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Ministry of Education.

Written Language

Students should, using appropriate terminology, describe, discuss, analyse, and evaluate the way language features, structures, and conventions of a wide range of texts suit the topic, purpose, and audience, and apply these understandings.

English in the New Zealand Curriculum, page 36

There are many kinds of writing, but there is no single variety that directly compares to conversation in spoken language. Conversation, the most common kind of spoken language, is usually spontaneous, informal, and interactive. Any other uses of speech can be said to be adaptations of this basic category.

Most written language has some distinctive characteristics. It is usually planned, organised, and durable. It is not bound by any physical setting, and it is often read by people unknown to the writer. Some kinds of more informal writing, such as diaries, letters, notes, and shopping lists, are not extensively planned and are usually written for the writers themselves or for someone they know well. These types of writing often have characteristics of both spoken and written language.

We vary our written language, like our oral language, in numerous ways, yet we often take for granted our implicit understanding of how we achieve these variations. Underlying the way we write are the learned conventions of written language that enable us to communicate successfully. The Exploring Language threads of the English curriculum emphasise the need for students to explore the choices writers make and to discuss these in terms of language features.

The question framework outlined later in this section suggests one way of looking at writers' choices and the impact of these decisions on the reader. When teachers understand how and why texts vary, they can guide students towards making explicit their unconscious, implicit understandings of how texts work.

Exploring language content page

Exploring Language is reproduced by permission of the publishers Learning Media Limited on behalf of Ministry of Education, P O Box 3293, Wellington, New Zealand, © Crown, 1996.

Published on: 25 Feb 2009