Essay skill: Improving your language score

1 05 2011

For students whose grammar is near perfect, and whose writing is fluent, I often get asked why they don’t get higher language marks. Perhaps the best way to answer that is to hihglight features of a good piece of writing (in terms of language). Here are excerpts of a piece written by Erica de Souza (2T27). I ended up giving her an A for language, due to the range of effective techniques she used.

“If people fall ill, it is largely their own fault.” Discuss.

Though we humans have built an arsenal of big guns and big heavy armour to defend ourselves from big threats (like someone else’s big guns) [1], we still find ourselves often defenceless against the tiniest of things [2], like viruses and various other deadly microorganisms, that threaten our lives with the same potency as that of the big things. Everyone is vulnerable to the tiny things that make is sick, but often times, it is our own fault that we find ourselves in the predicament of illness.


First, let us consider the uncommon events where people cannot be made responsible for their illnesses. There are the unfortunate few that are born to be ruled by pills and medical check-ups due to hereditary diseases and illnesses caused by random mutations or chromosomal aberrations in their cells. For these unlucky few, we do extend our sympathy and acknowledge that the fault of their illness lies not in their hands. We also have those who fall ill by the hands of others, specifically, the dirty hands of others [3]. When people consume poorly prepared or contaminated food and resultantly get food poisoning, illness is not their own fault. Let us also not forget the deadly and potent power [4] of  viruses. Scientists themselves are baffled as to the origins of these microscopic terrorists [5]. If one is so unlucky as to breathe in air contaminated by these pesky particles [6], in a matter of time, he or she is doomed to fall ill and in this case, it is difficult and unfair for us to pin the blame on the  poor victim.

– Erica de Souza (2T27)

Techniques used (corresponds to numbers in the text above):

  1. Effective repetition
    Effective repetition of “big”. Note: Repetition is usually not advisable and will tend to pull down your language marks. However, when used effectively for good effect, it’s a good thing.
  2. Contrast
    Good contrast of “big” against “tiny”

  3. Humour (linking the figurative to the literal)
    Great technique here – playing on the word “hands” (used first figuratively, then literally) to humorous effect. This got a chuckle out of me!

  4. Alliteration
    “potent power”
  5. Metaphor
    “microscopic terrorists”
  6. Alliteration
    “pesky particles”



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