Leaving Cert English: The Tools of Writing

Tools of writing


Learn the correct use of a word

thumbnail: Tools of writing
thumbnail: Punctuation
thumbnail: Learn the correct use of a word

A guide to the use of the language and exercises to try for yourself.


⬤ We use the language of narration to give an account of events, real or imagined

⬤ It is the most common form of language we use

⬤ Descriptive language paints a picture with words, breathes life into a narrative

⬤ Fiction is imagined narrative.


⬤ When you are telling a story it should have an effective narrative shape: a beginning, middle and end

⬤ All narratives have a setting, i.e. a place and time

⬤ Descriptions of characters should be vivid and real

⬤ The story should have atmosphere e.g. if your story is set in a haunted house or on a sunny day, you must bring these aspects to life

⬤ Narratives should appeal to all our senses

⬤ Bring life to your story by using energetic, lively verbs and colourful adjectives

⬤ Use appropriate verbs to describe actions, emotions and thoughts

⬤ However, do not overdo it or your writing will become cumbersome and difficult to read

⬤ Use a variety of figurative language, such as: similes metaphors, personification, onomatopoeia, etc.

Writing narrative

⬤ Write in the past tense and don't mix tenses

⬤ Write in chronological order or use flashback

⬤ Your story must have a clear shape, i.e. a beginning, middle and end

⬤ Avoid using too much dialogue; this can interfere with your flow

⬤ Always identify you audience

⬤ Target your audience through the use of the correct tone and choice of language

⬤ Characters should be real, recognisable people - easy to relate to. You can reveal their true nature through description and dialogue.

Examples of Use

⬤ Novels

⬤ Poems

⬤ Short stories

⬤ Histories

⬤ Plays

⬤ Letters

⬤ Reviews

⬤ Autobiographies



⬤ We use the language of argument to make an effective argument on a particular topic

⬤ To convince an audience of our point of view

⬤ To refute opposing viewpoints in a logical, reasoned manner.


⬤ It is a form of rational persuasion that uses logic or evidence to prove a particular point

⬤ It assumes the reader is objective and will not be swayed by emotion in coming to a conclusion

⬤ It appeals to reason rather than emotion.

Using the language of argument:

⬤ Write in a logical sequence, showing how one point links to the next

⬤ Focus on facts, data, examples, statistics

⬤ Use paragraphs to show the steps in your argument (One point per paragraph and supporting evidence)

⬤ Remember to distinguish between facts and opinion (facts can be verified whereas opinions can only be supported).

Steps to good argumentative writing

⬤ Take a definite, authoritative stance on a topic - if you are not clear where you stand, your reader won't be either

⬤ Identify and target your audience

⬤ Establish authoritive tone/point of view

⬤ Use formal, precise language, avoid clichés, repetition or emotional language

⬤ Anticipate and respond to your reader's opposing views.

Examples of use

⬤ Newspaper articles

⬤ Opinion pieces

⬤ Medical articles

⬤ Legal documents


⬤ We use the language of persuasion to influence others to act or think in a particular way

⬤ Also used to manipulate feelings or thoughts in a reader

⬤ And to persuade the reader by manipulating, arguing or appealing to the emotions


⬤ There is an obvious overlap between the language of persuasion and the language of argument

⬤ The language of persuasion relies more on emotive vocabulary to elicit agreement

⬤ Words and images are used to create an emotional reaction. They can appeal to positive or negative emotions

⬤ Often uses a personal tone

⬤ Its purpose is to persuade us to buy a product or avail of a service

⬤ Persuasive writing often uses slogans, imperatives, repetition, rhyming words, alliteration, visual imagery, similes and metaphors

⬤ Unlike argumentative writing, which is almost always serious in tone, persuasive writing may use humour or irony.

Using persuasive language:

⬤ Know your audience and your subject

⬤ Establish the correct tone

⬤ State your purpose clearly and positively

⬤ Vary your sentence structure and add humour for a lively tone.

Examples of use

⬤ Political speeches

⬤ Advertising

⬤ Marketing

⬤ Film reviews

⬤ Letters

⬤ Religious sermons


We use the language of information to inform

To convey information in a concise manner


⬤ The content is factual

⬤ Points are clearly organised

⬤ The content is relevant and to the point ~ there should be no deviation

⬤ The choice of diction should be neutral

⬤ The tone should be formal and objective

⬤However, not all informative texts lack feeling or opinion. Sometimes the purpose is to inform and entertain, such as in film or book reviews.

