Don't know what to do when your teachers tell you to add sophistication to your writing? Don't worry. This article will explain it all! Spoiler alert: we're not telling you to use more difficult vocabulary.
Too often, students are told that their writing needs sophistication, but they have no idea what that means! So, in response, they write convoluted sentences and try to use difficult words, which is not what sophistication means. To help you avoid these common pitfalls, we’re showing you the 5 must-dos to add sophistication to your writing!
The most common student mistake is that they use flowery words and write extremely long sentences to make their writing seem ‘sophisticated’. However, this actually does the opposite! It is convoluted and confusing to read, especially when students misuse these ‘big’ words.
Instead, sophistication found in ideas, not complex words or convoluted sentences!
If you are confident about the text and have a clear purpose in your writing, your responses will become more sophisticated. This is because you can dig deeper into a topic and portray your ideas in a unique way if you understand something well. You are showing your refined knowledge about the text!
Let’s use an analogy to help us better understand what sophistication really means.
Using flowery words and convoluted sentences that offers no depth is like using expensive and fancy tools to pour meaningless blobs of paint onto a canvas. There is no depth once you look past the surface.
On the other hand, writing with depth and complexity is using an average paintbrush to paint something beautiful and meaningful. It is all about how you show complex meaning and ideas by using simple tools (i.e. words and sentences).
When teachers ask you to add sophistication, they want you to add complexity and depth to your arguments whilst writing concisely and clearly. This might sound difficult but it is not impossible! Think about it, in Year 7, your writing and analysis were much more simple than now! Your writing slowly progressed in sophistication over the years, and there is plenty more room to improve.
With that in mind, let’s go through the 5 tips you need to add sophistication to your writing.
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The first thing you need to do to add sophistication to your writing is to have an original standpoint and develop your ideas with detail and complexity. These ideas form the foundation of your essays, so they are very important!
When we say original, we don’t want you to take an uncommon stance for the sake of being unique. Instead, we want you to portray an argument that is uniquely yours. Think about your own perspectives, opinions, and beliefs about the text and talk about it!
If you simply write a thesis because your teacher discussed those ideas in class, you won’t be able to reach the level of sophistication needed to get an A-grade.
Your personal perspectives and views won’t be properly portrayed in your writing because you’ll have a surface level understanding of something you don’t truly believe.
On the other hand, when you write about something you truly believe, you will find that your writing sounds more confident and sophisticated. This is because you have a better understanding of your personal opinions, so you can explain them in more depth.
So, how do you find original ideas? You should:
Once you have an original idea for your thesis, it is time to add complexity to your argument. Complex arguments have multiple layers of meaning and strong reasoning.
It is crucial to demonstrate your strong understanding of the text and your critical thinking. Sophisticated responses don’t just scrape the surface, they dig deep into the ideas!
So, to add complexity to your ideas, you should consider:
Let’s take a look at an example to better understand the difference between a simple thesis, and an original and complex thesis:
“Macbeth explores how toxic masculinity is harmful as it expects men to be powerful, strong and aggressive.”
Original and complex idea:
“Throughout time, masculinity has always been defined by power, strength, and aggressiveness. Shakespeare highlights the danger of this societal view as it creates an unrealistic expectation for men, thus setting them up to take unnecessary risks and immoral paths to reach this ideal.”
Can you spot the difference between the two?
The second example digs deeper into the theme of masculinity by explaining ‘why’ the view of masculinity is dangerous for men. Although the first example touches on this, it doesn’t provide enough depth to show the complexity of their idea. Furthermore, the example also relates the ideas to the real world through subtle phrases like “throughout time”, and “societal view”.
As you demonstrate the complexity of your ideas, you also show it’s originality. Remember. when you truly believe in an argument, you will be able to strip down the layers of meaning.
So, adding complexity and depth to your original ideas is a great way to add sophistication to your English essays!
The first tip was all about finding original and complex ideas to discuss. Now, it’s time to dig deep into a text and fully break it down. Yes, we’re analysing them!
One of the most common student mistakes is that they analyse the text on a surface level. Some examples of surface-level analysis include examining the storyline or quotes by themselves, focusing on low-order techniques as opposed to high-order techniques, or ignoring analysing the significance of the techniques.
Having depth in your analysis means that you are unfolding the layers of the text and considering the deeper meaning. It is often related to the significance or importance of the text.
Now, let’s learn how to analyse the text in more depth to add sophistication to your writing.
High order techniques are stronger than simple techniques. They tend to represent deeper meanings, whereas lower-order techniques are more surface level. For example, symbolism, motifs, and metaphors are higher-order techniques, whereas simple quotes, repetition, rhyme and onomatopoeia are lower-order techniques.
When you analyse higher-order techniques you are demonstrating that you thought about the text on a deeper level.
This is because higher-order techniques convey ideas with more strength and clarity than lower-order techniques.
