Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pragmatic Writing Instructional Guide

Pragmatic Writing Instructional Guide



Generally, functional writing is writing that is meant to fulfil real life purposes, such as: making a request or giving advice, inviting someone for a visit or to a function, applying for something. That is, the writing activities carried out resemble those done in real life for practical purposes.

Functional writing is different to personal writing in that you have far less freedom in the way you approach the task. There are certain standards and accepted ways of writing letters, reviews, reports etc.. You may have an opportunity to be somewhat creative, but you must abide by the rules. Creative writing is more for self-expression and pleasure.

In essence, functional-pragmatic writing is so important for many social purposes like describing people to give an account of someone; for business purposes like writing a proposal or a report; and academic purposes like writing a dissertation, term papers or theses.

Why and How Do We Write Functionally and Pragmatically?

In daily life, you come across different situations wherein you need to write. More specifically, we may write describe people for various purposes. Sometimes you have to:
·        Introduce someone to another through a letter by describing the person;
·        Give an account about someone as an eyewitness about a robber or a person involved in a road accident;
·        Give a short account of a dead person in an obituary note in a newspaper or a journal;
·        Write a brief sketch of a celebrity, giving an account of life, his/her achievements or rewards (i.e. personal profile or a short biography).

At other times, you might be involved in electronic online social-networking activities that might require you to write down something to someone in order to:
·        Thank him/her for something (e.g. favour) s/he has already done for you;
·        Invite him/her to do something (e.g. play cards online or visit you at home);
·        Suggest something for him/her to do (e.g. visit a specific website, watch a certain movie, or read a book);
·        Apologise for something that went wrong (e.g. losing his/her file);
·        Console  him/her in writing after the death of a close person;
·        Advise him/her on the best way of doing something (e.g. removing a mal-ware or ad-ware programme out of a computer);

Sometimes we write in order to express ourselves (i.e. writing for self-expression). Thus, we write in order to:
·        Communicate to others our views about something (e.g. personal accounts and explanations);
·        Express our understanding of something (e.g. writing a critical review);
·        Give a summary of something we have read;
·        Express our likes and dislikes;
·        Relate our way of thinking to others;
·        State in writing what one really feels towards someone or something;
·        Write some personal reflections as entries in a diary;
·        Provide a written feedback when prompted;

Sometimes we need to write for academic and recruitment purposes, such as:
·        Writing a curriculum vitae (CV) to present to a manager;
·        Filling in a job application form;
·        Taking notes while listening to or watching something (e.g. a lecture, short talk, etc.);
·        Communicating in writing with a course instructor to ask for clarification;

At other times, we might write to report something:
·        Composing a report on an event;
·        Making a police statement;
·        Creating a report of a problem that has occurred while using a machine.

Types of Functional-Pragmatic Writing Products

Moreover, there are many products that we might be required to produce through writing. These include:
·        Letters and e-mails (both formal and informal)
·        Memorandum (memo);
·        Explanations and personal accounts
·        Advertisement (ad);
·        Reports;
·        Shopping lists;
·        Brochure or Leaflet;
·        News article;
·        Instructions & Directions
·        Reviews
·        Diaries

What Are the Key Requirements of Functional Writing?

The six key requirements of Functional Writing are that you:
1.     use language with an appropriate register. This means that you must write in an appropriate tone and wit appropriate vocabulary for the specific task and audience;
2.     have a clear sense of who you are writing for;
3.     write with a strong sense of purpose;
4.     give your writing a shape or layout that conforms to accepted standards (e.g. for a letter, the placing of the address in the top right hand corner);
5.     punctuate accurately and observe the rules of grammar;
6.     keep your content relevant to the question;

In other words, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Who am I writing for? [Audience]
They could be the public, principal, teacher, friend, company manager, town council etc.

Why am I writing this? [Purpose]
To give an account of something I witnessed, to complain about something, to explain, inform. instruct, convince and persuade, sell, etc.

How is this piece to be written? [Format]
report, letter, account, article. statement, review. speech etc.

What is the tone I should use? [Language]
formal, informal, persuasive, informative, argumentative etc.




The ultimate goal of any functional or pragmatic writing task is producing some documents. These documents should take specific formats that distinguish them from each other. Thus, a letter is different from an advertisement, and a formal letter is different from an informal letter.

 Thus, there are specific components that distinguish each piece of writing. Some of these components fall under the general shape or format (i.e. how the documents look at the surface level). Other components relate to genre, style, how the content is displayed.

Learners/writer should be able to differntiate between different types of pragmatic-functional documents, and apply the appropriate format, tone, style, and vocabulary during the writing process.

In the previous chapter, we mentioned some types of functional writing products: ads, memos, reports, descriptions, CV. Here, we're going to deal with examples of these types.

