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Sunday September 6, 2009 Tips on writing skills SPM English By JUGDEEP KAUR GILL THE focus of the SPM

1119 paper, which is the English Language paper, is mainly on the reading and writing skills. Paper 1 tests candidates on their writing skills while Paper 2 deals, for the most part, with the reading skills. Well begin this series with the more difficult writing skill as it carries a significant portion of the marks for the whole paper. This paper consists of two compulsory questions: Directed Writing and Continuous Writing. The Directed Writing question carries a total of 35 marks 15 marks for content and 20 marks for language. The marks for format, which can vary between one to three marks depending on the text type, are included in the 15 marks allocated for content. In this section, candidates are given only one question. This means that candidates do not have the luxury of choice which they are given in the Continuous Writing section. Most candidates find this question quite manageable. In fact, even weak candidates can be taught to cope with this question to a certain extent. Several factors make this question quite doable. Firstly, candidates are given help with content. This means candidates do not have to worry about what to write as content points are provided. It is not difficult to score full marks for content. In fact, candidates can score full marks for content if they are able to use the information given in grammatically sound sentences, irrespective of the sentence type or length. It is also easy to get marks for format if they have been exposed to the formats of different text types. Secondly, this question does not demand much linguistically unlike the continuous writing question. Most candidates are able to cope with this question, even if they are linguistically limited. Thirdly, the question is usually set around the experiences of students. Hence, there is no reason for candidates not to attempt this question. Over the years, teachers and students have become quite adept at predicting the type of question that might appear. Still, I would suggest that you familiarise yourself with the different text types. Below is an analysis of the questions which have appeared over the past few years: General Guidelines for Directed Writing

Read the question carefully. Identify your task, your role and your audience. Use the 45 minutes allocated for this question wisely. Plan your essay and organise your thoughts (this includes what to write and how to elaborate on points) Include an introduction and a conclusion and make sure your paragraphs are well organised. Use all content points given. It is advisable to cross out the points you have used, so that no point is left out. Include points of your own only if you are asked to. Otherwise, do not waste precious time doing so because you will not get any extra marks. Elaborate on the points given. Write two to three sentences to elaborate on each point. Remember a crucial aspect of this paper is language and your ability to write can only be tested if you provide sufficient language for the examiner to gauge your linguistic ability. Use a variety of sentence structures so that your essay is not dull and monotonous. Always read through what you have written. Correct grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors. Common pitfalls Poor time management. Do not spend more than the allocated 45 minutes on this question. Otherwise you will not have enough time for the second question. Lengthy essays. Do not write too much. As mentioned earlier, this question does not make many demands on a candidate. Directed writing is a succinct piece of writing. All you have to do is use the given points and provide a sentence or two (maybe three) to elaborate on them. A response of one-half to two pages is more than sufficient. After all, the more you write the more mistakes you might make. Some candidates make the mistake of writing one paragraph for each point. If you do this, your essay is going to be very lengthy. Save the time and energy for Continuous Writing. Usage of informal language. This paper tests your written English. Do not use spoken language. Avoid using slang words (such as guys), contractions, and informal language (such as informal idiomatic expressions or informal phrasal verbs). Poor punctuation. Some candidates do not punctuate their sentences correctly. Make sure you end your sentence with a full stop and not a comma. Also, make sure that the pronoun I is written in upper case and not lower case (i) as is the practice among some candidates. Lets look at a sample question.

Many students in your school complain that they are stressed. As the president of the Health Club in your school, you have been asked to give a speech during assembly. You have made a list of the reasons given by these students and you would like to give them some suggestions on how to cope with their problem. Use the following notes to write your speech. Causes - long hours spent at school - too much homework - too many projects - frequent exams - tuition classes - high expectations from parents - lack of sleep When writing out your speech, you should remember to: address your audience state the purpose of the speech use all the points given end your speech appropriately Before you start writing, ask yourself these questions: what am I required to do? what is my role? who is my audience? how many points have been provided? Do I need to give any point of my own? This task requires you to write a speech in your capacity as the president of the Health Club. You have been asked to address the students during assembly. This means that your audience includes teachers and students. As such, make sure your tone is formal and polite. A total of twelve points

