This article first appeared in the Irish Independent Written Word Supplement on Monday 26th January 2015
In our daily lives we’re exposed to an almost endless array of text formats. Some slot neatly into a category: they give us information or provide us with a description. Others cross boundaries, combining logical argument, emotional persuasion and vivid imagery to make their point and cast their spell on us.
One way to force your brain to really think about what type of language use is dominant in any given format is to label it in your brain, or better still, fill them into the grid we’ve provided!
So here’s your challenge: I’ve given you a list of language types below.
Your job is to decide which category they mostly belong to. Of course there’ll be some overlap but don’t stress about that.
Instead ask yourself which type of language dominates?
If the answer is…
mostly facts = information
mostly logical opinions = argument
mostly emotive manipulation = persuasion
mostly vivid imagery = description
There’ll also be some listed below that you’d need more information about before you could intelligently decide where to put them. For example, a cookery blog would fall mostly into the language of information; a company blog would be persuasive (buy our stuff!); a political blog would be argumentative and a personal diary-style blog would be descriptive.
You may also feel that some belong in two (or more) categories as they would combine elements of more than one type of language use. My advice is leave the ones you’re not sure about til the end – maybe just mark them with an asterisk so your remember to come back to them. And if a format belongs in more than one category, that’s ok too.
Right, in no particular order, as they say on the X-factor, here are the formats.
Letter of Application
Competition entry / Nomination
Book / CD / DVD blurb
Personal Ad (e.g. on a dating website)
Letter to the Editor
Campaign speech / Political speech
Instructions / How to video
Newspaper article (opinion piece)
Memoir / biography / autobiography
Personal Statement (e.g. applying for UCAS)
Court case (case for the prosecution / case for the defence)
Satire / Parody
Travel Writing (travelogue)
Victim impact statement
Current Affairs programme (Primetime, Tonight w/V B)
Academic essay / thesis
Script / Dialogue
Labels / Packaging
Online forum (e.g. boards.ie)
Leaflet (e.g. in doctor’s surgery)
Billboard / poster
Speech / Talk
If it helps, draw a grid like the one above and as you write each one into the grid, cross it off the list.