1-Letters/E-mails (Formal and Informal)

On many occasions, You may be asked to write a formal or an informal letter. While formal letters are far more commonly used as a  than informal letters as a standard language practice, it is worth knowing how to write both.

Formal letter
The most commonly asked formal letters are for the following purposes:
 Making a complaint.
 Applying for a job.
 Inviting someone to an event.
 Writing to a newspaper, commenting on a topical issue.
 Making a request.
 Asking for information.
For more details on this, please check this link: http://sacenglish.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/functional-writing.pdf

When you are writing to a newspaper for example, it is acceptable to begin with 'Sir' and end with 'Yours etc.' If you don't know the name of the person to whom you are writing, you may begin with 'Dear Sir/Madam' or 'Dear Sir or Madam'.

When you are learning the layout of a formal letter, it is best to be as correct as possible. Some textbooks say you can write the date 02/01/2009, for example, but others disagree. Therefore, it is wise to stick to a format that everybody will find acceptable. You cannot be too correct.

Sample Formal Letter
You need a reference letter from your Principal to secure a summer job. Write the letter you would like him or her to supply you with.

Letter – tells you the form the task must take. It will be a formal letter.

Reference .......to secure a summer job– tells you the purpose of the letter.
A reference letter will need to highlight your good points – this tells you what the content should be.

Informal Letter
This is a common type in daily interactions. It is always written to close people (e.g. friends and relatives) on very personal matters. In an informal letter, the tone can be much more relaxed. You may use some slang but avoid text language and of course, bad language. If you must use exclamation marks, use them with caution and never use more than one at a time.

The content of an informal letter depends on the person to whom you are writing and the reason for your letter. Use personal stories and try to keep the tone lively and interesting.

How you sign off depends again on the person to whom you are writing. 'Love', is probably the most common way to sign off, other possibilities are, 'All the best', Regards, 'Thanks again' or 'Best wishes'.


When you are writing a report, ask yourself the following questions:
 Who has asked me to write the report and why?
 What is the problem or issue on which I am reporting?
 What tone is appropriate for my audience/readers?
 Do I need facts and figures?
 What topics are to be covered?
 What is supposed to happen as a result of the report?

Planning your report
 Give your report a title. This can be a simple rewording of the question.
 State the aim of the report in the introduction/title.
 Say who commissioned (asked you to write) the report and what was examined as a result.
 State what research was carried out.
 Look at the facts, detail any problems and highlight any good points
If you wish, you may use bullet points or numbers to organise your findings.
 Draw a conclusion from what you have just outlined.
 Make recommendations for remedying any problems.

Writing your report
 You will be using the language of information, so be as objective, clear and concise as possible.
 Avoid slang, it is too informal for this type of task.
 Be factual and avoid any words which may imply judgement or subjectivity.
 Do not use commercial jargon, it is out of date and appears slightly ridiculous now. For example,
say 'I enclose' instead of 'Enclosed herewith'. Keep your style simple and straightforward.
Sample Report
"Greater Freedom for Students"
Write a report to your school principal suggesting ways in which more freedom could be given to senior students in the school.

3-Diary Entries

A diary is a personal account through which we see an individual's view of the world. The language is generally chatty and relaxed and would suit those students who find the structure of speeches and reports difficult. The diary entry seems to be one of the examiners' most popular tasks in many writing tests.

In your diary entry, you can:
 Record events that have taken place or give details of a way of life.
 Record travels. (This is called a journal.)
 Entertain your readers.
 Give your opinions.
 Talk about your secret hopes and wishes.

Remember to choose the appropriate tone (formal or informal) and language for whichever type of diary you decide to write. If you are writing a personal diary, or one which is intended to entertain your readers (the diary is commonly used in newspapers) then the tone can be informal, chatty and relaxed.
This true story is adapted from Michael Smith’s biography of Tom Crean, the Antarctic explorer. On 4 January, 1912, a three-man party ― Crean, Lashly and Evans ― set out on a punishing 750-mile journey across the South Pole. However, only 35 miles from base camp, disaster struck. Evans fell ill. Crean was forced to make the rest of the dangerous journey on his own. The survival of all three men depended on Crean’s success.

1. Crean now took the bravest decision of his life and volunteered to make the solo walk to Hut Point. Lashly had offered to go but Crean had told him to remain and look after the very frail Evans. Then Lashly stuffed Crean’s pockets with the only food they could find. Before he left, Crean ducked his head inside the tent to say goodbye to his two companions. They watched the courageous Irishman stagger forward in knee-deep snow, to begin his lonely march for survival.

