Hints and tips for English language articles

Writing English language articles can be hard work and even confusing. However, if you follow the hints and tips in this article, you should gain clarity on the matter. In this article you will learn:

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If you have been commissioned to write an article for a journal, the chances are that the topic will have been chosen for you but if you haven’t, you need to choose the topic yourself. This can be problematic because you may choose a riveting topic and write it up in an exciting manner but if there has been a spate of articles written on the same topic and it is on the wane, the chances are that you won’t get it published. In other words, try to find a topic that is just gaining interest but hasn’t been done so much that there is nothing new to say about it.

Another problem with choosing a topic is that it can be tempting to choose one that doesn’t really excite us if the topic seems to be generating a bit of a buzz in linguistic circles. If the topic bores you so much that you glaze over as soon as you start reading about it, don’t attempt it if you have a choice. You really need to choose something that excites you; this way it will be illuminated in your writing.

The English language is fascinating and there are a whole range of topics to choose from. These can include:

  • Anything that comes under the umbrella of sociolinguistics. For instance, you might want to find out more about the elevated use of transgressive language on television in the last twenty years.
  • Old English. You may wish to explore the fluidity or lack of fluidity of the language as the Anglo Saxons became dominant.
  • Middle English. You may wish to compare how language has changed from Old English to Middle English by using the debate poem “The Owl and the Nightingale.”
  • Syntax. If you are doing a degree that encompasses English Literature as well as language you may consider comparing the syntax of Shakespeare’s sonnets with the poetry of Seamus Heaney.
  • Historical phonology. You could discuss whether the use of the definite article and indefinite article are used more haphazardly than in the past as more people learn English in a less formal way because of social media.
  • Dialectology. If your degree was part English Literature, you may wish to explore Joseph’s dialect in Wuthering Heights.
  • TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) For instance, if you were doing a combined degree that consisted of Psychology as well as English Language, you may like to research and write about “how movement and praise is beneficial to Chinese children when learning the English language.

The best way to pinpoint your topic is to choose which subject interests you the most and then spend some time exploring the topics that are related to it. A good way to do this is to scribble down anything that comes into your mind. You need to be relaxed while you are doing it and it doesn’t matter if you write down subjects that are irrelevant because sometimes our best ideas emerge when we allow our minds to truly wander.

Once you have chosen a topic for your article, you then need to find a hypothesis or argument to keep your article focussed. Let’s say that you have chosen to explore Joseph’s dialect in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. This idea in itself is large and at this point has no focus. A good starting point is to consider what you want to do with the dialect. Perhaps, you could decide to compare it with something else.

Once you have made this decision, you immediately need to make another one. What type of research will you be doing for your article? Here are some options.

  • Comparing Joseph’s dialect with another character in Wuthering Heights that is of a different class e.g. Lockwood.
  • Comparing Joseph’s dialect with another character in Wuthering Heights that is of the same class e.g. Nellie Dean.
  • Comparing Joseph’s dialect with characters in other novels of the time using the Dialect of British Fiction 1800 – 1836 database.
  • Comparing Joseph’s dialect with real people of the same period using the British Newspaper Archives.
  • Comparing Joseph’s dialect with real people that live in the 21st century in Haworth. This would mean doing original research.

Let’s suggest that you have decided that your article would have more value if you did some original research and so you have decided to record conversations between people that were born and brought up in Haworth in the 21st century. As you mull this over, you decide that, it would be pointless to record a solicitor because he would have more in common with Lockwood than with Joseph. Can you see how you are focussing in on a very particular question? This could lead you to decide that the focus of your article would be “What is the difference between the dialect of Joseph from Wuthering Heights and builders’ labourers that were born and live in Haworth in the present day.”

As you do the research for your article and develop your ideas, you will be able to tighten your hypothesis into something more meaningful. For instance, you may find that it is much easier to understand someone in similar circumstances to Joseph that it is a contemporary of Haworth because they have to communicate with a much wider audience than Joseph did.

Once you have a working argument for your article, you need to research it. can you see how getting focussed early on saves you time? The reason for this is that you will not be reading through reams of irrelevant documents or spending hours on original research that has no bearing to your article.

Let’s stay with the idea that you want to compare Joseph’s dialect with that of builders’ labourers that were born and grew up in Haworth in the present day. You need to explore your research options. These could be:

  • Background reading. Read and research any papers, journals or articles that have been written on the West Yorkshire dialect for the early 1800s through to the present day.
  • Sampling. You need to track down a group of builders’ labourers that were born and grew up around the Haworth area. The group has to conform to the aforementioned criteria. Also, you would have to make sure that none of the group were students. In order to keep as close to Joseph’s situation, the study cannot include anyone that has gone on to further or higher education.
  • Testing. When you have got your sample group. You could copy and paste some of Joseph’s dialect from Wuthering Heights and ask the group to read it and see if they understand it. However, this cannot be conclusive because reading dialect is different to speaking and listening to it. You also need to be able to make a recording of some of Joseph’s speech and test the group one by one to see if they understand it. This is the essential part of the study.
  • Collecting the groups’ version of Joseph’s dialect. Using the same pieces of Joseph’s dialect, you could then make up cards with it written in traditional English. Let each member of the group read the cards for a few minutes and then take it away from them. Ask them to tell you what it said. You need to make a recording of each subject.
  • Collecting contemporary dialect. You also need to set up a focus group with the same set of builders’ labourers. Set them some topics to talk about and record or film what they are saying. Hopefully, they will forget about being recorded. In the next session, you just allow them to talk without giving them a subject and then film them again. This will allow you to investigate whether the dialect becomes more noticeable when they are discussing subjects that they are comfortable with.

