English Language: Categorising Texts

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Every piece of writing has certain characteristics and style that is unique to each individual writer. This of course differs according to the texts function, and its method of imparting information. For example the style a newspaper is written in will differ greatly to that of an advert, because of the different objectives both aspire to attain. These various objectives affect everything about that text- from its lexis to the way it is communicated. It is for this reason that you would be unlikely to find an instruction manual in the form of a novel, or a newspaper in the likeness of a comic strip. It is on these grounds that we group texts into the following categories;

1.Purpose; this could mean to order texts in context- i.e. whether they are written to entertain, instruct, inform or persuade. By grouping writing in this way, it means that the author can relate exactly what he needs to, to the audience- an instructive text would instruct, an informative text inform, and an entertainment text would entertain. However texts are not placed into rigid categories. They can serve more than one purpose. For instance an informative text could entertain as well as inform, and a persuasive text could persuade and entertain! E.g. an advert- by bringing together both purposes does not actually serve to deviate it from its original – if anything it usually strengthens it. 2. Audience; When writing, if an author overlooks his/her audience, and so therefore the needs of his audience- it is unlikely that the finished manuscript will appeal to them in anyway. It is due to this that writers manipulate the tone of their writing as well as the lexis to suit their audience. A children’s book for example would not be appealing (to children) if its register was purely technical- it is unlikely that they would even understand it! Similarly, if the text was of a persuasive nature, it is unlikely the writer would use demeaning, negative or even oversimplified language to market it. In short, by manipulating tone, content and lexis to appeal to a certain audience or target group, it is all the more likely they will read and enjoy/ be entertained/ persuaded by it. 3.Manner & Genre; The manner of a text depends largely on its genre. i.e, whether or not it was formal or reserved in tone would depend on what sort of a text it is. A comic strip is likely to have a light and entertaining tone and manner, as its author undoubtedly intended for it to be a light hearted read. On the other hand a formal and more impersonal or distant tone may be reserved for a document such as a letter or leaflet. In such cases, the writer intends for subject matter to be taken seriously, and so understandably digresses from the usage of any informal or conversational manner.

4.Mode; Changing the way a text is conveyed changes a great deal about it- the way it is perceived and in some cases also the meaning. A written text is more formal then when the same is spoken- however by speaking we can change the tone and the manner. We could induce or exaggerate a whole host of tones and mannerisms, many of which may not have been apparent or even present at the time of writing! When changing its mode, the author manipulate the way a text is perceived by changing its manner- a play could be more moving when spoken, a conversation more sincere when read, or a text message/email more impersonal than it would have been had it been spoken.

5.Typography; Writers change the size and style of a text in order to make an impact and enhance it. A diary for instance may be handwritten to make it more ‘authentic’. A handwritten text would be more personal to the reader in such instances than say if it were typed up. For this same reason, it is unlikely that a formal letter, or a newspaper would be presented in this format. It opposes the impact the author wishes to make, which in this case would be purely factual and mainly informative. The size of the text also makes an impact- emboldened, italicised and CAPITAL LETTERS seize the reader’s attention and emphasise what has been written.

6.Representation; Grammar and lexis can be manipulated to suggest something about the character/speaker. An author wishing to convey that his character is of somewhat humble origins is unlikely to use lexis from the beauracratic/common register in the characters speech or when describing her/him. Instead they would be a lot more likely to employ the registers of slang. The lexis used would be used purely as connotation of the character’s education, upbringing and social class, therefore expressing to us a somewhat stereotypical representation of their character. Similarly,
pseudo phonetic spellings can be used as an indication of a characters tone and emotions. Capital letters are also used to specify a particular emotion- usually anger or excitement depending obviously on the context. By changing the spelling of a word, writers are able to represent a particular accent or once again- emotion. In using such representations, writers are able to manipulate our perception of an idea or person. They are able to manipulate our views, either positively or negatively depending on their choice of lexis, and the manner in which that person or subject is spoken/written about in. Writers are able to use mode and manner to completely change the overall tone and writing style of the text- and still be able to retain its original purpose- maybe even enhance it. Or they could do the complete opposite. By changing something as simple as the layout or register the lexis is taken from, the writer is able to manipulate the text and completely change its tone, manner and possibly even its entire purpose! In their conclusion, a writer can employ or all of these techniques in their writing to enhance (or mask!) its purpose and meaning. Some for example may be more effective in setting the tone of the text, whereas others such as the representation may not be as effective- but are effective nonetheless.

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