have been provided which means that twelve marks are for content and three marks for format. The marks for format are allocated as follows: One mark for addressing the audience, one for stating the purpose of your talk and another for ending the speech appropriately. Sunday September 13, 2009 Writing letters the right way SPM English By JUGDEEP KAUR GILL This week we will take a look at letter writing. Generally, students are taught to write two types of letters formal letters and informal letters. Informal letters are easier to write in terms of format, language and tone. These letters are sometimes called social or friendly letters. Examples of informal letters include letters to family members and friends. When writing an informal letter, remember to use the right format. There are several formats for informal letters, but some of these are not accepted in the Malaysian exam system and I will not discuss them here. In the Malaysian school system, students are taught to: > include the writers address and date in the upper right hand corner. The date can be written in different forms. (7th September 2009, 7 SEPTEMBER 2009 or 7.9.2009) > > > use the most common salutation. (Dear John) indent paragraphs. include a suitable complimentary close. (Your loving daughter) Do not use Regards as it is considered slightly more formal and distant. Also, do not use Best Wishes as this is considered inappropriate. > use proper punctuation. For example, a comma should be used after the salutation and complimentary > use capitalisation where necessary. For example, the month of the date (10 January 2009), the salutation (Dear Maria) close.

Under normal circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to use informal language (e.g. stuff, jam-packed) and contractions (Ill, wont) in an informal letter, but this is usually not acceptable in the local examination system.

Lets look at some important aspects of an informal letter. 1. Organisation Paragraph 1 include formalities; give reason for writing the letter. Paragraph 2 onwards depends on the reason for writing the letter. If your reason is to tell the recipient about your holiday, then you will include details of the holiday. The last paragraph you can give a reason why you have to stop writing such as: I am sorry I have to stop here because it is getting late. I am sorry I have to stop here because I have to stop now because Or you can simply end the letter in a number of appropriate ways as shown in #3 below. 2. > > > > > 3. > > > > > > Some useful expressions on how to begin an informal letter I was pleasantly surprised to hear from you. Thank you for your letter. I was pleased to hear that you are in good health. It was really nice hearing from you. I am glad that you like your new school. I hope this letter finds you in the pink (of health). Thank you for the lovely birthday card. Some useful expressions on how to end an informal letter I promise to write to you soon. I hope you will reply soon. Give my best wishes to your parents. I am looking forward to seeing you. I look forward to hearing from you. Do write and tell me how you are progressing.

Sample Question Your younger sister, who is studying in a boarding school, has written to complain that she finds the compulsory co-curricular activities very tiring. Write a letter to her to explain the benefits of co-curricular activities. Use the notes given below to write your letter. > > > > > > > > > > help you become a better person instil discipline learn good values - cooperation respect for others develop leadership skills learn to organize activities provide opportunities - to develop social skills to take part in competitions keep you healthy get a good testimonial

When writing your letter, remember to include the following: > > > > your address a proper salutation/greeting a complimentary close all the notes given above

Sample answer 1 10, Jalan Mega Minang, Taman Minang Sari, 68000 Ampang, Selangor. 7th September 2009 Dear Lina,

It was lovely to hear from you. All of us miss you very much. Mum and Dad are glad that you are slowly adjusting to life in a boarding school. In your letter you complained about the compulsory co-curricular activities. Well, let me tell you that you can reap many benefits through active participation in these activities. Firstly, the various co-curricular activities help you become a better person (point 1). Participation in uniformed units, clubs and societies, sports and games will help you discover your talents and develop your character. You will become a more confident and well-rounded person. The strict rules and good behaviour expected of you as a member of a uniformed unit will instil discipline (point 2) in you. This is important if you are to become a law-abiding citizen. Besides, you will learn good values (point 3) through the various co-curricular activities. You will learn about the importance of cooperation (point 4) and respect for others (point 5). These values are very important in a multi-racial society like ours. You have always said that you admire great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Abraham Lincoln. Well, co-curricular activities will certainly help you to develop leadership skills (point 6). There will be ample opportunities to enable you to become a good leader. Besides learning how to plan events, you will learn to organise activities (point 7). Sometimes, you might even have to handle a challenging situation and this will teach you how to make on-the-spot decisions. More importantly, co-curricular activities provide you with many opportunities (point 8) to help you develop social skills (point 9). As you know, a person with good social skills has an edge these days. Extra-curricular activities will also provide you with opportunities to take part in competitions (point 10) at various levels. Schools usually select their representatives for competitions at zone, state or national level by looking at their students performance in schoollevel competitions. These activities also keep you healthy (point 11). Who knows, you might finally shed your baby fat! Most importantly, you will get a good testimonial (point 12) if you are active in cocurricular activities. This will definitely boost your chances when applying for a scholarship or a job. There is no need for you to worry that participation in these activities will affect your grades. On the contrary, it has been proven that students who are actively involved usually do well academically. I hope you will take the opportunities co-curricular activities provide to experience new things and discover your strengths. I have to stop here. I have to study for my trial examination, which is in two weeks time. Till I hear from you, take care. Your loving sister, Shuhada Sample answer 2

