fairly formal. They present balanced information.

Tabloids are interested in drama. Language is emotive so use plenty of hyperbole & sensationalism. They are usually biased and outraged. Celebrity gossip matters more than war, economics or politics. Tabloids can’t be trusted (never let the truth get in the way of a good story).

Newspaper v’s Magazine: What’s the difference?

Newspapers are aimed at the general public.

Magazines usually have a target market and are aimed at a particular category of people. If writing for a magazine targeting a particular group you may use jargon specific to that hobby or topic.

e.g. golf, fashion, knitting, gardening,scuba diving, adult, kids, t.v., photography, wedding, movies.

Magazines are often more informal than newspapers. Ask yourself who will be reading your magazine, this will help you to decide what tone to adopt.

Website Articles and Blogs?

The internet is now full of articles about every topic imaginable (see www.wikipedia.org). Some are factual, some are opinion pieces, some are personal diaries.

The word ‘blog’ is short for ‘web log’. There are two main types of blog

  1. discusses a particular subject.
  2. a personal online diary.

Blogs are

  • maintained by an individual or a company
  • regularly updated
  • interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments

As of Feb 2011 there were 156 million public blogs in existence.

The language used tends to be fairly informal.

If you are asked to write a blog about a personal event(s) in your life write it in diary style.

If you are asked to write a blog about a particular topic write it in the style of an article.

For satirical news stories, check out www.theonion.com. Hilarious (if you like that sort of thing ;-0)

If you want more help writing your article there are some great resources here http://www.squidoo.com/newspaper-article