2. Crean was bitterly cold, thirsty, starving and physically drained as he began his journey. The travelling was hazardous. His thighs frequently sank in the soft snow and there was the ever-present fear of crashing through a crevasse. The wind was blowing up the drifting snow and blinding Crean. A blizzard could be seen approaching in the distance. In his tiredness, Crean frequently slipped on the glassy ice. He scrambled down the hill as the wind picked up and made his way slowly towards the hut.
3. Then to his utter relief, Crean saw dogs and sledges in the distance out on the sea-ice. He somehow found enough strength to reach the camp. When Crean finally stumbled into the hut, he fell to his knees, almost delirious with hunger and exhaustion. Inside, he found the Russian dog-driver, Dimitri, and Atkinson, the one doctor within 400 miles of Hut Point. He blurted out the alarming news about his two companions and collapsed on the floor. A rescue party set off immediately to find Lashly and Evans.

4. Lashly had wisely torn up an old piece of clothing and attached it to a long piece of bamboo so that the recovery party would not miss the tiny green tent on the vast Barrier landscape. After hours on the Barrier, the two men had almost given up hope of being rescued. Suddenly the howling and yelping of Atkinson’s dogs which galloped right up to the tent door shattered the stillness and silence. One animal stuck his head through the little tent flap and licked the face and hands of the stricken Evans. To hide his emotions, Evans grabbed his ears and sank his face into the hairy mane of the grey Siberian dog. Then both men laughed uncontrollably. They never should have doubted the courage and determination of the Irishman. They couldn’t believe that they had been saved. It was as if a heavy weight had been lifted from their shoulders.


4-Memorandum (memo)

A memo is intended to inform a group of people about a specific issue, such as an event, policy, or resource, and encourages them to take action. The word “memorandum” means something that should be remembered or kept in mind. Here’s a guide to writing readable, effective memos. For more details, please visit this website: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Memo

To: Customers of Chloe’s Cupcakes
From: Dan Lionel, Public Relations Liaison
Date: May 12, 2012
Subject: Publication of Nutrition Facts
Due to extensive customer feedback, we at Chloe’s Cupcakes would like to demonstrate our commitment to making healthy choices by publishing nutrition information for all of our baked goods. Although our stores would not be required by law to provide the nutrition facts of our products, we agree that customers should have access to as much information as they desire before making a purchase.
We are confident that that you, the customer, will feel better about choosing Chloe’s Cupcakes once you are aware of these facts. We are committed to use the best locally grown ingredients in our baked goods, and we freshly prepare all of our desserts each morning. Moreover, we have a line of vegan treats that substitute some of the highest-calorie ingredients in non-vegan goods with healthier options—while still delivering great flavor. For those customers who are looking to splurge, we have an exquisite selection of decadent treats too, including our famous crème brûlée macaroon sundae.
All of our nutrition information will be available online, along with a list of ingredients and possible substitutes for those with dietary restrictions. We will also provide pamphlets in stores with the same information, to be updated periodically. As it is cumbersome to obtain accurate nutritional analyses of handmade food products, we are unable to guarantee access to nutritional information for seasonal flavors and promotional items.
Dan Lionel

Notes on how to write a memo
Write the heading segment. Specify who the memo is for and who sent it. The heading segment should also include the complete and exact date the memo was written, and the subject matter (what the memo is about). A sample heading would look like: To: Name and job title of the recipient From: Your name and job title Date: Complete date when the memo was written Subject: (or RE:) What the memo is about (highlighted in some way)
·         Always address readers by their correct name; do not use nicknames.
·         When constructing the heading, be sure to double space between sections and align the text.

Consider who the audience should be. In order to get people to read and respond to the memo, it’s important to tailor the tone, length, and level of formality of the memo to the audience who will be reading it. Doing this effectively requires that you have a good idea of who the memo is intended for.
·         Think about your audience’s priorities and concerns are, and try to imagine why the information you are presenting would be important to them.
·         Try to anticipate any questions your readers might have. Brainstorm some content for the memo, such as examples, evidence, or other information that will persuade them.
·         Considering the audience also allows you to be sensitive to including any information or sentiments that are inappropriate for your readers.

Introduce the problem or issue to your readers in the opening segment.
 Briefly give them the context behind the action you wish them to take. This is somewhat like a thesis statement, which introduces the topic and states why it matters.
·         Include only as much information as is needed, while still being convincing that a real problem exists.
·         As a general guideline, the opening should take up about ¼ of the total length of the memo.

Suggest ways to address the issue in the summary segment. What you are summarizing here are the key actions you would like your readers to take.
·         This can also include some evidence to back up your recommendations.
·         In a very short memo, it might not be necessary to include a separate summary segment. Instead, this can be integrated into the next segment, the “discussion segment”. 

Support your course of action in the discussion segment. Be persuasive. State how the readers will benefit from taking the action you recommend, or be disadvantaged through lack of action.
·         Give evidence and logical reasons for the solutions you propose. Feel free to include graphics, lists, or charts, especially in longer memos. Just be sure they are truly relevant and persuasive.[4]
·         Start with the most important information, then move to specific or supporting facts.
·         The general guideline for length is that the summary and discussion segments combined should comprise about ½ of the memo.


