Paper 1 often tests students’ ability to write an article. I would go so far as to say that article writing is an essential skill. I find it surprising that writing an article is something that my students balk at. Perhaps it seems a daunting prospect for many of them because they think that only ‘real writers’ and experienced journalists can write good articles. It is certainly true that good article writing takes talent and a good bit of practice. However, as higher level Leaving Cert English students you should all be capable of writing an excellent article for either a Q.B answer, or as an essay. You have all attained a proficiency in using English to express yourself in a wide variety of tasks over the past five years. Making best use of this proficiency to write an article should be no different.
ur first port of call should always be to expose ourselves to the many different articles that are available in newspapers and magazines. We’re fortunate that so much good writing on so many topics is available on newspaper and magazine websites. True, some newspapers charge for their online content, but for as little as €2 per week you can subscribe to the Irish Independent. Regardless of how and where you choose to access articles, it is something you definitely should do. The benefit of reading as many articles as possible on a wide range of topics is two-fold. Firstly, you will be able to familiarise yourself with the format of articles. Secondly, you will be garnering interesting information on topics that you can use when writing opinion-style essays, not just articles, for your Paper 1 Essay. This is very important. An awareness of current events of all types will help you to write in a thought-provoking and knowledgeable manner.
The next thing students need to be aware of is the different ways that articles can appear on Paper 1. Oftentimes the articles appear under different guises: a persuasive piece, an informative piece, a feature article and, in one of 2020’s Q.B choices, a promotional article. You should not be put off by the specificity of these instructions at all. In fact, they often help students to understand which of the five language genres they need to employ in their article.
The detailed instructions for article type Q.Bs and essays must be attended to. As with all questions, students need to underline the specifics of what they are being asked to write about. Let’s look at the key words that should be underlined from 2020s article essay choice: ‘Write a feature article, suitable for publication in a popular magazine, offering some ideas for new inventions and discoveries you think would improve your life or make the world a better place. Your article may be serious or humorous or both.’ Once you have narrowed your focus on the purpose of your article that fits the specification (as underlined), you need to plan the points that you will make. I suggest that my students plan for around eight specific points for the essay (around 5-6 pages) and around four for the Q.B (around 2-3 pages).
Another aspect of the question that must inform your article is where it will be published. As we can see in the 2020 example, students are told to make it suitable for ‘a popular magazine’ with a further instruction that it ‘be serious or humorous or both’. These are the elements that will inform the tone of your writing, which must be suited to the task in order to attain top marks for purpose. The 2020 example provided the student with plenty of scope. Most students, when given the opportunity like this, choose to incorporate both serious and humorous aspects to their article. This, of course, will suit its publication in a “popular magazine”.
The last thing you need to do before you start writing the content of your article is to come up with a suitable title for it. You must have a title for every article you write for both Q.Bs and essays. Brainstorm a little. Make sure that your title fits both the content and tone of your article. Achieving this will require practice, but once you have undergone this process a few times, writing successful articles should become second nature to you.