Does your child write using a lot of speech? Speech is when you put something into “speech marks” and it shows that someone is saying something. I see this kind of writing when children start preparations for their selective school or scholarship test. In fact, sometimes I read whole stories that are practically written in speech.
Unfortunately, using speech marks doesn’t help you get better scores.
It’s bad for written expression, especially the hugely competitive selective school / scholarship test.
Speech in writing is used to tell us - for example, telling us if someone is happy. The thing is that we can instead show that someone is happy without speech.
When we write without speech, the writing sounds much better. Here’s the proof:
My mum asked “Why don’t you play with your toy anymore?” and I said “I don’t like it anymore”
The toy lay motionless and discarded on the ground while on the other side of the room, my mother gazed at it fondly, reminiscing of the times when I used to play with it and rambunctious laughter echoed throughout the house.
See how in the “without speech” area, the writing has more “feel” to it (and it’s longer). You can sense and understand how the mother and child are feeling. Words like “discarded” and “reminiscing” add to a sense of something that is lost and “rambunctious laughter” reminds you of the time when the toy once made this child happy.
In the section “with speech”, you don’t get this atmosphere at all.
When speech is used, it’s sometimes the ‘easy’ way out. When we get rid of speech and replace it with a sentence that shows what’s happening and creates atmosphere, what we end up with is often something that’s higher calibre.
Here’s another example.
“Mum, I really want to go to the movies with my friends tonight”.
In the sentence above, a child is telling his mother that he really wants to go to the movies. But do we really get a sense of how much this child wants to go to the movies?
Not really. So… how else can this be written? How about…
My stomach churned as she scanned through the movie’s poster. I was so close now to gobbling down overflowing popcorn while sitting on the edge of my seat watching a horror film – all that was now needed was to hang in there for her decision.
You can see that the second part doesn’t tell us that the child “wants to go to the movies with my friends tonight” but instead shows us that. We know that he is super nervous and really looking forward to it.
Replacing your speech with a ‘showing’ sentence in your test is something that would stand out in the written expression section of a selective school and scholarship exam.
And you want your child’s writing to stand out (in a good way) in the exam because you want to ace this part. Atmosphere and creating a tone is the key difference between a written expression that gives your child an A+ score VERSUS written expression that doesn’t make the cut (you don’t get a selective school or scholarship offer).
And it’s not just for exams - publishers (people who make books) have rules about the number of times quoted speech is used. In a 80,000 word manuscript (draft book copy), there may be only one set of quoted speech!
You child will be writing around 250 words in their exam so using zero or one set of direct speech is more than enough.
So today’s writing test tip for A+ scores is - Avoid the use of speech.
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