10, Jalan Mega Minang, Taman Minang Sari, 68000 Ampang, Selangor. 7th September 2009 Dear Wani, Thank you for your last letter. All of us miss you very much. Mum and Dad are happy that you will be coming home next month. In your letter you complained that co-curricular activities are very tiring. Well, let me tell you that these activities have many benefits. Firstly, they will help you become a better person (point 1). They will instil discipline (point 2) in you. This is important if you want to become a good citizen. Besides, you will learn good values (point 3) such as cooperation (point 4) and respect for others (point 5). Co-curricular activities will help you to develop leadership skills (point 6). You will also learn to organise activities (point 7). Moreover, co-curricular activities provide you with opportunities (point 8). They help you develop social skills (point 9). Extra-curricular activities also give you opportunities to take part in competitions (point 10). Co-curricular activities can keep you healthy (point 11). Most importantly, you will get a good testimonial (point 12). I hope you will take co-curricular activities seriously. I have to stop here. Till I hear from you, take care.

Your elder brother, Izzan The sample above is meant to show weak students how they can get marks for format and content. Most of the sentences are simple sentences and the points are not elaborated. If you are a weak student, try to insert some sentences to elaborate on the points given. Remember when you write an informal letter: > Do not use slang words.

> Do not use words which are in a language other than English. This means you cannot write Dear Abah, or Dear Amma even if that is how you address your parents. Do not sign off with Love and Kisses. Keep that for your personal letters.

Sunday September 20, 2009 Writing a formal letter SPM ENGLISH By JUGDEEP KAUR GILL WRITING a formal letter can be difficult for some students but with the right guidance and some practice it can be made easy. When writing a formal letter, you must pay attention to the format/layout of the letter. Besides, you must also keep it short and to the point. Also, make sure your points or ideas are well-presented. Most importantly, pay attention to the tone and language. A formal letter must be polite. There is no need to be rude even if you are expressing your unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Remember, you should not use informal language or contractions in a letter of this nature. These days there are several formats available for writing formal letters but we will only look at the format which is used in Malaysian government departments and taught in the Malaysian school system. Guidelines for Writing a Formal Letter 1. Your address

Your address should appear on the left-hand corner.

2. A horizontal line across the page sepa rates your address from the recipients address. 3. Address of the person to whom you are writing

The recipients address should be below your address. The postcode and name of the town should be underlined.

4. Date

The date is written on the right along the same line as the last line of the recipients address. The month should be spelt out (i.e. it should be in words, not numbers). It must be written in full (do not use abbreviations such as Sept) and in capital letters.

5. Salutation/Greeting

If you know the name of the recipient, then do use his surname (Dear Mr Tan) If you do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing, then use Dear Sir or Madam

6. Subject heading

The subject heading gives the reader an idea what the letter is about. Write the subject heading directly below the salutation and it should be underlined

7. The body of the letter


The body of the letter refers to the contents of your letter. It should be divided into short and clear paragraphs. All paragraphs should be numbered except for the first and last paragraphs.

a. In the first paragraph, you should state the reason for writing (whether it is to inform, to complain, to invite etc). b. From the second paragraph onwards, you should include information that is deemed necessary, depending on what you are writing about. The number of paragraphs depends on what you are writing. c. In the last paragraph, state what you expect from the recipient. This is usually in the form of an action or response. It is a common practice to end a formal letter with phrases such as I look forward to hearing from you or I hope prompt action will be taken to solve this problem. A note of thanks is usually included

Remember to organise the information in a clear and logical manner. Also, do not write lengthy paragraphs.

8. Ending

You can end the letter by writing Yours faithfully. In practice, we usually use Yours sincerely, if we know the recipient but for exam purposes I would advise you to use only Yours faithfully.

