module specification

SJ4037A - Writing Skills part 1 (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Writing Skills part 1
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Portfolio of short articles to showcase use of grammar, writing style, subbing, headline writing
In-Course Test 25%   In-class grammar tests (8, 15)
Coursework 25%   Engagement with class, assessed by online journal, moderated by tutor
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module will equip journalism students with the essential transferable skills of good writing, ensuring a solid grounding in the essential building blocks of grammar, style and rhetoric.
Teaching takes place through a workshop mix of lectures, discussions, site visits, presentations and practical exercises, all aimed at mastering transferable skills and maximising employability in all branches of the communications industry.  The theory and practice of correct grammatical usage will underpin all other work.
Students will focus on the arts of subbing (proof-reading), news writing and headline writing, explored through exercises inside and outside class, and through critical analysis of previously published work.  Peer and self-reflective critiquing will be crucial, as they are in the media today.
Students develop familiarity with writing in varied journalistic styles, including news, features, reviews, obituaries, sketches and comment. They will gain an understanding of why and how to write in different styles for different audiences.
They will also start to work on their own unique journalistic style. As part of this, they learn how to focus a critical eye on other published work, using examples from a wide range of publications including newspapers, magazines, online formats, trade journals.
Guest lectures will play a pivotal role, showcasing people from a variety of different disciplines within a journalistic framework.
The module will be assessed by in-class grammar tests, a portfolio of short articles, and engagement with class as shown by online journal, moderated by tutors.

Module aims

The main aims of this module are:
• To establish students’ grasp of the basic grammar needed to become a good journalist;
• To develop students into successful proof-readers, of their own work and that of others;
• To understand the importance of developing a unique journalistic style, in both news and features;
• To edit copy into watertight, succinct and bright news stories;
• To write catchy, accurate headlines;
• To learn to adapt writing styles to a variety of platforms and outlets, from news to features, obituaries and reviews;
To focus a critical eye when reading other pieces of published work.


The course will teach students how to write accurately across a broad range of journalistic formats, without grammatical errors and with style and flair.  Unpacking the whole box of  writing tricks, they will learn how to assemble and dissassemble entertaining and informative pieces of journalism.
The module begins by introducing key aspects of grammar and usage, starting with basic news writing. Eventually students learn how to write, without grammatical errors, a diverse range of articles – from news and features to obituaries and reviews. Finally, they are encouraged to develop their own individual writing style, within the taught parameters of good practice.
Each week, students explore different concepts of grammar, and learn how to incorporate what has been learned within a different writing format.  They develop critical evaluations of their own work by the reflective practice of proof-reading (subbing) for accuracy’s sake, as well as learning how to cut stories down, both to make them shorter and to make them better.
They learn the art of headline writing and what (textual and non-textual) components are required not only to make an article accurate, but also to make it readable, lively and something that the reader wants to read from beginning to end.
Students explore the importance of writing in different styles for different audiences, whether for a “quality” newspaper, a tabloid, a lad’s mag, a trade journal, a celebrity weekly or a glossy. Critically evaluating other published pieces of work from the point of view of style and format,  will help students turn a critical eye on their own work to make them better writers.
Through attendance at guest lectures and site visits, students become more aware of the different types of journalistic formats, and better able to target goals for future employability.
They will be assessed by in-class grammar tests, a portfolio of articles and an online journal.
Attendance in class and at key events will count towards the journal, as will contributions to class discussions, weekly homework, and willingness to work hard to improve writing skills and further develop existing professional aptitudes.
Feedback from tutors and other students will play an integral part in progression throughout this module, as will class blogs, in a collaborative process of reflection.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching strategy will be based on an interactive model.
For most of the 15 teaching weeks, the session will require students to write their own work and comment on other students’ work, to give constructive criticism to help each other both as a group and individually.
They will also need to take notes, present independent research and ideas. Pop quizzes, used only as formative assessment, will form a part of the grammatical teaching aspects of this module.
Each week a class blog will use quizzes and online chats to test accuracy and writing skills.
In enhancement weeks, field trips, newsdays and guest speakers will complement one-to-one tutorial and coaching sessions. Students will listen to talks given to journalists who practice different disciplines, telling them the “inside scoop” to enhance their future employability.
Feedback will be given one-to-one in class and in newsdays and electronically. The module will be supported by a VLE site containing notes, readings and extended bibliographies, and weblinks.
Opportunities for pdp will be supported.

Learning outcomes

If students read all the required texts, participate in all the class activities and complete the required assessments and assignments, they should be able to:
1. Write in a way that is informative, readable and grammatically correct;
2. Proof-read their own and others’ work;
3. Develop their ability to write for a diverse audience base but with their own style;
4. Edit copy accurately and write catchy headlines;
5. Write different types of stories across a variety of journalistic platforms and outlets;
6. Critically evaluate pieces of published work, including their own.

Assessment strategy

Formative assessment will comprise coaching given on short weekly written exercises both creative and critical, pop quizzes and blog postings, contributions to seminars and interactive workshops.
Summative assessment will comprise: a portfolio of articles utilising concepts learned in class,  in-class grammar tests, and a self-assessed contribution grid. Feedback on summative assessment will be given electronically as well as in face-to-face tutorial sessions.



  • Bagnall, N. 1993. Newspaper Language, Focal Press: Oxford.
  • Evans, H. 2000. Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers, Pimlico: London Metropolitan University
  • Hayes, Laurie 2010 Mastering Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation: Useful Tips for Students, Journalists & All Professionals, Kendall Hunt
  • Hicks, Wynford 2006English for Journalists, Routledge,
  • Hicks, Wynford. 2006.Writing for Journalists, Routledge
  • Hicks, Wynford. 2003. Sub-Editing for Journalists, Routledge
  • Hennessy, Brian. 2006. Writing Feature Articles, Focal Press, 2006
  • Kessler, Lauren, 1991. When Words Collide: Journalist's Guide to Grammar and Style, Wadsworth
  • Kessler, Lauren. 1989. When Words Collide: Exercise Book: Journalist's Guide to Grammar and Style, Wadsworth
  • Parrish, Thomas. 2002. The Grouchy Grammarian: A How-Not-To-Guide to the 47 Most Common Mistakes in English Made By Journalists, Broadcasters and Others Who Should Know Better, John Wiley and Sons
  • Angela Phillips, Angela. 2007. Good Writing for Journalists, Routledge
  • Jon Smith, Jon. 2007. Essential Reporting: the NCTJ Guide for Trainee Journalists, Sage
  • Truss, Lynne. 2007. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Profile
  • Wheeler, Sharon. 2009. Feature Writing for Journalists, Routledge