Some Useful Tips



Vary your sentence lengths – alternate short sentence / long sentence

In particular, juxtapose short sentences for shock and effect with long descriptive sentences. Control over the structure of your writing is required to obtain the highest grades. However you must be careful not to do this too often otherwise it will lose its effect.



Vary your paragraph lengths!

Similarly vary your paragraph lengths to show that you have control over the structural elements of your writing will help you to achieve the highest grades. However, make sure that you have a sensible reason for choosing the length that you do for a given paragraph.



Think carefully about structure!

There are three other key structural elements that you might wish to make use of:

  • repetition
  • foregrounding – think about the order of what you are going to write. What will you put first and why? Perhaps more importantly what will you put second and why?
  • delay – you might choose to delay key moments in your writing by putting them after long sentences or paragraphs; by using punctuation to slow the sentence down or by switching from the topic that the reader wants to hear about to something else



Use Ing-ly

Most sentences in English go Subject, Verb, Object. For example:

            ‘The student (subject) ate (verb) an apple (object)

More interesting sentences might start with a verb & adjective pair, For example:

            ‘Moving quickly down the corridor the student threw the apple in the bin.



Use semi colons and colons

Semi-colons and colons are some of the most complex punctuation marks in the English language and even adults often have trouble using them correctly. Using a colon or semi colon correctly is always a good way to impress examiners. Here are a few rules:


  • Use colons to start off lists. For example, ‘Shopping List: apples, bread, cheese …’
  • Use semi colons inside lists to separate out items that are longer than one word or already contain commas. For example, ‘He bought apples and pears from the supermarket; a hammer and saw from the DIY shop; some jeans and a shirt from the mall and a Whopper from Burger King.
  • Use them instead of a full stop. A full stop is the strongest ending that we have in English. After a full stop the sentence is definitely over. However, sometimes we want the meaning, or the sense, of our sentences to flow into each other a little more smoothly. In those cases we can use a colon or a semi-colon. It can be helpful to think of these punctuation marks in the following way:




Full stop .

100% - Full Power

Colon :

75% - Three Quarter Power

Semicolon ;

50% - Half Power


  • So, for example, in the above sentence I could have used a semi-colon in the following way: ‘A full stop is the strongest ending that we have in English; after a full stop the sentence is definitely over.’ I can use a semicolon here because the two sentences kind of flow into one another.
  • Because the sense of our sentences often flows together it can be difficult to judge when you need a colon or semicolon. The trick is to use a full stop if you’re not sure: a full stop always works.
  • However, you should use colons and semi-colons sparingly. Your most common punctuation mark should still be a full stop. Under no circumstances are you allowed to use a comma in the same way. A comma is not an acceptable way to end a sentence so it can’t replace a full stop.