9. Signature Do not forget to sign the letter and write your name below it in capital letters with in brackets.

Above is a letter of job application. The numbers refer to the notes above.

Read the sample question below


You are the Secretary of the Residents Association in your housing estate. Write a letter to the director of the local municipal council to complain about the problems you and the other residents are facing. In your letter, include the details below: rubbish not collected

causes terrible stench

stray cats and dogs scatter rubbish

clogged drains

breeding ground for mosquitoes

increase in cases of dengue fever

street lights not working

cause accidents at night

increase in crime

playground not well- maintained

overgrown grass

playground equipment damaged

When writing your letter, you should remember to:

set it out in the correct format

include all the points given

address the letter to the director of the local municipal council

Rajvind Gill, 10, Jalan Jujur, Taman Jayadiri, 68000 Ampang, Selangor The Director, Ampang Jaya Municipal Council, Bangunan Mentari, Ampang Jaya, 68000 SELANGOR. 15 SEPTEMBER 2009 Dear Sir,

Poor Maintenance of Taman Jayadiri I am writing this letter on behalf of the residents of Taman Jayadiri to complain about the dismal conditions we have been putting up with for the past three months. 2. One of the main grouses of the residents concerns uncollected rubbish (point 1). Initially, rubbish was collected three times a week. However, since June this year the garbage collectors have only been coming once a week. Our litter bins are always filled to the brim and we have no choice but to leave our bags of rubbish next to the bins. The rotting waste causes a terrible stench (point 2). Worse still, stray cats and dogs scatter the rubbish (point 3) while looking for food. This is not only unpleasant but also unhealthy. 3. Most of the drains in Taman Jayadiri are clogged (point 4) with rubbish resulting in the water becoming stagnant. It is not uncommon to see plastic bags, bottles and dry leaves in these drains. There is an urgent need to clear these drains as the stagnant water is an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes (point 5). The residents are worried as there has been a sharp increase in dengue cases (point 6) in the last two months. 4. The street lights along several roads are also not working (point 7). This has caused several accidents at night (point 8), mostly involving motorcyclists as they are unable to see in the dark. Unfortunately, the dark streets have also led to another problem an increase in crime (point 9). Several residents, especially women, have fallen victim to snatch thieves. 5. The one and only playground in our area is also not well-maintained (point 10). The grass is overgrown (point 11) as it has not been cut for almost three months. Besides, the playground equipment is damaged (point 12). Many of the see-saws and swings have been spoiled by vandals. I hope the council will look into our complaints and take prompt action to solve our problems. Thank you. Yours faithfully, RajvindGill (RAJVIND GILL) Sunday September 27, 2009 Essay writing TODAY we will look at section B of paper 1 i.e. the section on continuous writing. This section carries a substantial 50 marks. Candidates are given five topics and they have to write on one of these topics in an hour. The topics can be categorised as follows: narrative

E.g Write a story beginning with: I never knew what happiness was until. or Write a story ending with: Finally, he walked away without saying a word. descriptive E.g. The worst day in my life factual/expository E.g. The Effects of Pollution or Ways to Make School Interesting argumentative E.g. Students should be allowed to wear casual clothes to school. Do you agree? one-word essays E.g. Freedom General guidelines for continuous writing: Read and consider all the questions given. Do not make the mistake of selecting the first question that you read or a question which you think is manageable. You might realise later that you could have handled another question with much more ease. Choose a topic that you are familiar or comfortable with. Select a topic which is within your experience so that you will not have to struggle with the content. Opt for a topic which is within your linguistic ability. Do not select a topic just because you think it is challenging. This is not the time for experimentation. For weak students, it is always advisable to write a narrative. Plan your essay the outline/organisation, points/ideas/thoughts, and supporting points (if you are writing an argumentative or factual essay). Write out your essay in neat and legible handwriting. Small or untidy handwriting, or a combination of both, can be very annoying as the reader has to spend valuable time deciphering what you have written.

