How to Write a Language Analysis Essay

newspaperThis post is an extension to my previous guide: Journalism 101: Language Analysis. The ability to analyse how language is used to persuade an audience is critical to any journalist; it is also handy knowledge for daily readers of the news so they can avoid being manipulated by crafty journalists. Once you have learnt all of the different persuasive techniques from the previous guide, you would be wise to find an article in the paper, get a highlighter and a pen and try to pinpoint all of the persuasion tactics being employed. This is analysing how language is used to create a certain response from the reader. Once you’ve made your notes, the next step for a student of journalism is to be able to construct an essay outlining and explaining each of the persuasive techniques that have been used. Every article uses at least one or two! Below is a bulletproof skeleton for constructing such an essay.

Introduction

  • Text details – author, source, type of text, date, in response to another article? Audience? Tone shifts (eg shifts from sarcastic to empathetic) how does this change the overall mood of the article? Does the shift in tone keep the reader on their toes? Does it make them more likely to acknowledge the writer’s words? Does the tone attempt to make the reader hate a certain person or situation?
  • What is the issue?
  • How/Why has the issue been brought to light?
  • Contention - point of view/key argument, what does the writer want the reader to think?
  • Intention  - what does the writer want to achieve with his/her article? Eg to create awareness, to stop people from littering, to stop people beating up little kids on the street etc
  • DON’T list any techniques in the introduction, make it brief. Also, you don’t have to mention tone in the introduction but it’s a good idea to get it out of the way quickly.

Body Paragraphs

  • Argument/Mini-intention  - what does the writer employ to position the reader towards his/her contention?
  • Feature – persuasive language, structure, punctuation (eg abrupt sentences quickly and effectively assert a point of view, as though no elaboration is needed and therefore the point is considered to be stronger eg “Alcohol and study simply don’t mix.”), visuals, change in tone etc.
  • When picking out a persuasive feature, make sure you quote it.
  • Discuss the effect the persuasive feature has on the reader eg the writer makes heavy use of hyperbole to create feelings of distress and uneasiness in the readers mind. By using exaggerated phrases such as ‘spun dangerously out of control’ and ‘youth crime explosion’ strong emotional responses such as panic and anxiety are aroused in the reader and they are more likely to accept the writer’s contention
  • The articles used in the exam are usually written specifically for language analysis so they are therefore loaded with language techniques, some sentences may even contain 3 or 4 different features: eg: ‘a wage in the hand of a kid, is like sand through a sieve’ – this sentence is a strong generalisation, makes use of a simile, uses imagery which paints a picture and sticks in the readers mind (picture paints a thousand words) and is also a huge exaggeration (hyperbole.)
  • The whole point of language analysis is to analyse how the writer positions the reader to believe his/her contention, so that’s all you have to do, keep it short and sweet.

Conclusion

  • Reinstate intention
  • Don’t ever express your own opinion, even if the article is written by a feminist pansy whose opinions you don’t agree with, it is never o.k to judge a writer’s opinion when writing language analysis essays.

If you can analyse an article and write a language analysis essay using the above guidelines in less than an hour, then you’re doing very well and your journalistic pencil is almost completely sharpened!

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32 thoughts on “How to Write a Language Analysis Essay

  1. Pingback: Journalism 101: Language Analysis | END OF THE GAME

  2. amazinggggggg!!!!!!!! i was having so much trouble with this, I asked my teacher how do I set this out and she said to write whatever comes to my mind… not really helpful! Im very thankful for this

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  3. Hey, your “How to Write a Language Analysis Essay” page is so GREAT!! but on the exam there is likely to be two articles and you have to write about them both so how would I go about that? as in paragraphs? (look below) and can you tell me if this is correct?

    Paragraph 1)- obviously the introduction
    Paragraph 2)- 1st Text- contention, tone, overall strategy
    Paragraph 3)- 1st Text- individual strategies
    Paragraph 4)- 2nd Text- contention, tone, overall strategy
    Paragraph 5)- 2nd Text- individual strategies
    Paragraph 6)- Compare and Contrast 1st Text with 2nd Text
    Paragraph 7) Conclusion – say how well each text addressed its audience

    This is quite urgent as well, so please do try your best to reply ASAP.

    Many thanks,

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    • It’s been 4 years since I’ve done that exam so I can’t remember the exact layout for two articles, these things no doubt change over time as well. This sounds like something your teacher should be able to answer you very quickly. For what it’s worth, the way you have formatted it looks spot on. Even if the preferred layout is slightly different from yours, you would not lose marks if you managed to fill that skeleton with meat.

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      • yep, well that was the teacher’s layout. I am still confused about how many paragraphs I have to write and basically if it’s an article with the same view like “Junk food should be banned from school canteens” then you can’t really contrast? but rather say they have the same view & similarities.

        I am planning to follow this layout, do you reckon it is reasonable??

