Hello everyone! Today we are going to talk about Situational Writing. In particular, writing in the formal context.
While this component is only introduced in schools at Primary Five, but once you master what you need to have in your writing and show accuracy in your work, the 15 marks is actually pretty easy to bag! So let me share with you five things all students should pay attention to when they attempt a formal piece of writing.
1. Include a clear purpose
Every piece of writing should include a clear purpose. If students do not include the purpose of their writing, they will be penalised for content. Usually, the purpose can be found in the box that states “Your Task”.
Never assume the purpose. Stay close to what is asked of you in the task box. If you merely skim through the task, you may end up with the wrong purpose!
Take the above for example, you might word your purpose this way:
“I am writing this email to inform you about an incident outside our school.”
However, if you had read your task carefully, you would know that the purpose is wrong. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, you should find the exact purpose stated and follow that.
Therefore, the correct purpose should be:
“I am writing this email about the incident outside our school, as you have asked me to do so.”
2. Introduce who you are at the start
In your formal writing, you should always introduce who you are at the start. You can do so before you state the purpose.
“My name is Deborah Tan. I am writing this email about the incident outside our school, as you have asked me to do so.”
Ascertain your identity from the task box - Am I given a name or do I use my own name? If the name cannot be found in the task box, check the stimulus to see if a name has been included there. Only when you cannot find a name in both the task box and stimulus, then you can come up with your own. Do note that you need to introduce your full name (name + surname) and ensure that when you eventually sign off, you are using the same name.
3. Do more than merely answer the content points
One misconception which students have is that simply answering all of the content points will be sufficient. However, when you write the content points without any background information (e.g. I was walking along the corridor when…) and meaningful time connectors (e.g. The next moment, After five minutes etc.), you end up producing disjointed writing.
When the examiner grades your writing for its language, besides checking that your grammar, spelling and punctuation is accurate, he / she will be looking at whether you are able to present the points fluently. Therefore, there is a chance that while you may get all the content, you will not score for language if you simply list them down.
As you can see from above, adding background information and time connectors will help to flesh out your writing and also paint a clearer picture of the message you are trying to deliver. Having said that, I do want to caution all of you to avoid adding unnecessary details. If you do so, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of making grammatical errors, reducing the time you have left for your continuous writing and checking of your work.
4. End off appropriately
Another common error I have noticed with students when it comes to formal writing is the way they end it.
Firstly, they end off rather abruptly. No matter what kind of formal writing it is (e.g. complaint, commendation, report etc.), there is usually some form of action you hope the addressee would take after reading. End off with an appropriate one, starting with the phrase “I hope…” or “I look forward to…” as well as “Thank you for your kind attention.”
Secondly, do be mindful that as formal writing is usually done when you are writing to a figure of authority, you want to maintain a suitable tone. However unhappy you may be, you should not let your personal feelings get involved in being overly critical about the situation, unless these criticisms are content points derived from the stimulus itself.
The example below illustrates the kind of ending you should formulate if you are writing a complaint letter to the manager of a restaurant for the bad service you have received.
Note that the preferred ending conveys the right message across while maintaining a polite tone.
5. Sign off accurately
Lastly, some students get confused with how they should sign off formal writing. Usually, “Yours sincerely” and “Yours faithfully” are the two acceptable ways to do so.
Take note that neither the ‘s’ in ‘sincerely’ nor the ‘f’ in ‘faithfully’ should be capitalised. Students also have a tendency to misspell ‘sincerely’ so do make sure you learn how to spell it!
That’s it for my five essentials for formal writing! I hope you’ve found this post as well as the exam tips I’ve provided to be helpful. Try it out and let me know how it goes. Remember, your journey to crafting a good piece of formal writing does not end at Primary school. In fact, you will see that the criteria for situational writing in secondary school will be even more stringent.
In terms of real world application, situational writing is one component that you will be applying even when you have graduated from school. You might need to write a commendation letter for a colleague or a report to your boss about an incident. As such, do not underestimate the importance of getting this right as soon as you can!
About the Author: Ms Delia Siow is a dedicated teacher who is committed to providing an environment where a child can grow and thrive. She enjoys developing strategies to help students learn in a fun and meaningful way. Through her lessons, she hopes to help students lay a sound foundation in grammar and gain independence in their work. She strongly believes that good grammar is essential in students to gain proficiency in the language and finds joy in watching the bricks of their strong grammar foundation take form.