Write in paragraphs. You may leave a line between paragraphs as it is easier on the examiners eye. Edit and revise language if necessary. Allocate 10 minutes for this, and make sure spelling and punctuation are accurate. Narrative Essays This week we will focus on narrative essays, which are a favourite among students. As mentioned earlier, narrative writing is a better option for weak students. Guidelines to remember when writing a narrative essay: You have to decide whether to write your essay from your own perspective or someone elses. The first person or third person singular is the most popular voice. If you choose to write from your own perspective, then use the first person singular i.e. I. If you choose to write from someone elses perspective, use third person pronouns (he, she, it). Be consistent in your choice of pronouns. Do not switch perspectives mid-way through the essay. The choice of pronoun also depends on the question. In the question Write a story beginning with: I was tired and, you have to use the first person singular I. Engage your reader. Make the story real for him. Make him involved in your experience. Have a simple plot. You will be better off using the chronological order. Flashbacks are a wonderful device where you merge the past with the present. But be careful; only engage in this method if you can carry it off. Use only the simple past tense if you cannot handle the past perfect tense. However, you will need to use the past perfect tense if you are referring to more than one action in the past. Bring your characters to life. Make them real. Make them memorable. It is always more interesting to read about flawed characters. Use nouns, verbs and adjectives to evoke your readers senses. You may use dialogue, but use it sparingly and effectively. Remember you are writing a narrative, not a script. Before you write your essay, it is a good idea to plan what you are going to write.

A good narrative should have: An introduction This is to set the scene and present the character/characters Complications or problems In your story, the character/characters might have a problem to overcome. A climax A good story should have a climax which is the most exciting part of the story A resolution (end) Never leave your story hanging although accomplished writers use this technique (which is called an open ending) to get their readers to confront certain issues the writer may have raised in his story. A resolution tells how the complications/problems were resolved or how they (the problems) affected the characters. Specific guidelines for continuous writing: Make sure your essay is longer than 350 words. This means that you need to develop your essay/ideas to a considerable degree. Avoid lengthy essays. Some students believe that they will obtain more marks if they write a lengthy piece. This is definitely not true, especially if your essay has considerable grammatical errors. Do not waste time counting the number of words. By now you should be able to gauge how many words you write on one page, so do not waste precious time counting the number of words in your essay. Pay attention to language. As in directed writing, avoid informal language, clichs, contractions and slang words. Avoid using unnecessary idiomatic expressions/proverbs.

Some students have this notion that they will obtain more marks if they use idiomatic expressions/proverbs, and so, they memorise as many idiomatic expressions/proverbs as they can. Reading an essay littered with idiomatic expressions/proverbs can be a pain. Also, not all idiomatic expressions are formal. Use a variety of sentences (simple, compound, complex and compound-complex) of varying lengths. We will look at these in the next article. Use precise vocabulary. E.g. He told me to be careful as there were crocodiles in the river. He warned me to be careful as there were crocodiles in the river. The word warned is more precise. Do not use spoken language. These days, it is quite common to come across the usage of spoken language not only in newspaper articles, but also in magazines and novels. Remember, there are differences between spoken and written language. If you are unsure whether a phrase is spoken or written, ask your teachers. Do not leave your sentences hanging. Remember, every English sentence must have a subject and a verb. E.g. I saw many types of marine life. For example, seahorses and starfish. (The second sentence is hanging.) Do not use repetitive words, phrases or structures. a) Examples of repetitive words: i. It was a very hot day. I was feeling very thirsty. (You could replace the word very with extremely in the second sentence.) ii. My mother scolded me for coming home late. My father, who was just as angry, scolded me for not listening to his advice.

(You could use admonished instead of scolded in the second sentence.) b) Examples of repetitive phrases: i. Murni and I were best friends. We had been best friends since kindergarten. We had promised to remain best friends till the end of our lives. (You could rewrite it this way: Murni and I were best friends. We had been close since kindergarten. We had pledged to maintain our friendship till the end of our lives.) ii. It was the end of the year. My father had promised to take us on a holiday. He had promised to take us to Perth. (There are several ways to rewrite this: It was the end of the year. My father had promised to take us on a holiday. He told us that we would be going to Perth that year. It was the end of the year. My father had promised to take us on a holiday to Perth.) c) Examples of repetitive sentences: My mother is one person who is admired by many people. She is a strong and determined person. She does not let problems stop her from doing what she wants. She sees problems as challenges. (As you can see the structure She is repeated as in She is She does not She sees Learn to use other structures to overcome this problem. My mother is one person who is admired by many people. She is strong and determined. Problems do not stop her from doing what she wants. According to her, problems are challenges.) *You may, however, use repetitive structures for emphasis. Avoid redundancy, E.g. In my opinion, I think In my opinion and I think have the same meaning. E.g. It was a happy and merry occasion. I felt satisfied and contented. The words happy and merry mean the same thing, so does satisfied and contented.

