In the English Language GCSE, many students fall into the ‘effect on the reader’ trap. The trap is that they have learned some basic phrases about what effects a writer can create, and then they use these phrases to describe the effect of any language device they analyse – whether it’s relevant or not. Examiners can spot this a mile away and it tells them that you haven’t really engaged with the language deeply enough to be awarded a high grade for analysis.

At Get My Grades, we call these basic effects ‘low-level effects’ because it’s not that they are untrue, it’s just that they aren’t specific enough. Low-level effects are vague and boring; high-level effects are specific and convincing.


Low-level effects are vague and boring

Let’s look at two low-level effects:

‘It makes us want to read on.’

‘It creates an image in the reader’s mind.’

There are several reasons that these explanations are too basic for GCSE:

  • They are far too general and could be applied to any piece of language.
  • They do not show enough thought process and are too ‘sure of themselves’.
  • They do not use any sophisticated vocabulary.

Unfortunately, many students remember these basic effects from primary school and still use them in their GCSEs. Do not be one of them. Avoid these at all costs in your GCSE exams.


High-level effects are specific and convincing

Now, let’s have a look at how we could transform the two effects above into high-level effects:

‘We might become immersed in the plot and feel spurred on by the excitement of the chase because the character has so much to lose at this point.

‘The image should be visually captivating and convincing for the reader because the bright colours seem to act as a warning.’

There are several reasons that these explanations are far more sophisticated:

  • They specifically mention events in the novel using ‘because…’.
  • They use modal verbs such as ‘might’ and ‘should’ to demonstrate that they are considering different effects this language could have and that they are keeping an open mind.
  • They use sophisticated vocabulary such as ‘immersed’ and ‘visually captivating’ rather than simple words like ‘shows’.

By using high-level explanations like these, you can set yourself apart from other students by demonstrating that you can analyse at a deeper level. Why not try them out in your next English class and see what your teacher thinks of your high-level analysis?


Think about the language technique

Another way to improve your explanation of the effect of language on a reader is to think carefully about what technique you are analysing. The same techniques are known to create similar effects in almost every situation they are used.

For example, pathetic fallacy is used to give human emotions and actions to natural forces such as the sea, the air, and the land. In most situations, the emotions and actions being shown by these forces will reflect the those being experienced by the characters in a story. So, the effect of pathetic fallacy will almost always be one of the following:

  • To give us a deeper understanding of the character’s emotion or experience.
  • To intensify the atmosphere being created by the writer.
  • To emphasise that the emotion being felt is so strong that it seems to be affecting the natural forces around the character.

Of course, to make these into high-level explanations, you would also need to talk about the specific emotion or action being experienced in that particular story – but even by being aware of these effects, you already have a head start in explaining them!

Read our next blog in the series to find out more about what specific effects are created by different language techniques. For full access to a whole page about each technique, plus hundreds of questions to test your knowledge of each one, talk to your parent or guardian about signing up for a Get My Grades subscription today!

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