Five writing strategies to achieve the right level of formality
How to succeed in your C1 Advanced formal writings? What do you need to do so that your two written texts are marked with a 5 in two of the four assessment criteria in the writing paper of the Cambridge C1 Advanced?
- Communicative achievement
Read below two extracts taken from the Writing mark scheme. Which of the above criteria does each refer to? The writing
Uses the conventions of the communicative task with sufficient flexibility to communicate complex ideas in an effective way, holding the target reader’s attention with ease, fulfilling all communicative purposes.
Uses a wide range of simple and complex grammatical forms with full control, flexibility and sophistication.
You are right, they are Communicative achievement and Language.
As a teacher, when it comes to these assessment criteria, it’s not an easy job to correctly and efficiently mark a written work and give a C1 Advanced candidate the proper feedback he/she needs.
Today’s activities will help our C1 Advanced English learning community to easily pinpoint whether a written work has reached the required level of formality, either when assessing a written piece, as a teacher, or proofreading it under exam conditions, if you are a candidate taking the C1 Advanced.
Incidentally, Language, the fourth writing assessment criterion, doesn’t only include the grammar range, it includes vocabulary as well; the writing
Uses a range of vocabulary, including less common lexis, effectively and precisely.
The FIVE WRITING STRATEGIES refer to five grammar structures that are a must-have in any C1 Advanced writing that requires a formal register.
Which are these such of utmost importance in writing grammar structures?
Their presence in your formal written piece is just the ticket if what you want is a high mark for Communicative achievement and Language.
It’s surprising how certain grammar structures can make such a difference and will help you achieve two things at once!
Let’s go for it!
Set pen to paper and do the six activities below. Then look at the sample answers I’ve provided you with and compare them with yours.
PS Try not to use AI like Chat GPT! Think on your own, your creativity and knowledge have no limits, and, they are all you must count on under exam conditions.
C1 Advanced Formal Writing Activity ONE
Read the five texts and identify which of the five grammar structure each text uses.
CONDITIONAL and PASSIVE: “If these measures were taken, they would have …”
PRE-MODIFIER: “The sad fact is”
NOUNS: education, value, exercise, importance, provision, boost, participation
PASSIVE: “could be donated”
C1 Advanced Formal Writing Activity TWO Participles
Read the essay question and rewrite the opinions expressed with a participle clause.
Your class has attended a panel discussion on improving people’s health throughout. You have made the notes below:
Ways to improve people’s health throughout the country:
- additional gyms and sports centres
- ban on advertising unhealthy food
- schools lessons on healthy lessons
Some opinions expressed in the discussion:
“People often join gyms but give up going after a couple of weeks.”
“There are so many adverts for food which isn’t good for you.”
“Parents, not schools, should be teaching children about healthy living.”
Note: The exam task says “You may, if you wish, make use of the opinions expressed in the discussion, but you should use your own words as far as possible.” So, what you should do is paraphrase two of the given opinions on the two of the three issues, and of course start with a participle.
C1 Advanced Formal Writing Activity THREE Nominalisation
Let’s practice turning sentences into noun phrases.
Read the five sentences below and make them more formal by changing verbs into nouns.
- The problem is getting worse.
- In general, the universities sports facilities need to be improved so that more students enrol.
- The food in the college canteen costs a lot of money, so the number of customers has reduced.
- Stress-related illnesses have been rising, largely due to the increase in working hours.
- We should guide and advise new staff more in order to integrate them into company life.
C1 Advanced Formal Writing Activity FOUR Pre-modifiers
Here is the structure: The + pre-modifier + thing / fact / point / problem / reason + is (that) …
NB All pre-modifiers contain the verb be. Notice how it is used in each of the examples below:
- The sad fact is that poverty is very likely to pass down to the next generation in these situations.
- The important/crucial/key point is that …
- The undeniable/obvious fact is that …
- The real/most pressing/most convincing/most urgent/most compelling reason is that …
We use such structures to focus on particular information, to emphasize what we want to say, thus persuading the reader to take action.
Read the exam question below and write down three sentences that start with a pre-modifier to introduce possible improvements to your city.