Here is a sample question: Write an essay ending with ... with tears in her eyes, she hugged me tightly. Sample answer It was the wettest December I had ever experienced. The torrential rains had ruined my holiday plans as floods continued to wreak havoc in several states. I had pleaded with dad to allow me to go to the east coast with my friends but he had been unyielding. The thought of having to stay indoors for the next two weeks was not only depressing but also unbearable. Television did not excite me anymore. I was fed up of watching the same old movies on cable television. Even the other channels had nothing exciting to offer. Finally, I decided to go into the attic to retrieve some books which I had not read for a long time. The attic was surprisingly clean - a sign that mum had finally completed the chore that she had kept putting off. I looked around and noticed a teak chest that I had never seen before. Curiosity got the better of me and I walked towards it. I lifted the lid slowly and was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of things in it all of them reminders of my childhood. I looked nostalgically at the clothes I had worn as a child and the toys I had played with. Bobo the teddy bear, which I had slept with until I was ten, had been dry-cleaned and kept in a box which also contained the first Mothers Day card I had made myself. I was not prepared for what I saw next. Lying at the bottom of the cardboard box was an old black and white photograph of a young woman. I stared at it incredulously. It was as if I was looking at a female version of myself. All sorts of questions and dreadful thoughts flooded my mind. I held the photograph tightly in my hand and dashed out of the attic, only to bump into my mother. Mum....who is this? I asked in a quivering voice. From the look on her face, I knew it was a question she did not want to answer. Quietly, she held my hand and led me towards the study where dad had been working all morning. She knocked on the door once before opening it. Dad looked up, and his expression of annoyance disappeared when he saw the photograph in my hand. What I heard that day is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. The woman in the photograph was my mother, my biological mother Lily Lee. Son, Lily loved you very much; just as much as Janet here loves you. Dads use of the past tense made me uncomfortable. It took a great deal of effort on his part to narrate the painful past. My biological mother was six months pregnant when the incident happened. She had been walking towards her office when a motorcyclist came from behind and grabbed her handbag before speeding off. As a result of the sudden assault, she had lost her balance and fallen on the kerb. The head injuries she had sustained had a devastating effect on her health. The only option was to perform surgery, but due to her condition, this option was risky. The doctors had wanted

to terminate her pregnancy to save her life but she had refused. A month later she fell into a coma. Although the doctors had given up hope, Lily continued to live, though in a comatose state. It was as if she was not giving up on life till her baby was born. When the doctors deemed it safe, they performed an emergency C-section. Lily breathed her last the moment I was born into this world. Dad sobbed softly as he finished relating the heart-wrenching story. All sorts of emotions consumed me. I was sad, confused and angry. Was I adopted? What about my father? Who was he? Had he abandoned me? After a while, I braved myself and stated what I thought was obvious. So, that means you are not my real parents. I am adopted! No, son. You are not adopted. I am your father. Lily was my first wife. She made me promise her that I would marry her younger sister, Janet, so that you would not grow up motherless. The sense of relief that I felt at that moment was indescribable. I looked at mum and I saw the pain and anguish in her eyes, as though she was anticipating rejection. Quickly, she looked down. Slowly, I got up from my chair and walked towards her. I went down on my knees and held her hands in mine. Her eyes remained downcast, fearful of rejection. Mum, I know I am only seventeen but I am more mature than you think. You might not have given birth to me but you are and will always be my mother. I comforted her as much as I comforted myself. She looked up slowly, her eyes searching my face for sincerity. Then with tears in her eyes, she hugged me tightly. Sunday October 4, 2009 Writing sentences SPM ENGLISH By JUGDEEP KAUR GILL AS promised last week, we will take a look at sentence types this week. At the SPM level and beyond, it is crucial that you have some knowledge of the basic sentence types in English. This is because your choice of sentence types reflects on your ability and maturity as a writer. For example, if you use only simple sentences in your writing, your writing will not only sound monotonous but also choppy and immature.