Once you have got a working question or hypothesis for your argument and collected your evidence, you need plan it. This means working to a structure that will create a strong logical argument. To do this, you need to include:

  • Introduction. This is where you will offer up your hypothesis or question. After that, you will briefly outline what points you will cover in your article to give the reader a taster of all the wonderful things to come. At the planning point, don’t expect that your introduction is set in stone because it is not. After you have collected your evidence and analysed it, you might change your opinion somewhat. In other words, be prepared to change your hypotheses, research question and introduction.
  • Main Body. This is where you will work through your main points one by one. In the planning stage, it is really important that you have clarity as to how your points are separated so that you keep the structure tight. For instance, a good way to do this is you were writing an article on “comparing the dialect of Joseph in Wuthering Heights with present day builders’ labourers born and brought up in Haworth in the present day”, you might present each part of your research as a separate point. For instance, your first point might discuss what is presently believed about dialect in West Yorkshire. (Don’t forget to critically analyse what you are discussing.) Your second point might then go on to explain how the builders’ labourers didn’t understand what Joseph was talking about when they read the dialect but they could understand it when it was spoken to them. After analysing your findings, you would then work your way through your points in a similar fashion.
  • Conclusion. When you have discussed all your points, you should offer your conclusion as to whether your hypothesis was correct and also suggest how your research could be furthered and what significance it has to the field of study.

How to avoid plagiarism

Writing and researching an article can be inspiring but it is essential that while you are researching it that you make a note of all the sources that you use whether primary or secondary. Also, make sure that if you use anyone else’s theories that you mention them by name and also the paper that you are referring to. You also need to provide a full bibliography so that your readers can follow up on any interesting journals or books that may have inspired you. This way you can avoid any accusations of plagiarism that would surely take all the pleasure out of finishing your article.

How to avoid procrastination

One of the main problems when writing an article is procrastination when it comes to actually writing it. If you have followed the steps in this article so far, you may not suffer from it because procrastination usually comes from not knowing what to write. In other words, writers get blocked because their ideas aren’t fully formed. However, if you have taken all the steps as advised but then you feel that you have come to a standstill, you may need to give yourself a push.

Go for a brisk walk and while you are walking along record yourself talking about your article on your ‘phone. Don’t worry about sounding silly, just do it. It will give you confidence once you realise just how much you know about your subject. Also, exercise helps us to think more clearly.

When you get back, get a notebook out or open a file and make a list of everything you want to put in your introduction. After that, make a list of everything that you want to put in your first point. Continue this pattern through each point right up to your conclusion.

Open the file that you are going to write your article in and tell yourself out loud that you only have to write the first three sentences of your introduction. Do not let yourself do anything, not even surfing or listening to music, until this is done. In essence, you have to sit there doing absolutely nothing. You will be amazed how you suddenly start writing and the chances are that you will write much more than the first three sentences once you get into full flow.

If you have run out of time and you are worried that you will suffer from procrastination again, you should stop writing mid-sentence. The reason for this is that the brain likes to finish jobs. If you don’t finish that sentence it will keep nagging at you until you start writing again. This is a tried and tested technique that many novelists use.

  • Even though your article must be formal, that does not mean that it has to be dull. Try to balance formality with rhythm so that the reader can hear your voice.
  • Make sure that you use a decent size font when presenting it. However, don’t make it look too large either because that will make it appear amateurish. The best size to use is 12.
  • Always use 1.5-line spacing or if the editor specifically asks for it 2. Don’t ruin the look of your article by cramping as much as possible onto a page. Editors and academics alike hate having to read text like that.
  • Check your argument for consistency.
  • Ensure that your article doesn’t have any spelling or grammatical errors. This signals someone that is careless.
  • Present your article with a cover page that has a title and your name upon it.

Writing English language articles is not easy. However, after reading this article on how to do it, you will be ready to start thinking about your topic. The problem is that sometimes we only have so much time and so much energy. If either of these are scarce, you may wish to consider getting help.

We offer a full range of writing services that can save you time, energy and also keep stress at bay. We provide research services, dissertation writing, essay writing, editing, proof reading and letter writing. Our fully confidential service can also help you to get that job that you may desire as we can provide cvs and cover letter writing too. Get in touch and find out how we can help you.

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