        Paragraph one-Introduction
        Paragraph two-Text one (Tone, technique, overall strategy & more individual strategies)
        Paragraph three-Text two (Tone, technique, overall strategy & more individual strategies)
        Paragraph four-Conclusion

        I am also worried as we have been given the topic “whether or not Barwon prison staff/the police did enough to protect Carl Williams,” but of course we have not seen it and I tried to do some practice on it but the article seems to be quite long and I don’t know how to talk about the strategies and how to select them.

        If possible, could you help me list out the main strategies? I can give you the link.

        http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/victorian-prison-authorities-failed-to-protect-slain-gangland-boss-carl-williams/story-e6frg6nf-1226331186304

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  4. In the introduction you can knock out both tone and contention for both articles, leaving you to spend paragraphs 2 and 3 to focus on the persuasive techniques. The articles are specifically chosen by a board of teachers who do this every year, so you’re going to get two articles with contrasting views, and if you don’t then you can write about how their views are similar, but how they might have taken a different approach to persuading the reader on their contention. You will never get two articles with the same contention and the same persuasive techniques, unless they literally give you the same article twice, so don’t worry about it.

    I’m sorry, I can’t help you. I didn’t write this article with the intention of personally helping everyone with their essays/exams; you have to do the work yourself or else you won’t learn anything. Even if I helped you now, come exam time I won’t be there to help you again. Once you leave high school and go to uni you won’t get any help from anybody, so learn how to help yourself now – you already know everything you need to know.

    In this post (http://endofthegame.net/2012/02/11/languageanalysis/) I list most of the persuasive techniques that can be found in articles like the one you linked me. Read it, then re read the article and you’ll find them.

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  5. so it’s okay if I change the layout to this?

    Paragraph one-Introduction
    Paragraph two-Text one (Tone, technique, overall strategy & more individual strategies)
    Paragraph three-Text two (Tone, technique, overall strategy & more individual strategies)
    Paragraph four- compare and contrast
    Paragraph five-Conclusion

    or is it better that I compare and contrast inside paragraphs two and three and cancel paragraph four?

    I understand that you can’t do it for me but I am really stuck and confused and that is not the exam by the way, I’m just doing this for practice in preparation for the exam which I have not seen. Can you at least help me with this? What would the three main strategies be in this article(I will provide the link again)? I have sort of got the ideas but it seems repetitive and nothing really stands out to me.

    1) Evidence-The Department of Justice earlier admitted it had failed to cope with an influx of gland identities.

    2) Expert authority- Victoria’s Ombudsman George Brouwer found that “The Department of Justice was aware of the threats posed to William and he also questioned the monitoring systems of Barwon prison.

    3) Provoking hostility against the prison officers who were looking over Williams.

    I’m really confused, please help me with just this.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/victorian-prison-authorities-failed-to-protect-slain-gangland-boss-carl-williams/story-e6frg6nf-1226331186304

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    • You can compare and contrast in the conclusion, ask your teacher to make sure that’s OK. Otherwise leave the comparing/contrasting for the 4th paragraph, you can’t do it in paragraphs 2 and 3. So you know, in the exam you shouldn’t use the word ‘strategies’ but instead use ‘persuasive techniques’, as that is what they are. You will potentially lose marks for calling them anything else.

      The article you linked me isn’t the sort of article you would get in an exam. It’s certainly not the sort of article I worked with; it has no clear contention, it’s just reiterating something that has happened in the news. Therefore it’s not trying to ‘persuade’ the reader in any way. If these are the sort of articles you are working with at school these days then I cannot help you, and you need to ask your teacher for help. If this is only practice for the exam then you have time to get the answers you need. But you’re not going to get them out of me, I have my own exams to worry about. My two articles are all the help I can give you.

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  6. i need some help right now because i had an assignment to finish but i don’t know what to do the topic is about using of language to persuade and manipulate opinion through advertising

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  7. i’ve got some questions i want to ask, but i’m not sure if you actively visit this sight. So if you do check this comment, please reply, so i’ll know to ask the question

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  8. what you offer is quite useful for me and I got some ideas about my essay. But i am confused about that if there are 2 articles need to make a comparison, and only one article needs to be deep analyze, can I first make comparison in first two paragraph and follow your pattern from the third paragraph?

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    • From what I’ve heard (Year 12 student I am), you do not compare the two articles but do a separate analysis on each one in two body paragraphs then the third body paragraph you use to analyse the picture or drawing. That’s what I know from my teacher.

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  9. This is excellent you have provided me information my teacher would never have thaankyo you so much.
    Can you please please please write one of this for ESSAY WRITING I NEED IT :) please
    thaaaankyou
    appreciated much

    Like

  10. How would i start paragraph one just to get me started on the topic about ‘keeping older drivers on the road is the test’ using statistics as a persuasive technique

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