Generally, English sentences can be categorised into four types - simple, compound, complex and compound-complex. A simple sentence, which is also called an independent clause, contains one complete idea. This sentence can be short or long, depending on the idea that is being conveyed. Examples: Vincent walks to school. Vincent and Edward walk to school. (This sentence is not a compound sentence as it expresses only one idea i.e. Vincent and Edward walk to school although it contains the conjunction and) Edward met me at the train station. Edward met me at the dilapidated train station near his house at 2 p.m. (As you can see the second sentence is longer than the first sentence but they are both simple sentences as they express only one idea) A compound sentence contains two independent clauses that are joined by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so). You may use the mnemonic FANBOYS to remember these as each letter represents the initial letter of these conjunctions. Both the ideas in a compound sentence are related and of equal importance. Examples: I watched a movie and my sister did the crossword puzzle. Kenny wanted to play football but it started raining. Mary was very happy with the tour guide, so she gave him a big tip. A complex sentence contains: one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses. These clauses are connected by subordinating conjunctions or subordinators such as because, although, since, after, when, despite etc. or a relative pronoun such as that, who or which Lets take a look at some examples.

Example 1: I enjoyed the cake that you baked. In the sentence above, I enjoyed the cake is an independent clause. An independent clause is a clause that can stand on its own. In other words, it is a complete sentence by itself. that you baked is a subordinate clause or a dependent clause. A subordinate clause cannot stand alone on its own. It is like an incomplete sentence. Example 2: Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was our first Prime Minister, was born in Kedah. In the sentence above two ideas are combined together. They are: Tuanku Abdul Rahman was born in Kedah. He was our first Prime Minister. Tunku Abdul Rahman was born in Kedah is an independent clause. who was our first Prime Minister is a subordinate clause. Like a simple sentence, a complex sentence can be short or long as shown in the examples below. He felt that he was not ready for marriage. I agreed with her that the blue dress was pretty although I personally felt that it was hideous, to say the least. A compound - complex sentence contains at least: two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. These clauses are connected by both coordinating conjunctions and subordinators. Example 1: I felt guilty about lying to him, so I apologised when I finally had the chance. The sentence above consists of the following clauses: I felt guilty about lying to him. (independent clause) I apologised to him. (independent clause) when I finally had the chance. (dependent clause)

They have been combined using a coordinating conjunction and and a subordinator when Example 2: Despite our mutual dislike for each other, we had to put aside our differences and make sure the project was a success because both our careers depended on it. In the above sentence, several ideas have been combined together. They are: We disliked each other. We had to put aside our differences. We had to make sure the project was a success Both our careers depended on it. The ideas have been combined using the following clauses: Despite our mutual dislike for each other (dependent clause) we had to put aside our differences (independent clause) (and) make sure the project was a success (independent clause) (because) both our careers depended on it. (independent clause) Other examples: My sister, who looks like a film star, has won numerous beauty competitions and appeared in several television advertisements. The proposal, which Mandy had improved on over the weekend, was presented to the directors, but it was rejected because it was too costly. Sentence Structures Another important aspect of writing that you should pay attention to is how to write a variety of sentence structures. To be able to do this, you need to know that there are numerous ways of organising words to form a sentence. You also need to understand some basic structures in the English Language and how to use these structures to achieve the effect you want. However, this is something which cannot be learnt overnight but you can learn this to a large extent through extensive reading. Look at the following structures. All three convey the same idea. My grandfather is 78 years old and he is an active man. Although my grandfather is 78 years old, he is an active man. Despite being 78 years old, my grandfather is an active man. Heres another example.

Liza was the eldest and she had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. Being the eldest, Liza had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. Liza had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities as she was the eldest. Try to express the following ideas in as many ways as you can. 1. It had rained non-stop for three days and Amirs village was flooded. 2. The sudden storm caused terrible destruction as many trees were uprooted and roofs of houses blown off. 3. Nazmi refused to admit that he was wrong and this only made his parents angrier. 4. Myra is a gifted child as she can solve Year Six Mathematics problems easily. 5. The movie, Terrible Teens, did very well although it projected teens negatively. You can check your answers with your teachers or your friends. Sunday October 25, 2009 Substantial Section C SPM English by JUGDEEP KAUR GILL Today we will take a look at Section C of the SPM 1119 paper. This section, which carries a substantial 25 marks, is divided into two parts, reading comprehension and summary writing. 10 marks are allocated for reading comprehension and 15 marks for summary writing. Guidelines for reading comprehension 1. Read the whole passage through once to get a general idea of what the passage is about. Do not worry if you come across unfamiliar words. Sometimes, it is not necessary to understand every word you read. 2. Do read the passage a second time, if necessary. The second reading helps you take in the details and improve your understanding. 3. Read the questions carefully. Use cue words in the questions to help you answer the questions. These can be the wh words (what, when, where, why, who, whose, how) and action verbs (identify, find, list). 4. Questions sometimes contain words found in the passage. Use these words to help you identify the part of the passage where the answer can be found.