Close the memo with a friendly ending that restates what actions you want the reader to take. You might want to include a statement like, "I will be glad to discuss these recommendations with you later on and follow through on any decisions you make."
·         Give the reader a sense of solidarity and optimism if possible.
·         Emphasize a particular next step that they can take.
·         This should generally take about ⅛ of the total length of the memo.

Review and edit your memo to make sure that it is clear, concise, persuasive, and free of errors. Check that you are consistent in the type of language that you use, and eliminate unnecessary scholarly words or technical jargon.
·         Review for spelling, grammar, and content errors. Pay particular attention to names, dates, or numbers.
·         Check that it is not excessively long, and cut out any extraneous material.

5-Note Taking

For more details, please refer to this website:
The purpose of taking notes during a lecture is to help you to concentrate on what the speaker is saying and to provide you with a summary in note form so that you can write up your notes in full later. Also, it may be that the notes provided by the lecturer are not sufficient - the lecturer may add new information during the lecture and your own notes will be needed to provide you with a complete record of the lecture. Taking your own notes will promote a deeper understanding of the content of the lecture.

The general principle in note-taking is to reduce the language by shortening words and sentences. The following advice will help you to take notes efficiently, leaving you free to listen to your lecturer. Remember that these notes are for you and as such you can use any method you like, so long as it enables you to reproduce the ideas contained in the notes and show how these ideas connect to each other later. However, there are certain principles you should bear in mind and certain conventions that are commonly used which you may find useful. First of all, you must be able to determine what you need to write down, what is important to you.

How do I know what is important and what is not?
This is not an easy question to answer, but there are things you can look out for.
The first piece of information you receive is the title of the lecture. This is perhaps the most important single piece of information of the whole lecture, so you should make sure that you write it down in full. Even better - find out what it is beforehand so that you can have time to think about what the lecture will be about.
Secondly, listen for direct or indirect signals from the lecturer that tell you what is important, for example, he/she may say, "This is important, write it down," or "Make sure you get this down." Or, he/she may make indirect signals such as pausing before saying something important, or saying it slowly, loudly or with greater stress. Listen for repetition. When the lecturer repeats a point, go back to your first notes and add in any new details or information.
  • Try to determine the lecturer's style or organisation of speaking - revise your note-taking accordingly.
  • Concentrate on the important words - listen for the words, called content words (usually nouns; sometimes verbs, adjectives or adverbs) that give the important information.
  • Omit unimportant words - such words are called form words and do not always have meanings in themselves, such as auxiliary verbs (e.g., be, have, do); determiners(e.g., a, the, some); pronouns (I, he, they, there, it, this, that, which, whom, etc); and prepositions (at, on, in, etc.).


6-Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Please also refer to this website: http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv.htm

Curriculum Vitae (which is commonly known as CV or  résumé) an outline of a person's educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications. In other words, it is a record of one’s main achievements, contributions and professional development, which is presented to a specific entity (e.g. academic institution, job centre, school, university, company, etc.).

A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications. It conveys your personal details in the way that presents you in the best possible light. A CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself! You need to "sell" your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers. It can be used to make multiple applications to employers in a specific career area.

In order to write a good-looking and convincing CV, one has to chop his/her CV up into easily digestible morsels (bullets, short paragraphs and note form) and give it a clear logical layout, with just the relevant information to make it easy for the selector to read. This should icrease one’s chances of getting the job.

An application form is designed to bring out the essential information and personal qualities that the employer requires and does not allow you to gloss over your weaker points as a CV does. In addition, the time needed to fill out these forms is seen as a reflection of your commitment to the career.

There is no "one best way" to construct a CV; it is your document and can be structured as you wish within a basic framework, such as:
    1. Personal details
    2. Education and qualifications
    3. Work experience
    4. Interests and achievements
    5. Skills
    6. References

What makes a good CV? There is no single "correct" way to write and present a CV, but the following general rules apply:
§  It is targeted on the specific job or career area for which you are applying and brings out the relevant skills you have to offer
§  It is carefully and clearly laid out: logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped
§  It is informative but concise
§  It is accurate in content, spelling and grammar. If you mention attention to detail as a skill, make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect!

7-Written Explanations

See also:
Generally, explanations tell us:
·        What something is;
·        How things work;
·        Why things happen.

Written explanations include many types such as: recipes, newspapers, instructional manuals, and guides.

Before writing down an explanatory account, we have to plan it well. This might include a brainstorming process in which the main ideas and key supporting details are organised. In other words, we need to think about a working title, headings, sub-headings, diagrams (if needed), and some other components.

Please see this diagram and try to figure out how to plan your own personal expalanatory account.


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