Your town council is planning to develop some waste ground near your city centre and is looking for input as to what purposes the land could be used for. The council has asked students to write a proposal of how they would like to see the land used. Suggestions already put forward include a public park with a children’s playground, a multiscreen cinema and restaurant, a sports facility such as an ice-rink or a swimming pool and low-cost housing for key workers.
Discuss what facilities should be considered and why, and explain how they would improve the overall experience of young people in the town. You may use the suggestions above in your proposal, but feel free to incorporate others.
Write your proposal.
C1 Advanced Formal Writing Activity FIVE Conditionals
Read the example below:
If the conventional zoo were to give way to special sanctuaries in the wild, our concern for animals would be demonstrated.
Conditional tenses are used to envisage what would happen if our line of argument were or were not to be followed, thus, the tone is more persuasive and convincing when we urge for steps to be taken.
Complete the five sentences below, using the conditional.
- Football hooligans aren’t treated harshly enough, so they continue to disrupt matches.
But were …
- People are continuing to smoke, so the incidence of lung cancer is still high.
- The government won’t raise their salaries, so the teachers are on strike.
But if …
- We don’t have capital punishment in this country, so nobody is executed in error.
But supposing …
- We burn too many fossil fuels. The hole in the ozone layer is growing.
But were …
C1 Advanced Formal Writing Activity SIX Passives
In formal register text types, we are usually more interested in the action than in the person carrying it out. Otherwise, our arguments would sound aggressive and impolite. For this reason, passive sentences with passive verbs and passive modals are common in types of texts like reports, essays and proposals, and a sentence with a passive verb is more formal than the same information with an active verb.
Read this extract from an essay. Change the active verbs to passive wherever possible.
In my opinion, the government needs to give grants to people on lower income so that they can install a modern heating system in their homes. Otherwise, people could claim that it is only rich people who afford to update their homes.
Activity Two PARTICIPLES
Opinion 1: Creating more sports centres and gyms has regularly been proposed as a solution to improving citizens’ health.
Option 2: Restricting or even prohibiting big fast-food companies from displaying their products in all kinds of commercials could be another way to promote healthy living throughout the nation.
Opinion 3: Habits are formed at a very early age, and living healthily is no exception. Therefore, exposing children to good examples of healthy living is essential.
Activity Three NOMINALISATION
- The worsening of the problem has led to calls for action.
- In general, the improvement of the university sports facilities will lead to the enrolment of more students.
- The high cost of food in the college canteen has led to a reduction in the number of costumers.
- The rise in stress-related illnesses is largely due to the increase in working hours.
- More guidance and advice to new staff will result in better integration into company life.
Activity Four PRE-MODIFIERS
I believe the best option would be an open green space for everyone to enjoy. The sad fact is that there is a lack of parks with gardens and safe playgrounds in our city, mainly in the downtown area. A jogging track and an outdoor gym in the park would not be a miss either. The important key point is that such a green space will provide a great deal of pleasure for all the city dwellers, young and old alike. Furthermore, a park with a small lake would be very popular among the visitors. It would be a source of relaxation and enjoyment.
The most pressing reason for opting for the park is that high amounts of emissions are caused by cars and pollution from factories, and, it is everyone’s responsibility to reduce them. So, the most convincing reason is that trees and green areas help to reduce carbon emissions, therefore it would contribute to a cleaner environment by providing health benefits to our citizens.
Activity Five CONDITIONALS
- But were the hooligans treated harshly enough, they wouldn’t continue to disrupt matches.
- Should people stop smoking, the incidence of lung cancer wouldn’t be so high.
- But if the government raised teachers’ salaries, they wouldn’t be on strike.
- But supposing we had capital punishment, a lot of people would be executed in error.
- Were we to burn fewer fossil fuels, the hole in the ozone layer wouldn’t be growing.
Activity Six PASSIVES
In my opinion, grants need to be given to people by the government, to those families with lower income so that a modern heating system were installed in their homes. Otherwise, people could claim such a system is affordable to only rich people.
These five grammar structures will make your writing much more sophisticated. So, your writing will definitely reach the required tone of formality, and, what you aim for – a five in Communicative achievement and a five in Language – will both be reached.
Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!