This is the second part of a post about transactional writing and utilising the power of the contrasting subordinator HOWEVER. The first post is here. In this post, I will provide a model of the technique being used for a question given in a typical GCSE writing exam.

This is part of a letter that appeared in a newspaper: 

‘I can’t understand why we have pets. They can be expensive to look after, they take up lots of time, children want them then get tired of them, yet if you dare to say you would never have a pet, people think you are strange.  I would never have one.’ 

Write a letter to the newspaper giving your views on this subject.  

How to go about answering this using a polemic argument as a base

1st job is planning 

  1. Separate the points provided by the question – there should be 4. 
  2. Decide if you will agree with the point of view about pets or disagree – you could have a mix of opinions. 
  3. Come up with the opposing view for each point – some points may have several ‘angles’ to follow up on.

Let’s imagine you are against the letter – in other words, you disagree with the points raised. Decide on the opposing argument for each point. 

Point 1 Point details Things person believes make pets expensive Your argument against 
Expensive  Vets     
 Food and care (cages, bedding toys, etc)     
 Buying to begin with     

Putting it all together 

However, …………………………………………………………………….…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Now let’s do the same for the next point about them being expensive: food and other costs.

Another thing that can make pets expensive is the cost of food and keeping the pets, like cages or baskets. This can put pressure on the family budget.

 However,……………………………………… ………… ………… …………………………………………………………………… …………… ……… … …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Now let’s do the same for the next point about them being expensive: buying them to begin with. Copy the format above.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………… …………… ……… …

Now we’ll move onto the second major point: they take up too much time.

Point 2 Point details Things person believes make pets expensive Your argument against
Take up too much time          
         
         

What is happening is a development of a strong case against the person who dislikes pets. But crucially, their perspective is acknowledged, and countered with sensible and logical responses. It is indeed the polemic argument in poetic motion. The number of points and discussions will be governed by the amount of time in the assessment, but a gradual building of writing stamina is advised for struggling writers. This can be achieved by building resilience with small but important successes, having students tackle the first point only, and giving them a time limit that is gradually reduced with each new attempt. Then the second discussion would be expected, again with varying time limits once mastery is achieved. And so on…

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.

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