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A2 English Language

Editorial Writing

In this article, John Shuttleworth (The Principal Examiner at AQA for your exam)
shows you how to achieve high marks in the Editorial Writing paper for AQA B
English Language.

As this article is all to do with helping you to do well in your exams, let’s start with a short
test. Here’s the question:

1. Identify the sources of each of the following two extracts. Which is taken
from ‘The Times’ (1 August, 2001) and which from A Level English Language
student’s script no. 89146/2617 (21 May, 2001)?

Extract 1

If you’re thinking of taking a year out from the

blood, sweat ‘n’ tears of Higher Education, then
backpacking may well be the last thing you want to
do. All that expense, all that danger, all that ... erm ... Extract 2
walking - waste of time, right? WRONG! Think
again, hombre. Consider this: backpacking is cheap, Behold, one Flora, fresh-faced English
easy and it will change your life. schoolgirl, thrown, like the sacrificial
virgin she most probably is, into a life of
The Experience backpacking, beach-hopping and wiping
What are you doing tonight? Off down the pub with the occasional child’s bottom. Eight
your mates to spend £15 on dodgy ale for the fourth months later she returns, unwashed and
time this week? Going clubbing so that you can unrecognisable, complete with eating
sweat it out to the latest bangin’ choons and wake up disorder, STD (sexually transmitted
with a bangin’ headache? Or maybe it’s a quiet night disease) and a drug habit, unable to
in, with a few bags of crisps and Jerry Springer to finish a sentence without the words
keep you entertained? Well, you could do that, but if ‘yeah’ or ‘like’. She will insist that she
you were backpacking you could be: now be referred to as Flea, a not wholly
inappropriate moniker given the number
Meeting orang-utans in Indonesia of parasites to which she now plays host.
Snorkelling off Riley Beach in Thailand Flea doesn’t want to go to ‘uni’ any
Tracking wild African dogs in Botswana more, which is good because her brain
has mysteriously emptied save a few cod
Admit it, that sounds alright, doesn’t it? references to Hendrix, Hegel and the
Backpacking is about the experience - you’ll mature Dalai Lama.
as a person, become far more independent, learn to
appreciate the people and things around you, and -
most importantly of all - you’ll have fun. A year
spent backpacking will provide you with the
experience of a lifetime, and more fun than you can
shake a stick at.

Well, unlike most exams, we’ll put you out of your misery and give you the results
straightaway. Extract 1 is from the exam script and Extract 2 from ‘The Times’. Despite the
fact that the pieces were written under very different circumstances, that they appear in
very different ‘publications’ and that they take diametrically opposing views on the subject
of backpacking, they do share a number of similarities. The most obvious of these are the
casual, informal language each writer uses (‘moniker’; ‘a few cod references’; ‘bangin’
headache’; ‘shake a stick at’) which contrasts with the more formal variety they sometimes
use (‘she returns, unwashed and unrecognisable’; ‘mature as a person, become far more
independent, learn to appreciate people’) and, of course, the direct address to the reader
(‘Behold, one Flora’; ‘Admit it, that sounds alright, doesn’t it?’).

At this point you might very well be saying that exam candidate no. 89146/2617 would
make a very good feature writer for a newspaper or magazine; and you’d probably be
right. Presumably the editor of ‘The Times’ employed his writer because he knew she
would produce an effective and entertaining article for the readers. This is exactly what
89146/2617 has done: produce a piece that would be effective and entertaining for his
intended audience. Candidates for last year’s English Language ‘Editorial Writing’ exam
were asked to write a piece entitled ‘Why Backpack?’ to contain essential information for
students who wanted to take a year off before going to university. What, then, did they
have to do to write a successful answer, as this candidate has clearly done?

 First: select material appropriate for intending backpackers from the source file they
were given;

 Second: organise this selection of material and put it in the most effective order so
that readers can find their way through it easily;

 Third: rewrite it using a voice suitable for a student audience.

It is these three skills of selection, organisation and re-writing that are the crucial
ones for you to master if you want to succeed in this exam.

You should always ask yourself these three questions about what you intend to

Given the assignment that I have been asked to undertake:

 Have I chosen material that my audience needs to read?

 Am I ordering this material in the clearest possible way so that my audience
can easily follow it?
 Am I using a voice that will speak effectively to my readers (or listeners)?

And, if instead of three questions you want just one, then the key one for you to ask is:


Finally let’s look at just one specific example of how this candidate has managed to achieve

Here’s a short extract from the source file that he was given. You should be able to see
quite clearly how he has used it.

You can therefore see that he has:

Extract from Source File
• used some of the ideas about
On the other hand you’ll learn: independence and appreciation of
people contained in the passage.
Independence • not slavishly copied the source out
Self reliance word for word, but rewritten it in
And the appreciation of people and the things a suitable style for his student
around you. readers.
You are going to learn more about the world,
and realise that there is more to life than your • taken and adapted the ideas from
local nightclub and the odd snog at ten-to-two. the section about ‘your local
night-club and the odd snog at
ten-to-two’, not just used them as
they stand.

Even from the very short extract from his work that you’ve encountered here, you ought to
be able to see why he was awarded a high mark on this paper. You can see displayed his
ability to select, organise and rewrite the source material that I’ve said are the crucial
skills in this exam. You never know you might be reading articles by 89146/2617 in The
Times a few years hence!

SJC 2003: Extract from e-magazine December 2001

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SJC 2003: Extract from e-magazine December 2001
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