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Writing to inform

Have you ever wanted to convey information which would capture some concrete details, give directions or paint in detail a particular event or phenomena? In this installment we will focus on informative writing. You have to learn to inform your readers about places, events or other important details. Let’s start with an example.

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“Dear Thabo,

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Exposition. Rose went out to see an engineer at the Southern Pacific exhibit to get some facts for her railroad story and as Thando had the day off we both went along and wandered around while she was talking with him.
We saw the kangaroos and the wallabies at the Australian exhibit. One kangaroo was taking his afternoon nap in a bed he had scooped out in the sand. The sun was shining brightly and very hot on his bed in the centre of the wire yard and he lay flat on his back with his legs all sticking straight up and slept. A lady kangaroo was making herself a bed in the sand and another was eating mud. A wallaby was hopping around. It looks like the kangaroos, only smaller, and its fur was gray instead of yellowish-brown. The kangaroos looked just like pictures of them, only more so. Their front parts are so much smaller and out of proportion to their hind parts that they look ugly and then seem awkward as they hop around.”

What a mellow, descriptive and informative writing. Have you seen the skill or craft of informative writing at play as the narrative unfolded? The writer is very alive to detail as he paints the events of the day. She is very attentive to particular facts and events; she captures the place, the animals and the general mood. She furnishes to us some facts about the kangaroos and the wallabies. She describes to us in informative detail how the wallaby looks like a kangaroo although is rather smaller. Let’s try another informative piece. As you read the extract, try to discern the craft way in which the writer captures informative detail.

“Dear Mr Moroka,

In school we joined a programme called Tree Amigos. Amigos means friends in Spanish. And being a friend to trees is what the programme is all about. Kids who join Tree Amigos do lots of good projects to help trees. For example, the kids in my school are recycling paper and raising money to save the rain forests. We are also planting lots of tree seedlings around the school property. We’re making our own forest!

What an informative and environmentally sensitive piece! The writer informs her audience about the conservation projects they are undertaking which projects aimed at conserving nature, trees in particular. The extract above is practical as well as informative; it is also inspiring. Have you seen how we have learnt the Spanish term for friends, ‘amigos?’

I think thus far we have discerned that the art of writing informative pieces begins by being alive to detail and being attentive to what is going on. If you want to write in an informative manner you have to be careful, observant, creative and attentive to detail. Decide in your mind the exact details you want to express. See clearly in your mind how your audience is going to respond to the information you want to convey.

Carefully reflect on that which you want to put across. The skill of being crisp and informative can be learnt, mastered and perfected. Be patient as you go, keep a positive mind. So here we are, let’s meet again next week for another installment.

Vuso Mhlanga

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