Writing to inform and explain - structure

Whenever you are asked to write a text in a certain style, it helps to have read plenty of 'style models' beforehand. These are professional examples that already exist.

This will help you to find out:

  • what its 'genre conventions' are - these are its 'ingredients' such as its layout, use of headings and so on
  • how to structure your writing
  • what kind of language should be used, especially the tone of voice and level of formality
  • what types of sentences and paragraphs you should use – both in length and style
  • what sort of language techniques you could use, for example rhetorical questions, sub-headings, lists of three and so on

Task

Your school magazine editor has just found out that the local skatepark has been given listed status. He has asked you to go and find out all about it and write an article for the magazine.

As with any writing task you need to start by considering aspects of context, audience and purpose:

Context - the situation is that you need to write an article for the school magazine about the local skatepark.

Audience - your readers are your peers, teachers and parents. This is a large and generally unknown audience so your style needs to be quite formal using Standard English.

Purpose - the purpose of the text is to inform and to explain to others all about the skatepark.

Below is a text taken from an online article about the skatepark. See if you can identify the conventions and how the ideas are sequenced to create an effective structure.

News article with labels showing that it features a headline, an image, a caption, facts and figures and quotes.BBC News online

Looking at the article, you can see that it:

  • starts with a headline - this tells in an interesting, engaging way what it is mainly about
  • has a caption under the photo - this provides more information that works to create more reader interest
  • uses images that work to catch the eye as well as support the story
  • gives information split into paragraphs (which are often of a single sentence each)
  • uses Standard English and a variety of sentence lengths and types
  • uses quotations from involved parties and experts
  • includes key facts and figures
  • offers lots of specific details about its topic

If you looked at other articles of this same text-type or genre, you will find them all similar. These are the main conventions of a news article. You can use some of them to help you to write and structure your article. When you’re writing, you don’t need to include images and captions, or write in columns.