5. You do not have to answer questions in complete sentences (look at the sample answers given). 6. You can lift words, clauses or sentences from the passage to answer questions. You do not have to use your own words unless you are told to do so. Moreover, there is a danger in paraphrasing you might alter/distort the meaning expressed in the passage and hence lose precious marks. 7. For questions on vocabulary, if you are asked for a word, then give only ONE word and nothing else. Make sure you spell the word correctly. If you are asked for a phrase, then give the relevant phrase. If you copy the sentence where the word or phrase are found, you must indicate the chosen word or phrase by underlining it or putting it within quotation marks. 8. Some questions require you to use your own words and you must do so. 9. Do pay attention to the tense (and sometimes pronoun) used in the questions when formulating your answers. Pitfalls to avoid 1. Do not give more than the required information. Sometimes, students copy chunks from a passage, giving two or more sentences. This only highlights their weakness failure to understand the question and/or text. 2. Do not give two or more answers to a question. Some students write down all the possible answers to a question just to be on the safe side. 3. Do not waste time paraphrasing answers unless you are asked to do so. Summary writing The question on summary writing is based on the same text used for reading comprehension. This should be a boon as you would be familiar with the text after several readings. Despite this, many students are not comfortable dealing with summary writing.Their fears stem from their inability to identify informtation relevant to the answer. Some are also worried that they may not be able to put the information together into a coherent paragraph. Weak students have an additional problem to grapple with language. While these concerns are genuine, there is no reason to fret as these problems can be easily overcome with proper guidance and help from teachers. Remember that summary writing in the context of this paper is largely a reading skill (as you are required to select relevant information in the text) with a bit of writing thrown in (as you have to string the points together into a unified text). The task is made easier for you as you do not need to summarise the whole text, only certain aspects (maybe one or two). Therefore, it is crucial that you read the question carefully and consider what information is relevant.

The allocation of marks for summary writing is as follows: 10 for content and 5 for language. Usually, there are more than 10 content points but you should be able to identify at least 10. I always advise students not to worry too much about paraphrasing. You should focus on getting marks for content, not language. Guidelines for summary writing: 1. Read the question carefully. Ask yourself: What am I required to summarise? 2. Mark the first and last lines of the passage you are asked to refer to. 3. Then select information that is relevant to your answer. To do this, underline the relevant lines or ideas as you read the text. Always ask yourself: Is this... (For the summary below, you would ask: Is this a reason tigers have become extinct? or Is this a measure that should be implemented? 4. Look through the lines/ideas you have underlined. Sometimes an idea is repeated in another line by way of paraphrasing. Ask yourself, is this a repetition? 5. Summarise these ideas. You can combine ideas by combining phrases or sentences, or you may want to paraphrase ideas/sentences. However, make sure your sentences are complete sentences and not fractured bits and pieces. 6. If you cannot paraphrase ideas, see if there are words in the text that you can replace without affecting meaning. For example, you can use a pronoun to replace a noun. 7. If you are a weak student, do copy the complete sentence. This way, you will not lose marks for content or language. 8. Begin the summary with the 10 words given and remember that the three dots after the tenth word mean you have to complete the sentence with some relevant information from the text. 9. Organise the ideas/points in the manner in which they are found in the text. Do not waste time trying to rearrange ideas. 10. Adhere to the word limit. Writing more than the required number of words will not get you any marks. Anything far too short of the word limit means you lack content. 11. Pay attention to the tense (and sometimes pronoun) used in the given 10 words. 12. Write the summary in one paragraph. Some students are in the habit of drawing columns to facilitate counting of words. This is perfectly fine but do write your final draft in one paragraph. Pitfalls to avoid 1. Do not include information not found in the text.

2. Do not include your own ideas or opinions. 3. Do not spend too much time paraphrasing as you might end up losing marks for content unless you can do so without altering/distorting meaning. 4. Do not repeat ideas. Sometimes, an idea is repeated in the text and you may not notice it as it may have been paraphrased. 5. Do not include material from other lines in the text.