Writing to advise

Once you can argue and persuade, it should be easy to advise. The trick is not to be too strident – it is no good pushing your ideas at your readers, or trying to impress them too obviously. Instead, you should come across as friendly, as someone who just wants to help – there simply to give advice.


Imagine you're writing to advise a school child who is moving house and has to change schools. We know that it won't be easy - they'll have to make new friends and cope with all sorts of changes. So you’ll need to be sympathetic and give some ideas that you think will be helpful.

The first thing might be to plan each main idea and use it in a separate paragraph. This will make the advice easier to follow. Next, think hard about how you want to present these ideas, ie think what will be the most clear and effective sequence or order. Such as:

If you're not sure what to do on the first day, ask someone nearby.

You can add information to this - perhaps explaining why and giving an example of what to do, so now your paragraph looks like this:

If you're not sure what to do on the first day, ask someone. Most people will be glad to help and it's the quickest way to make friends. You can ask a teacher, but it might be better to ask one of the other pupils. Choose a friendly face if you can, and try hard not to be shy - it might be their first day too.

It is not just the information that makes this a good piece of advice, it's also the style in which it is given. It includes words called 'modals' such as 'might' and 'can'. These work to make ideas seem more politely given - they are not 'in the reader’s face' and pushing them to agree. They just guide the reader in a friendly manner. And they are very simple to use, so make sure you include modal words like ‘should’, ‘can’, ‘could’, ‘might’, ‘ought to’ and ‘may’ - each one turns an idea into a piece of friendly advice.

Consider the conventions of writing to advise in this guide and try to include some of these in your own writing.

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