SJ4037 - Writing Skills (2020/21)
|Module specification||Module approved to run in 2020/21|
|Module title||Writing Skills|
|Module level||Certificate (04)|
|Credit rating for module||30|
|School||School of Computing and Digital Media|
|Total study hours||300|
|Running in 2020/21||
This module will equip students on all journalism-related courses 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 news writing, subbing (proof-reading), 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, columns, 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.
Two sessions will introduce students to voice training.
The module will be assessed by three in-class grammar tests, a portfolio of short articles, a portfolio of longer articles and engagement with class by online journal, moderated by tutors.
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 disassemble 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 a final portfolio,
as well as a weekly online journal.
Attendance in class and at key events will count towards the moderating of weekly journals, 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 via journals and a coaching model of teaching will play an integral part in progression throughout this module, in a collaborative process of reflection.
Learning Outcomes LO 1 - 6
Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity
Learning and teaching strategy will be based on an interactive and coaching model.
For most of the 27 teaching weeks, the session will require students to write their own work and comment on other students’ work, to give constructive criticism and 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.
In enhancement and news 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, to enhance their future employability.
Feedback will be given one-to-one in class , in newsdays and electronically. The module will be supported by a VLE site containing notes, readings and extended bibliographies, and weblinks.
Class contribution will be assessed through online journals.
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.
Oral feedback will be provided in class for all formative assessments, on an ongoing coaching model. This maps professional practice.
Written feedback on formative assessment will be on-going via class discussion and weekly comments on journals.
Written feedback will be provided electronically for all summative assessments, reinforced by tutorial coaching. Summative assessments will take place at three intervals during the module, timed to be effective alongside other subject-specific modules.
In each case of summative assessment feedback will be given to the student within a two-week period.
Regular reading of journalism from a variety of sources is required week on week.
Readings provided in class
Evans, H. 2000. Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers, Pimlico: London
Hayes, Laurie 2010 Mastering Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation: Useful Tips for Students, Journalists & All Professionals, Kendall Hunt, UK
Hicks, Wynford. 2006.Writing for Journalists, Routledge, London
Hicks, Wynford. 2003. Sub-Editing for Journalists, Routledge, London
Hennessy, Brian. 2006. Writing Feature Articles, Focal Press, London
Leith, Sam . 2012. You Talkin’ to Me? London: Profile
Leith, Sam. 2017. Write to the Point. London: Profile
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, UK
Phillips, Angela. 2007. Good Writing for Journalists, Routledge, London
Smith, Jon. 2007. Essential Reporting: the NCTJ Guide for Trainee Journalists, Sage, London
Truss, Lynne. 2007. Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Profile, London