Let’s examine an example of the two:
Notice how the second sentence conveys the meaning more clearly. This is because it uses the second one uses higher-order techniques.
However, we’re not saying that analysing low order techniques is unacceptable. We’re saying that if you want to analyse them, you will need to provide more depth to show why they’re important enough to mention in your essays. This means that you will need to tie it together with a higher-order technique.
For example, you can show that repetition is more than just a surface-level device by showing how it symbolises ideas. In Sylvia Plath’s Daddy, the repetition of the vowels ‘oo’ in ‘you’, ‘too, ‘do’ and ‘jew’ throughout the poem symbolises the long-lasting trauma that her father caused her.
So, in summary, always analyse higher-order techniques, and if you want to analyse lower-order techniques, remember to tie them to a deeper meaning or purpose.
Too often, students overlook the techniques that are particular to the form. However, doing this is crucial to show your depth of knowledge about the form.
For instance, instead of simply focussing on metaphors and similes when you analyse film, also look at film techniques like cross cuts and lighting. Instead of solely focusing on literary techniques for poems, also examine rhyme and rhythm!
If you want to see a list of techniques specific to different forms, take a look at our Techniques Guides below:
Another way to add sophistication to your writing is to organise your arguments in your essays! This is one of the major distinguishers between sophisticated essays and good essays.
You should never randomly structure your ideas. Always plan before your write, so you can properly organise the ideas into a logical order.
Remember, your essay should guide your readers through your arguments as though they’re reading a story!
The ideas in your paragraph should flow from one to another. This will show that you’ve thought about the development of your ideas and will make your writing sound more sophisticated. So, let’s go through two different methods of organising your ideas.
This is one of the most common ways to organise your arguments. You want to introduce stronger or more important arguments first, then slowly make your way down to the least important argument.
This will ensure that your essay begins with strong to convince your readers.
To do this, in your planning process, you will need to rate your argument’s strength and importance. Then, write your essay starting with your strongest to weakest!
Cause and effect paragraphs are a little harder than ordering by strength or importance. They require you to think about how the paragraphs directly relate to each other in a causal relationship. These paragraphs are highly sophisticated because they allow you to explore the origin issues (cause) and the consequences of this (effect).
An example includes:
Knowing how to organise your ideas in a logical flow will help you sound more sophisticated in your writing.
Many students overlook the importance of having their own personal voice in their writing. However, having a distinct voice in your writing is a way of adding sophistication.
The writer’s voice refers to the style and personality conveyed through writing. You might have come across texts that seem light and funny, serious and authoritative or very colloquial. These texts are all written with different voices and it’s shaped by the writer’s personality, tone, diction, vocabulary, sentence structures.
Your literary voice is what distinguishes you from other writers.
For instance, Virginia Woolf’s literary voice is like a stream of consciousness that combines flowery poetry and prose. On the other hand, Ernest Hemmingway writing is quite the opposite. His literary voice is brute and objective. He stripped the writing to its bare bones.
It is important that you learn how to develop your own literary voice as this will help your essays sound more sophisticated. You want to be able to represent your personality through your writing.
This is quite difficult to do and will take some time. However, with lot’s of practice, your writer’s voice will come naturally to you! So, let’s go through some steps to learn how to find your personal writing voice.
Reading a variety of books from different authors will help you develop your voice! Every writer’s voice is unique, so you will see what you like or dislike about them.
For instance, maybe you prefer long and complex sentences over short and concise writing. Maybe you like writing that jumps straight to the point as opposed to more creative writing.
As you come across different voices, you can incorporate them into your own work! Experiment with different writing styles and imitate your favourite authors to find your own voice.
Reviewing and reflecting on your work will help you develop your voice! Sometimes, when you revisit your work after a few days, weeks, or months, you will find things about it that you like and dislike!
This is because you are approaching your work with a different set of eyes.
Here, you will find that some experiments with your voice works and others don’t. Just continue to refine your writing until you develop a voice that sounds true to you.
Knowing your target audience is the best way to write with purpose. This will help you figure out what information you should discuss or leave out and it also shows you how you should write.
For example, if your audience members are mostly made of young primary school students, then using high-level vocabulary and jargon is not a good fit! The students will struggle to understand what you are saying and they will find it uninteresting. So, using anecdotes, simple language, and references to things they know (like Kid’s shows or fairytales) will make it much more engaging and interesting for them.
On the other hand, if you are writing for Physics academic professors, then you should use authoritative and formal writing. You can use physics terms and high vocabulary and you don’t have to explain simple Physics concepts because they will understand everything.
Keeping a target audience in mind as you write also helps you narrow down your arguments and message to better convince your audience. This is a great way to add sophistication to your English responses.
So, how do you write with a target audience in mind?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you will know what you should discuss and how you should write it. This will help you level up your writing skills as it is written with much more purpose.