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GCSE Essay Writing Skills

Steve Campsall | Wednesday December 05, 2012

Categories: KS4, AQA GCSE, EDEXCEL GCSE, Edexcel GCSE Generic Skills, Edexcel GCSE Skills Resources, OCR GCSE, WJEC Eduqas GCSE, Hot Entries, Writing, Analytical Writing, Essays, AQA GCSE Generic Skills, AQA GCSE Skills Resources, OCR GCSE Generic Skills, OCR GCSE Skills Resources, WJEC GCSE Generic Skills, WJEC GCSE Skills Resources

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It is because we cannot see the reader that writing needs to be different from speech. A reader is distant and so we cannot notice any misunderstandings or loss of interest that occur as they read. This creates a need for clarity in writing that isn’t so important in speech. The style and structure we adopt for example needs to be more formal; and the need to create and maintain interest means that writing should be lively. In the case of school essays, the reader is the teacher or examiner who awards marks and a grade, something that can even affect your future, thus school writing needs extra care. This guide will help.

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Writing is effective when the reader is brought to feel that the time given to it is time well spent – a feeling that needs to be generated from the outset. Writing that is given a clear, early focus is more likely to achieve this. You might think that in the case of an essay, the focus is provided by the essay question; but it isn’t: the focus of any essay needs to be the writer’s response to the essay question – their answer.

But ‘answer’ is an imprecise word for what an English essay provides. This is because, unlike maths, English rarely has answers. It has opinions. It is the writer’s opinion that needs to be the focus for the essay; and this needs to be stated at the outset. With this achieved, the reader is more likely to feel an initial interest but also be led to want to find out how the opinion arose and thus to read on in a positive frame of mind. An early focus is important because it creates the link that flows through the remainder of the essay: it becomes the writer’s controlling idea.

Below is the opening of an essay based on a Steinbeck novel: ‘What kind of society does John Steinbeck present in his novel, Of Mice and Men?’ The focus for the essay is highlighted in red.

Steinbeck wrote Of Mice and Men in the early 1930s when the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression and...


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