SMASH LANG LIT: Learn the skills to excel at IB Lang Lit!
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Shaping Meaning

smash paper 1!

SMASH writing about how the writer shapes meaning! 

Writing about how the writer shapes meaning: SOUNDS LIKE SCULPTING, very important in your exam responses!

Hey folks, Quick quiz: if we are discussing how the writer uses stylistic features to shape meaning, what criteria is that for Paper 1?

That’s right: Criteria B

And for Paper 2?

You got it: Criteria B

Writing about how the author shapes meaning is super important. 

From the IB marking criteria: 

“To what extent does the analysis show textual analysis and evaluation of how the author uses stylistic and structural features to shape meaning?”

Writing about how a writer uses stylistic features (things like imagery, lexical choices, sentence structure, characterisation etc.) to shape meaning is crucial in getting a good mark for both exam papers. 

But what does “shape meaning”…well, mean?

“Shape meaning” basically means what the writer is trying to say to their reader.

exactly WHat is the writer trying to say, and how are they saying it?

“Shape meaning” is how successful the writer is at  communicating what they want to say to the reader.

For example, does the writer want to communicate an idea, or criticise, or raise awareness to a particular cause? Does the writer want to persuade, or horrify, or enlighten, or entertain?

Once you have identified what it is the writer wants to communicate to the reader, you can then evaluate how successful the use of stylistic features is in shaping meaning.

Imagine that the text is a road (stick with me on this one)…

the end destination on the road is the meaning (the idea) that is being shaped (communicated) by the writer in the text 

along the way towards the destination, the stylistic features used to shape meaning are the signposts. 

Being able to talk about the stylistic features (the signposts) and how they help the writer to shape meaning (get to the the final destination) is going to help you write a successful response. 

check out tHESE key phrases you should use in your response to explicitly show the examiner you are discussing how the writer shapes meaning. By using these phrases, you will definitely be hitting criterion B…

The writer is able to shape meaning through the use of…

The writer is able to shape meaning using … by …

Through the use of … the writer is able to explore/illustrate/argue…

…this allows/enables the writer to communicate to the reader how…


So, say I have this extract from a non-fiction text in my Paper 1 exam (from an article about the impact of food harvesting on the environment):

“Deforestation. Child labour. Pollution. Water shortages. The more we learn about the side-effects of food production, the more the act of feeding ourselves becomes fraught with anxiety.”

I could write the following, about the use of the stylistic feature emotive language, paying particular attention to how the stylistic feature helps the writer to shape meaning:

The writer is able to shape meaning through the use of emotive language with words such as “fraught” and “anxiety”. Through the use of the word “fraught”, the writer is able to illustrate the emotional impact food choices have on the individual as “fraught” suggests being consumed by negativity; this links back to the context of production, as the writer intends the reader to consider their own life choices when deciding what to eat. The use of emotive language mirrors the author’s intention to evoke a sense of guilt and introspection within the reader, encouraging them to pay attention to something as simple as choosing what to eat. By implying negative emotions through the use of “anxiety”, the writer is enabled to evoke in the reader a crisis of confidence communicating to the reader how they must consider the environmental impact of the food they consume. The use of this stylistic feature adheres to conventions of the text type as The Guardian is a liberal newspaper, concerned with the way in which humans impact on their environment.

As you can see, with the help of a few key phrases we are explicitly discussing the way in which meaning is shaped by stylistic features within the text. You’ll also notice that I linked my points back to the context of production (very important!).

So, when you’re practicing your next Paper 1 response try and include a few of those key phrases above, and explicitly explore how stylistic features help to shape meaning.

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