Using the language of information:

⬤ Use short sentences. Convey facts in a clear, concise manner.

⬤ Identify your audience

⬤ Deal with all aspects of the subject

⬤ Avoid using slang, jargon, buzzwords.

Examples of use:

⬤ Newspaper reports

⬤ Journalism (newspaper radio and TV)

⬤ Instructions

⬤ Recipes

⬤ Letters

⬤ Summaries


⬤ The purpose of writing in the language of aesthetics is to compose texts that appeal to the reader's sense of beauty or harmony

⬤ It is used as a creative or artistic medium

⬤ All language types, with the exception of the language of information, strives to be creative and beautiful.


⬤ Uses imagery to create pictures with words

⬤ Similes, metaphors, symbolism, contrast, pace, rhyme, rhythm, allusion, alliteration, personification, onomatopoeia

⬤ The emphasis is on how language can be used to create pictures of harmony and beauty.

Using the language of information:

⬤ Concentrate on a few details of what you are describing something/one - be selective and do not include every feature

⬤ Use vivid, varied, poetic language and rich sensuous images with emphasis on colour, sound and smells

⬤ Refer to location and setting ~ region, landscape, time period.

⬤ Use similes and metaphors to create a picture, or use direct description

⬤ Use strong visual images, colour, shape, size, etc.

⬤ Concentrate on giving a clear vivid image that appeals to all the senses

⬤ When describing people, remember to concentrate on the inner person, their mood, age, emotional state etc.

⬤ Identify your audience.

Examples of use:

⬤ Fiction

⬤ Drama

⬤ Films

⬤ Poetry

Learn the correct use of a word


Figurative language is language that uses words or expressions with a meaning that is different from the literal interpretation. When used appropriately, it injects life into your writing. Below are some of the most common forms of figurative writing.


A simile uses the words like or as to compare one idea or object with another.


⬤ As big as a house

⬤ Her smile is like a ray of sunshine

⬤ His eyes were as hard as stones

⬤ Her head was beating like a drum

⬤ Busy as a bee

⬤ Dances like a bomb.


Metaphors make a comparison without using like or as. They are more positive than similes, as they state a fact. They state you are something, rather than just suggesting you are like something.


⬤ You are a star

⬤ "'Hope' is the thing with feathers"

⬤ Her hair is flaming red

⬤ Drowning in a sea of grief

⬤ He broke her heart

⬤ Procrastination is the thief of time.


Giving human qualities to animate or inanimate objects.


⬤ It's raining men

⬤ The dog coughed

⬤ What winds are walking overhead

⬤ The stars were winking in the night sky

⬤ The door groaned as it opened slowly

⬤ The trees shuddered in the biting wind.


Alliteration is the repetition of the same initial letter, sound, or group of sounds in a series of words.


⬤ "Lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore"

⬤ The babbling brook

⬤ Catherine cooked the cookies in the kitchen

⬤ I dreamt of a dreadfully dreary day in Donegal

⬤ Grass grows greener in the back garden

⬤ She helped the homeless with a heavy heart.


The use of words to describe or imitate a natural sound or the sound made by an object or action


⬤ The howling wind and the lashing rain

⬤ The clip clop of the horses' hooves

⬤ The creak of the rickety floorboards

⬤ The frogs croaked in the babbling brook

⬤ The lemonade fizzed over the top of the glass

⬤ The rustling of the leaves in the wind

Complete the following sentences by inserting an onomatopoeic word from the word bank below.

1. The balloon ________

2. The _________ of the snake sent a _______ down her spine

3. The ice cream __________ on to the pavement

4. The ____________ of the pots and pans

5. The chickens ____________ as they laid their eggs

6. Stop ____________ your pen, it's driving me crazy!

7. The bullet ____________ past him

8. Patricia ___________ up her cardigan

9. She listened to the ______________ of his little feet

10. The mouse ___________ in the trap

11. The cat ____________ with contentment

12. Jenny __________ down her drink

13. He ____________ sweet nothings in her ear

14. I love the sound of _____________ bacon on the pan


Using transitional words and phrases will improve the flow of your prose and ensure smooth transition from point to point. Using appropriate transitions lifts the quality of your writing and can transform it from reading like a list of unconnected points into an engaging and highly interesting composition.


