This 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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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