Many primary school students, PSLE students and secondary students write a 4 page long essay and submit it proudly only to receive mediocre marks when they get back their essays later on. They forget that the markers are looking for their prowess over the English language and the ability to express themselves clearly and beautifully. Here are 3 simple PSLE Essay Tips that you will find useful for your writing endeavours.
1. Show, Don’t Tell
This is the basic rule for descriptive writing yet many students fail to grasp the concept or apply it appropriately. To simplify the explanation, let me give an example.
Tell : Mary was happy when she saw her birthday cake.
Show: Mary’s cheeks flushed pink the moment her mother presented her with her birthday cake. Her heart beat faster and an infectious grin broke across her face. She looked up at her mother and felt tears welling up in her eyes. She was touched beyond words.
See the difference between both examples? For the ‘Tell’ example, the student simply said that Mary was “happy”. For the “Show” example, the student showed how Mary was happy – “flushed pink cheeks, heart beat faster, infectious grin, tears of joy.”
Students need to describe the emotions by stating the actions and reactions of the characters involved. Do not simply tell the reader that your character is happy.
2. Consider the Context or Connotation of the words used
This rule not only applies to primary or lower secondary students, it also applies to upper secondary and junior college students. Heck, it even applies to adults as well! In the English language, different words have different connotations attached to them.
For e.g , the word ‘slim’ has a positive connotation attached to it, indicating a healthy aspect to a person’s body. On the other hand, the word ‘scrawny’ has a negative connotation, hinting that the person may be underfed or malnourished.
When choosing the right words to use in a sentence, we need to consider the context/situation it is used.
Derrick ran after the bus. (‘ran’ indicates speed but doesn’t give us much insight into the situation.)
We can try,
Derrick sprinted after the bus. (‘sprinted’ implies that Derrick took precise, long strides to chase after the bus. ‘Sprint’ is faster than ‘Run’.)
Derrick made a mad dash for the bus but it was too late. (“mad dash” hints that Derrick was frantic, anxious and desperate to chase after the bus.)
The pickpocket stole the man’s wallet. ( This sentence offers not much insight to the situation…)
We can try,
The pickpocket fished out the man’s wallet. ( The word ‘fished’ indicated that the pickpocket reached into the pocket and took out the man’s wallet in a swift motion.)
The pickpocket slid the man’s wallet out from his pocket. (The word ‘slid’ indicates a slower and more precarious movement than the word ‘fish’.)
By using the right words for the appropriate situations, you are able to give the reader a clearer image of what you are trying to tell them.
3. Go into Details
This rule is almost similar to “Show, don’t tell”. When you are writing about an event or sequence, instead of just describing it with a lack of details, (like how most students do), you should picture the scene taking place in your head, slow all the motions down, and break it up step by step.
Students tend to write the following sentences:
The pickpocket stole the wallet and ran away. Few minutes later, the man realised that his wallet was gone and called the police. The police came and the man told them what had happened. The police caught the pickpocket and he was sentenced to 1 year in jail. The end.
Noticed how I just told half a story in 4 sentences?
Instead of doing that, try breaking up this 1 sequence into smaller parts:
The pickpocket stole the wallet and ran away.
Breaking up the above sequence in point form, we get these points,
– pickpocket spotted a victim
– victim had just paid for a watch
– victim had a thick stack of cash in his wallet
– pickpocket casually walks towards the victim
– bumps into him
– hand slipped into coat, fished out man’s wallet
– “No worries!”
– pickpocket continued walking away calmly
– when he was out of sight, he made a run
See how a simple sequence of stealing the wallet can be broken up into many smaller parts? This can be done if you consider all the minute details and actions required to steal a wallet. By being detailed in your writing, your readers are able to “see” the scene unfold before them like a movie.
By Jerry lee
Intellicat Tuition School