Writing about structure

Home learning focus

Practise writing about how texts are structured.

This lesson includes:

  • one video
  • three activities.

Learn

Watch this short clip about a campaign team who have written a successful blog post. Pay close attention to how the structure of the post contributed to its success.

A campaign team talk about what made their blog post so successful

Structural features are often used to create impact and meaning in a text. This is true of both fiction and non-fiction texts like the blog post in the film.

To plan a response to a question about a text's structure, we need to look out for the impact of its different structural features.

See the table below for some structural features you might look to analyse. Some of these apply to fiction, others are more common in non-fiction texts - many of them apply to both fiction and non-fiction.

FeaturePurposeEffect on reader
openingsThe start of a text must interest the readerComment on how the writer introduces ideas and raises questions
focusThis is what the writer focuses on as the text developsAnalyse what is implied, eg a gloomy landscape implies an unhappy situation - what is causing that unhappiness? What will happen next?
shiftsChanges in ideas and perspectives, eg outside to insideComment on how this change is effective, eg creates contrast
contrastThe differences between two thingsComment on the effect a drastic difference produces
repetition or patternsWhen words, phrases or ideas are repeated for effectRepetitive features can highlight key meanings, indicate a development or show a lack of change
paceThe feeling of speed in the writing – are events and ideas revealed to the reader slowly or quickly?Ask what effect is created by altering the pace, eg a slow pace builds tension or suggests boredom, a quicker pace may suit a piece about things happening at speed
temporal referencesReferences to timeComment on how time is used to speed up or slow down the pace of the text
order of eventsThis could be chronological or writers might choose to start at the end, in the middle, or with flashbacks / flash forwardsComment on how the order of events introduces and prioritises key ideas – and how this engages the reader
endingsThe conclusion of a text may be neat or leave us with questionsThink about how the reader feels at the end. Have their feelings changed since the opening?
withholding informationClues and hints are given without revealing everything at onceAnalyse what is implied by hints – how does this build the reader’s expectations?
dialogueConversations and speechHow does dialogue move the text forward?
headings, subheadings and questionsDivides the content of texts into topics and sub topics, can signal the start of new pointsHow do they guide readers through a text?
bulletsBullets can summarise and simplify a range of ideasWhy does the writer summarise certain points?
sentence structuresVaried types of sentences, eg simple, compound and complexComment on how sentence structures affect the fluency of the text, eg a sudden short sentence could reveal shocking information
paragraph lengthsThese vary like sentences, eg to highlight significant points or to provide a detailed accountComment on how paragraph lengths affect the development of the text, eg a final paragraph might summarise key points in an argument

Practise

Activity 1

Read through this study guide about both language and structure to remind yourself of the different elements you need to look out for when analysing a text. Pay particular attention to pages 3 and 4 on structure.

Remember to complete the quiz at the end.

Activity 2

Read the extract below, which is the opening to a short story.

I was afraid.

I was definitely afraid.

Possibly more afraid than I had ever been.

The wind howled through the empty corridors of the derelict building as if it was chasing out unwanted visitor. I was that unwanted visitor. The owners of the house, who I had never seen before and clearly didn’t live there, stared at me with eyes that were sunk deep into their skeletal heads; and the eyes seemed strangely black… intense somehow.

'I’m sorry to disturb you…' I muttered in a hushed tone that seemed to get very little reaction from the figures. 'It’s just that my dog ran off its lead and I last saw it running through your gate… it’s broken, you see.'

Comment on the writer’s use of structural features by completing the table below. For clarification on any of the features, please refer to this page of the study guide in Activity 1.

Structural featureEvidenceEffect on reader
openingThe first line – ‘I was afraid’The word 'afraid' has an immediate impact. It is the first line of the story - the reader has been dropped right into the centre of the action, where the character is in danger.
contrast
repetition / patterns
withholding information
dialogue
sentence structure
paragraph length

Activity 3

A typical exam-style question might ask you: How does the writer use structure to engage the reader?

Now try to write a response to this question using the table you completed in Activity 2.

Hint

Here’s an opening you might use to start:

The opening of this short story immediately engages the reader as the narrator begins ‘I was afraid’. The word ‘afraid’ has an immediate impact. It is the first line of the story and drops the reader right into the centre of the action, where the character is in danger…

Where next?

In this lesson, you have written about structural choices a writer makes.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you look at structure and answer essay questions.

Please note: Bitesize revision guides are split by exam board - to check if there is a specific version of a guide for your board, choose your subject and then exam board here.

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
GCSE English
His Dark Materials
English Language 14-16
Structure analysis toolkit
Try answering some quickfire questions on an extract