Commas are a source of confusion and frustration for many writers. When should they be used? Where? Why? Unfortunately this is not the easiest question to answer, but then even the best writers have suffered with this problem. Indeed, Oscar Wilde once quipped:

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again!"

Here are a few pointers:

Commas are used to indicate a slight pause in a sentence. They are often used at the writer's discretion. Consider the two sentences below and think about the difference the comma makes.

1. After she ate the waiter gave her the bill

2. After she ate, the waiter gave her the bill

Clearly, a comma is needed between the clauses "after she ate" and "the waiter gave her the bill". So, although it can be up to the writer to decide when to use a comma, there are times when it is essential.

For example:

1. Commas are used to separate items on a list. They are placed between each item except the last two which are generally separated by 'and'. (Note: there are differing opinions on this, so I have chosen to use the most common form.)


1. He bought meat, bananas, apples, water and beans.

2. She has a rabbit, a tortoise, a piglet and three pet mice.


Put commas into the following sentences:

1. He plays tennis basketball soccer rugby and darts.

2. He ran down the corridor past the manager's office across the carpark and out into the roadway.

3. The builders unloaded scaffolding timber saws hammers and bricks before they started work.

4. She splashed out on a new house a red Mercedes a designer handbag a lovely puppy and a divorce!

5. He loves the colours red green yellow brown and orange.

6. She was short plump and very pretty.

7. He was dark mysterious handsome and romantic.

8. An ominous creepy sinister feeling came over her.

9. Young people today are rude unruly angry irritating and out of control.

10. He hit the ball dropped the bat and ran to first base.

11. Mary Ryan is an attractive gracious lady.

12. There were all sorts of old clothes shoes and linen in the closet.

13. Jim Ryan Johnny Maloney and Jason Barrett all play in goal.

14. I really like apples cakes oranges and grapes.

15. Mairead invited Miriam Paula Cillian Anne and Ray to dinner

16. The film opens with Prince Albert Duke of York known to his family as Bertie making a speech

17. She travelled to New York Paris Dublin London and Berlin

18. Mary Francis Jimmy James and Gerry went to the dance

19. She couldn't decide if she wanted a Mercedes a Saab a Porsche or a Jaguar

20. We had cottage pie carrots cheese cake coffee and tea


Choose the correct spelling of each word:

1. Racquet Raquet

2. Receive Recieve

3. Retreive Retrieve

4. Neighbour Nieghbour

5. Millennium Millenium

6. Grammer Grammar

7. Courteous Curteous

8. Necessary Neccesary

9. Embarressed Embarrassed

10. Jewelry Jewellry

11. Defenite Definite

12. Library Liebrary

13. Maintnance Maintenance

14. Privlage Privilege

15. Febuary February

16. Envionmant Environment

17. Wierd Weird

18. Posession Possession

19. PoliticianPolitican

20. ConciousConscious

21. SupriseSurprise

22. GaranteeGuarantee

23. FasinateFascinate

24. LiteratureLitrature

25. Occurred Ocurred

26. Begining Beginning


Writing is an art. Good writers take time to shape their work; they chose the words they use to communicate their message in a clear, vivid and interesting way. Think of writers as you would a sculptor, shaping, moulding and chipping away at their craft until they have a finished work of art. To be a good writer you should avoid using hackneyed words and phrases; these are tired and jaded words that through overuse have lost their meaning. Below is a list of hackneyed words that you should try to avoid using, instead consider some more interesting alternatives.

Avoid using hackneyed words, clichés and phrases - they are a turn-off and can indicate that you have nothing interesting to say!

Avoid the following like the plague!

It is what it is

I'll circle back

Race to the bottom

At the end of the day

Steep learning curve

Fit for purpose

Long story short

Thick as thieves

Having said that

Don't shoot the messenger

That being said

Kick the can down the road

Pushing the envelope

As easy as pie

Thinking outside the box

Keep your eye on the ball

Knocked it out of the park

Going forward

Take one for the team

Walk the walk

At the end of the day

Step up to the plate

No holds barred

Between a rock and a hard place

Hidden gem

Run it up the flagpole